Complexity and Lack of Standards Hinders E-invoicing Take-up

As many as 40% of larger businesses across Europe are shying away from electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) because of a perceived complexity and lack of standards, according to research from information management firm Iron Mountain and YouGov.

The survey was conducted with 200 senior business people who work in large commercial companies (over 250 employees) and have responsibility for invoice payment. Fifty respondents were interviewed in each of four countries: the UK, Germany, Spain and France.

A fifth of respondents from France and a third of those from Spain felt that the current situation around e-invoicing was overly complex and confusing, and that this was a barrier to implementation. Just over a third (36%) of respondents from the UK and Spain said they would introduce e-invoicing if there was a standard format, rising to 40% for respondents from Germany.

The research also shows that many finance leaders across Europe believe their invoice management costs and processes to be fit for purpose, even though at least four in 10 of them have no idea how much it costs to process a single invoice.

The overall ‘cost of finance’ – defined as the total cost of processing an invoice including staff, IT systems and storage – is considered to be acceptable by 80% of respondents in France and Spain, rising to 100% of those from Germany. UK respondents are more cautious with only 44% saying the cost of finance in their organisation is acceptable.

This compares against the fact that 40% respondents from the UK, Spain and Germany – rising to just over half (52%) of those from France – did not actually know how much it cost to process a single invoice.

It could be argued that people in a managerial role should not be expected to track the minutiae of financial processes in their organisations. However, all but 2% of the most senior respondents (rising to 8% for the UK) were readily able to supply the number of days it takes their organisation to process an invoice.

In an interview with gtnews, Bettina Wonsag, general manager of the new business process management (BPM) division at Iron Mountain, said: “Businesses are failing to exploit potential cost saving opportunities within their accounts payable [A/P] service, or are blissfully unaware of the cost savings that could be materialising. We found that 96% of invoices are still done manually and 93% arrive in a paper format. The hesitation in implementing e-invoicing is as a result of a lack of standardisation across Europe and a perceived high implementation cost.”

She believes that the business case for moving across is based on removing paper from the process but also having information available to them to quickly or accurately make a decision.

To help businesses tackle invoice management, Iron Mountain has launched new BPM services to tackle rising costs of managing invoices. Capable of handling as many as 60 billion A/P transactions per year, the services will be supported by a custom-built processing facility in Bratislava. The new services will allow efficient processing of inbound invoices in multiple data formats whilst enabling seamless integration into legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

The new services offer secure, transparent and structured document management, from processing and automation, to storage and retrieval, and includes A/P-specific services that help organisations take control of their largest document-centric process.


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