October 26, 2012 Should we still call it an “Electronic Invoice”?
It would seem that the term, “Electronic Invoice” is a bit dated. It’s also very imprecise as a description of paperless invoicing. The first “electronic” invoices were transmitted via Electronic Data Interchange – EDI.
This attempt to streamline the process and improve the business to business communication stream amounted in a decent amount of paper removed the desks of AP personnel. Almost every other attempt at “e-invoicing” has been a halfway effort.
Image the paper on the back end so you don’t have to store it. Image the paper on the front end so it can be workflowed. Pay on receipt for Purchase Orders eliminating the invoice all together. All of these miss the mark in some fashion and fail to encompass the entirety of the Accounts Payable workload. Yet every single one wears the label of “electronic invoicing”, “e-invoice” or “AP Automation”.
Real AP Automation includes the capture of every invoice regardless of source. Capture the EDI feeds from suppliers that can do EDI. Accepted file uploads from small accounting systems. Provide Web Entry for suppliers who are online. And lastly image those paper invoices that will continue for the foreseeable future. All these methods combined for a solution that is worthy to be called electronic invoicing.
I should add that such a solution should be kicked to the curb if it doesn’t integrate all of these methods into a single vendor portal and a comprehensive workflow. Just because you have all the parts in the garage does not a Ferrari make. The industry could really use a new word to replace the misnomer “electronic invoice” I haven’t come up with one yet…maybe by the next blog.