Paper invoices, alongside e-mail invoices with unstructured data, continue to be the main sources of inefficiencies, both in the private and public sectors. To put in bluntly, anything short of an e-invoice is a waste of money because it requires manual labor, which may result in delays and errors in invoice processing. Although organizations are fully aware of the aforementioned issue, many follow an evolutionary path and only gradually improve their processes, breaking down the progress into several phases in order to yield meaningful efficiency gains.
The first one is to improve handling procedures, usually by centralizing inbound and/or outbound invoices. This step slightly shortens the processing time and improves the workflow, but it doesn’t contribute significantly to the cost reduction imperative. Only after the subsequent steps have been taken, upon establishing an invoice workflow and archiving solutions, tangible cost reductions start to accrue. Digitization, whether via paper scanning or pure digital solution (image-based like *.pdf format), is the next step toward paperless invoices which cancels out many disadvantages of conventional paper processing.
Early-stage digitization is favored by many for its immediate positive impact on costs, yielding cheaper and faster transmission and archiving opportunities, as well as its slightly better quality. This is the predominant solution today because, the employees are familiar with *.pdf format and the barriers to start are quite low; a major bulk of digitized invoices today are just digital images of paper. Nevertheless, the benefits are mainly on the supplier side and the accuracy of the invoice content still remains a problem. Invoice processing remains time-consuming and costly, requires lots of manual work and severely limits the optimized cash management.
This long list of objections can only be resolved with automated (“zero-touch” or “true”) e-invoicing, fully automated choice characterized by real-time delivery and validation, quick archival and retrieval methods, with vast possibilities in the segment of cash management, just to name a few. Large companies are the biggest proponents of fully automated e-invoicing procedures, standing to benefit from large scale economies. The same goes for the public sector, burdened by the huge volume of invoices sent and received.
However, e-invoicing is a truly scalable solution, regardless of organization size – even small companies can gain substantial benefits from the transition – deploying suitable products which only incur variable charges with almost no implementation costs, and only paying for the services they use.