Accelerating the Journey towards Universal E-invoicing

The challenge of keeping up with the pace of technology-led
change continues.  In
a recent survey commissioned by Ricoh
and conducted by
Coleman Parkes Research with 63% of organisations admitted saying they are far
from ready for digital transformation.

In the digital agenda, the
European Commission (EC) has identified some key areas to help organisations
accelerate digital transformation and competitiveness across the European Union
(EU), one of which is electronic invoicing (e-invoicing). However, despite
significant drives by the EU, SWIFT and other major bodies to promote
e-invoicing – European organisations still have a slow adoption rate. A recent
study shows that only 15% of organisations in Europe currently have an
e-invoicing process in place and it is estimated that only one in five invoices
will be electronic in 2013. 

Yet, there is a clear economic case for
adopting e-invoicing.
Ricoh-sponsored Billentis research

reveals that e-invoicing could deliver cost savings of €243bn for businesses and
€40bn for the public sector alone, by replacing paper-based documents in favour
of electronic ones.

The reasons why businesses don’t adopt
e-invoicing are varied: some may find legal requirements confusing, some may
have trading partners who still want invoices in hard copy, some don’t have the
time to manage it alone and, for some, the changes required internally to adopt
new ways of working just seem too big to overcome. Many have tried to make the
transition in the past, but have failed because they focused on the technology
alone, didn’t have a managed print services (MPS) provider to help them manage
the project, or they took the ‘big bang’ approach and tried to make the switch
too quickly without adopting a gradual transition – taking employees,
buyers/customers, and suppliers along for the journey.

Strategy and
Timing

A key first step in the e-invoicing journey – and surprisingly
one which many European organisations overlook – is to have a clear objective
and strategy to shape the migration from paper to electronic documentation.
Research reveals that 57% of organisations in Europe do not have
a fully developed and implemented strategy in place for managing their business-critical document processes
 – including invoicing. It’s likely this lack of direction or strategy is at the
crux of the slow adoption levels. We can’t expect organisations to successfully
implement a new way of working if they’re not clear on why they’re doing it,
what they want to achieve, and how they’ll measure success along the way.

Secondly, treasurers must also not feel pressured to make the switch
from paper to digital overnight. Success can be better achieved by taking a
phased approach, managing both paper and e-invoices in tandem as the business,
its customers, and its suppliers, make the transition to a digital way of
working. In addition they also need to ensure the right focus is given to
document security, so should look out for partners who comply with the ISO27001
and SAS70 standards.

Finally, don’t rely on technology alone. Any
technology investment should be considered alongside the invoicing process
itself – that is, the way information flows through the business – and the
people managing it. It requires human input and management to ensure the
information obtained is integrated into the organisation’s knowledge bank,
readily available for future analysis and business intelligence.  Treasurers do
not need to manage the entire process alone either. They can partner or
outsource to document process experts to guide, manage and plan the journey on
their behalf, while enabling them to continue handling daily processes and
meeting the needs of customers. 

Furthermore there are good news
stories; one of many examples being Dalkia, Europe’s leading energy service
provider, with operations in 42 different countries. In Spain, the manual
processing of supplier invoices was stretching the company’s internal resource,
with basic processing – recording invoice data, ?ling copies and acknowledging
receipt – taking an average of five minutes per invoice. With 10,000 invoices to
process, the company was spending 800 man-hours every month, the equivalent of
3.5 full-time employees.

Now with an effective e-invoicing system in
place, Dalkia has saved €200,000 a year.  Importantly it is better equipped to
manage auditing and compliance needs, as a result of invoices being logged
within 24 hours of receipt, ensuring that an accurate and up-to-date record of
liabilities is always available.

So what are we waiting for? It’s
time to make the transition to e-invoicing and ensure that together we can
contribute towards the targeted growth set by the EC and at the same time
businesses can ensure they receive their share of the predicted €243bn savings
in Europe.   

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