E-invoicing was created to make life easier. It speeds up business work flows, reduces processing efforts and gives much needed time back to accounts departments. But what about the suppliers e-invoicing experience?
E-invoicing: The Supplier View
As the Commercial Director of an e-invoicing company I’m naturally biased, however a common issue is emerging among many e-invoice users that is challenging the positive impact of these solutions. Suppliers in particular are asking:
“What do I do when several of my customers want me to bill them using different service providers and document types?”
This is a serious problem and it’s something all suppliers should be prepared to deal with, as rather than a passing fad, e-invoicing isn’t going anywhere – it’s spreading at an incredible rate.
Software Advice found that 44% of the 385 accounting software buyers surveyed were seeking e-invoicing and billing functionality.
A Supplier's E-invoicing Dilemma...
Let me illustrate - imagine your business supplies cleaning materials, a large bulk of your contracts are with pubs situated in the London area - business is thriving (it would be)…
But then 5 of your biggest customers say they now want all their invoices sent electronically - they are all using different e-invoicing service providers and want the documents sent in different formats such as cXML, UBL and EDI – worse still some of them want you to pay to use the service. Yes - they want YOU to pay to send THEM invoices.
As these are your biggest customers you're desperate to avoid losing valuable contracts (your competitors literally attend these pubs every evening in the hope there will be a lack of soap in the toilets!).
But in order to fulfil these requests you will need to make changes to your billing infrastructure to ensure that your existing application can produce multiple document types as required.
Additionally you will be required to increase the workload of your staff (who wants to break the news?) and put aside the necessary funds to cover the fee you are charged for this whole process.
It’s a fragile situation to be in, for those facing the same dilemma there are 3 pragmatic options available:
1) Engage a service provider and let someone else manage it for you
2) Get friendly with your IT team and do it yourself
The task for your IT department is to enable your invoices to be quickly and efficiently produced in a number of different formats – and sent via a number of different e-invoice networks.
If you have the budget available to build a bespoke solution this is a possibility, however this is unlikely to be cost effective.
3) Ignore the requests from your customer and stay on paper
You may think this option has been added so that I can neatly contradict the statement and pass you over to my sales team – well you’re wrong… Many suppliers take this road and simply refuse to come on-board with the scheme.
Often they are powerful suppliers with strong brand identities and their customer’s decide to make an exception (because nothing tastes quite like that particular brand of tomato sauce…) – but for how long?
As a business you should be conscious of the growing shift to paperless transactions – because if you don’t evolve you risk being replaced.
The Bottom Line...
Suppliers are being overlooked by many buying organisations adopting e-invoicing – in reality any changes being asked of your supplier should benefit them and have zero impact on their current processes, applications or infrastructure, only then will they on-board easily.
As a principle when considering an e-invoice service provider you must put yourself in the supplier shoes.
- Would you be willing to change your applications or infrastructure to send 100 invoices a year?
- Would you be happy to raise your invoice in your own finance application then repeat the process in a 3rd party portal?
No? Then don’t expect a different response from your supplier.
Get further information on planning a successful e-invoicing program that your suppliers buy into: