A paperless office has long been the dream of innovative, forward thinking credit professionals. While it is not yet a reality, certain innovations are bringing this dream closer. Imaging and workflow technology were the first giant steps forward. Lately, there has been another innovation that could bring a paperless office within the reach of virtually every accounts receivable department, and make expensive imaging equipment obsolete in the processâ€”electronic invoicing. Five companies spoke about the specifics of the products they offer (no two are identical) and about some of the obstacles billing and accounts receivable professionals run into when they try to implement electronic invoicing.
These are only a sampling of the offerings currently on the market. Electronic invoicing is the delivery of invoices, most likely over the Internet, to a customer's accounts payable department in electronic format. No paper is receivedâ€”although the invoice can be printed at any timeâ€”and the accounts payable department can then forward the invoice, via e-mail, to whoever needs to approve it. The information is then also available, without further keying, to be housed on a network for data retrieval. If it is combined with electronic payments, the information is then forwarded back (without rekeying!) to the vendor.
Why Is Electronic Invoicing Attractive and which are the Benefits?
In addition to the elimination of mountains of paper, accounts receivable professionals like electronic invoicing because:
- It eliminates mistakes due to rekeyed information.
- There are currently fears about the mail.
- It makes the workflow to route invoices for approval a nobrainer.
- It reduces costs.
- It makes it difficult, if not impossible, for others to blame the mail for their own shortcomings in processing paper.
Usage of Electronic Invoicing
If this is such a great deal, why aren't companies signing up en masse? We wondered the same thing and asked the product sponsors. The obstacles include:
- Implementation time
- Budget constraints
- Internal resistance to change
- Lack of ease of use
- Difficulty in signing up partners