By Sami Nikula
I’m currently in Berlin for the 8th annual EXPP Summit for e-invoicing and e-billing, surrounded by an impressive mix of delegates from 35 countries around the world.
There’s been a real international flavour to the show, and I wanted to share a couple of my thoughts on the diverse mix of presentations so far.
Kicking off proceedings yesterday morning was a presentation from Bruno Koch, founder of e-invoicing consultancy Billentis, who gave some insightful context to the show’s international attendees by outlining which countries are pioneering the case for e-invoicing.
One statistic he discussed was particularly interesting: out of 350 billion invoices in the world, only 5% are estimated to be electronic invoices. While this proportion increased in the European B2B landscape (18% of Europe’s 16 billion B2B invoices in 2012 were electronic), these figures are still relatively low when you consider that more governments are introducing e-invoicing mandates.
And, while this proportion is expected to increase to 23% in 2013 as more e-invoicing legislation goes live there are still concerns as to whether these ‘electronic’ invoices will prove beneficial.
This is because, in many cases, PDF invoices are being used as a substitute to the use of paper invoices, but are still not providing the value that we know fully automated e-invoicing functions can. E-invoicing means much more than simply being ‘electronic’ – invoice automation systems give finance teams much greater visibility of cash-flow, and enable organizations to get paid quicker – avoiding cash-flow myopia. A good invoice automation software provider will provide all-round capability, which allows close monitoring of payments, as well as social collaboration tools that enable both buyer and suppliers to collaboratively resolve billing disputes. This is the functionality that organizations should be aiming for.
A textbook example of how fully automated invoicing can benefit an enterprise was presented by Basware’s speaker, Karin Springer, Manager of Standardisation and Automation, Siemens, Germany, who discussed the company’s journey towards 100% e-invoicing adoption at EXPP.
As Siemens is going fully paperless, the company has increased the quality of incoming data to 99%, and reduced running costs by 20-50%. On top of the financial gains, removing paper provided a fully comprehensive reporting process which is transparent and visible – a critical benefit for a company that operates in 190 countries.
The Siemens roadmap is not necessarily a simple one, but is symptomatic of the huge operational and resource benefits that a good e-invoicing programme can have.
It will be fascinating to see just how many companies are doing the same in years to come, as enterprises gradually come to understand the value they add to the finance function.