E‐invoicing: Ready for Prime Time 

Despite today’s digital age, of the 30 billion invoices sent and received in Europe every year, more than 90% are in paper format. This is not only labour intensive and error prone, but comes at both a financial and environmental cost. Such manual operations slow invoice reconciliation, leading to poor relationships with suppliers and buyers and, potentially, poor cash flow management.

Electronic invoicing enables businesses to remove manual processes, speed up invoicing cycles and eliminate non‐value add activities – reducing costs by up to 70% and improving green credentials. However, adoption has been held back by a complex, fragmented market and confusion about interoperability and legal standards. As not all businesses can afford to move to e‐invoicing at the same pace, deployment can become a long drawn out process.

These challenges can be overcome by outsourcing the total invoice management process to a managed service provider. Paper and digital invoices are received and converted into electronic format, whilst invoices are sent in the customer’s preferred format. This enables a business to immediately benefit from e‐invoicing whilst providing a gradual transition to electronic invoicing for its buyers and suppliers.

This paper discusses the challenges posed by inefficient manual invoice processes, the need for e‐invoicing and how an organisation can focus on its core business by handing over invoice processing to a managed service provider.

E‐invoicing: ending the paper chase

It is hard to believe that, in the 21st century digital age, one of the most business‐critical documents, the invoice, is still created and sent in paper format. In 2010, of the staggering 30 billion invoices sent in Europe, only 10% were electronic invoices.

The reliance on manual processing of paper invoices is one of the greatest challenges for accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR) departments, being expensive, time‐consuming and prone to error. In a global economy where many other business processes are being automated, inefficient financial processes can put a company at a significant competitive disadvantage.

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