8 questions from Certipost for Bruno Koch on: has electronic invoicing failed?

January 3, 2012  |  Adoption, Electronic Invoicing

On 13 October 2011 Certipost held the Certipost invoice Event. Bruno Koch attended this meeting and delivered his presentation to the 130 attendees.

Via LinkedIN we found out that Certipost did a nice little interview with Bruno Koch. The full interview can be found here. Underneath are the key elements from that interview.

Bruno Koch about e-Invoicing

Bruno Koch is a Swiss market analyst and researcher. His subject is electronic invoicing, a matter he has been actively dealing with for the last 16 years.

In his latest market report, Bruno Koch predicts a growth rate for electronic invoices of 30-35%. At the moment, only half of the companies work with electronic invoices, and just a fraction of those work completely paperless.

This is not the future he expected when he started in the e-invoicing business. The end of the paper invoice  was then predicted around the magical year 2000.


Q: Paper invoices are still around, and it appears they will exist for quite a bit longer, has e-invoicing failed?

No, not at all.

Electronic invoicing is just taking longer than expected to become mainstream. The mean reasons for this are legal requirements that are sometimes not clear, or different from country to country.

Many companies don’t recognize the saving potential yet, and convincing trading partners to adopt electronic invoicing can be an obstacle too. Another issue is that electronic invoicing requires an internal change in business processes within a company.

This is often a real challenge, but it is also where substantial benefits can be found.


Q: What are the benefits to business processes when a company adopts e-invoicing?

Different departments within a company often have their own stream of invoices.

Electronic invoicing centralises all invoices, which makes it easy for a cash flow manager to keep an eye on the entire picture. He can immediately see what is outstanding, what is coming in, and he sees where possible discounts can be negotiated.


Q: But these benefits are only measurable if a company works electronically for all invoices?


I firmly believe large companies should avoid working with a combined system and send or receive certain invoices electronically, and others on paper.

I can agree that small or medium sized businesses have to work like this, but when you deal with a large volume of invoices, 100% electronic is the best option. And even for small companies, the goal should always be to work completely digital.


Q: We see very few companies in the field that receive or send all their invoices electronically at the moment. Is scanning a solution?

Yes, but companies should not invest in scanning in-house.

It involves a lot of technical and legal know-how, and the number of paper invoices is declining too fast to make such an investment work. Outsourcing the scanning to a service provider is a better way to go.

After all, not all of the trading partners of a certain company support an electronic channel, and not all trading partners are ready yet for taking the step towards electronic invoicing.

If a service provider like Certipost can bridge the gap by taking care of the paper component of the invoicing process, the company can work completely electronic.

I stress it again and again: the true benefits from electronic invoicing can only be reaped when all invoices are electronic.


Q: If you had to state one reason for a company to start with electronic invoicing, what would it be?

Your trading partners demand it.

If not today, they will demand it soon. The question is not really if a company will start with electronic invoicing, but when and how.


Q: What is your view on the standard packaged solutions that companies can cheaply access nowadays?

A true service provider is a better option.

Because we live in the complex business world of today, with different back office systems and multiple document exchange formats.

A service provider solves many pains of the market, where there is no such thing as a standard solution.


Q: And once a company has an e-invoicing programme up and running, what is the best way to convince trading partners to use electronic invoicing?

The same applies here: sooner or later every company will feel the need to start working electronically, so why not now?

But many companies don’t realise this, and hang on to paper invoices. If you look at e-invoicing globally, penalties seem to work best. As harsh as it may seem, all research points in that direction.

Of course asking nicely or offering some sort of reward works too, but only up to a certain point.

In countries where e-invoicing is common, such as Mexico and Chile, we always see that senders of paper invoices are fined. Also, in those countries the government takes a leading role in e-invoicing, making it somewhat easier to substitute paper invoices. I see an important role here for the government.


Q: In what way can the government play an important role?

Directly or indirectly, every company deals with the government.

There are the suppliers who send invoices for goods ranging from coffee to concrete, but the companies that receive invoices are an even larger group. Nearly every company receives some sort of invoice from the government, be it taxes or invoices for waste disposal.

If they all were to adopt an e-invoicing solution to deal with the government, it would all go a lot quicker. I see an important role there for the Belgian government, and a large opportunity for progress.


  1. I agree a service provider can help resolve many of the challenges that organizations go thru when setting up an Electronic Invoicing Initiative! Just like you mentioned E-invoicing gives a cash flow manager a better perspective of the business.

  2. A comment to Q3

    I believe, espcially in Africa, that a combined approach is mandated by the capabilities of the recipient company/person. i.e. Paper and Electronic may need to be used and may be the best approach. That said, even if you use some paper, you can still manage the process, if approached properly, using a single platform. In other words a single extract, generation and archive process but just change the send channel - paper or electronic. eBilling service suppliers should offer a full outsource service that includes all channels including print and post.

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