Flicking the electronic invoice switch. A beautiful metaphor

January 30, 2013  |  Adoption, Electronic Invoicing, Europe

einvoice swtich 225x225 Flicking the electronic invoice switch. A beautiful metaphorIt grabbed our intention on Twitter, the article by Rick Hewitt (finance director at Ricoh UK) with the beautifully crafted metaphorical title: “Flicking the electronic invoice switch”.

In the article Rick Hewitt of course explains that e-invoicing is big news right  now, because (among other):

  • The European Digital Agenda states that from January 2013 electronic and paper invoices should be treated equally.
  • European parliament has called for making e-invoicing mandatory in public procurement by 2016.
  • The European Commission’s consultation on e-invoicing in public procurement is a key milestone in the delivery of the e-invoicing vision and it should be on the agenda of all business leaders.

And despite some remaining difficulties (such as a range of different national rules, procedures and policies applied to the governance of invoicing. And a vast number of systems and processes applied by individual businesses and public sector organisations across all 27 member states) Rick Hewitt sums up three key considerations for any business taking part in the EU’s consultation and looking to make the switch from paper to electronic invoicing:


Focus on migrating invoicing processes

- It is essential to look at the processes that underpin invoicing rather than simply the output.
- Organisations need clear, defined processes and procedures to ensure invoicing is integrated into the overall information flows throughout the business, so they are able to make the transition to e-invoicing.
- AND: the EU must recognise that businesses can’t simply switch from paper to digital overnight. Or as Rick Hewitt puts it: “For many UK businesses, a shift to electronic invoicing needs to be done in several stages, meaning the business needs a process to manage both paper and electronic invoices in tandem as they, their customers, and their suppliers, make the transition to a digital way of working.”


Avoid focusing on technology

Rick Hewitt states: “As an essential business process, invoicing can’t rely on just technology alone. Rather, 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. Technology on its own will rarely provide the best solution.”


You’re not alone

”Don’t feel you have to tackle the transition alone. Changing a business-critical document process can be time consuming and the key is to manage it without impacting day-to-day core business tasks. A business can gain advice from, and entrust the task to, a document process expert who can manage the transition on their behalf, leaving them to focus on meeting the needs of their customers.”

The challenge according to Rick Hewitt now is for the European Commission to take a comprehensive approach, ideally with the support of qualified independent experts (!!) to ensure that the final policy recommendation is grounded in business practice. If executed properly, the potential benefits to (UK) businesses are vast.

Sources: Ricoh UK FD on flicking the electronic invoice switch
European Companies Must Make Themselves Heard In The E-invoicing Debate

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