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Billentis, one of the most referenced and quoted authorities on the topic of electronic invoicing, have just released their 2016 market report.  Collating global statistics and drilling down into specific instances, the report identifies trends and makes predictions for this fast-evolving market.

Cherry-picking from this detailed report, we’ve pulled out a few key points to whet the appetite.  But we thoroughly recommend downloading a copy for yourself.

Invoice Automation and Efficiency

“Digitization of invoices alone is not sufficient for achieving zero-touch and automated invoice processing. The proportion of exception handling is still too high in most organisations. One major reason is poor data quality in invoices. Inaccurate information in B2B invoices is a major reason for payment delays.” – Bruno Koch, Billentis Report 2016

Invoice automation is one of the long-term aspirations of many businesses implementing electronic invoicing projects.  However, with the organic growth from paper to digital processes, it is often the case that electronic invoicing is not immediately automated.  This means that errors present in paper invoices are simply transferred into errors in electronic invoices.

It is for this reason that faster and more effective e-invoicing deployments utilise expert partners to ensure digitisation automatically pulls the most accurate content from accounting systems, and also allows for self-service, or extremely easy, modification of incorrect details by recipients.

Business Agility through Electronic Invoicing

“In today’s erratic economy, business agility is more important than ever before. According to the concept of business agility, organisations seek to approach their operations and resources in a flexible manner.” – Bruno Koch, Billentis Report 2016

However, there is an inherent challenge in becoming agile; the backdrop of an ever-increasing variety of electronic invoicing.  As such, there is growth in more flexible solutions that rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes, taking the strain away from the business.

In particular, the statement that “trading partners send or request the business documents in diverse formats. Organisations with in-house solutions have to invest a lot of time in building and maintaining the corresponding mapping tables and divergent processes.” says a lot about how e-invoicing favours those who outsource, and places significant strain and limitation on those who refuse to modernise their approach to developing and deploying technology solutions.

This echoes our experience at Netsend, as we find the majority of businesses needing to consider an open network for e-invoicing, and, in particular, a solution partner who will adapt and support current and future needs swiftly and cost-effectively.

Growth of e-invoicing in 2016

“It is expected that the 2016 volume for e-bills/e-invoices will achieve around 30 billion worldwide with annual growth rates of 10-20%.” – Bruno Koch, Billentis Report 2016

The report breaks down the status quo, as well as growth expectations and drivers for growth globally, and in a variety of regions – from Europe, to Asia, the US and beyond.  It is apparent that each region has a unique set of factors driving the uptake of e-invoicing, and presenting a slightly different face to the technology in each instance.

Particular attention is drawn to the fact that is expected that over 100,000 public administrations/agencies in Europe will be impacted by a new directive by 2018.  The planning and implementation is already under way for many, and legislation will be updated in parallel to support the directive.  This will create a spike in e-invoicing uptake within the B2G sector in Europe, and is likely to have wider implications in the short to medium timeframe.

One additional area of note is the suggestion that “Pure e-invoicing services are no longer sufficient. The demand to support additional documents, processes and value added services is increasing substantially.”  This suggests that businesses need to consider the broader benefits and considerations of electronic document distribution, as well as the broader impact of e-invoicing on AR and AP teams, and related ecosystems, at suppliers and buyers.

Structured and Unstructured Data in e-invoicing

In discussion of e-invoice exchange formats, Billentis take a deep-dive in the German market, but extend conclusions beyond this point example.

“The long-term intention of most stakeholders is to exchange, process and archive most electronic invoices in a structured format.  The high-volume industries (e.g. retail, automotive) were able to establish this in the first stage of market development. EDI, and in later years XML, dominated the e-invoicing landscape.

 

In recent years, a combination of PDF+XML invoices gained ground. Either this happens with two separate files, or a XML data set is embedded in the PDF.

 

Recent surveys in countries like Austria, Estonia, Germany, Spain and the US indicate that in 2015, the proportion of PDF invoices was around ¾ of all electronic invoices.

 

Governments mandating suppliers to send invoices just in electronic format typically ask for XML and do not permit PDFs (e.g. Austria).” – Bruno Koch, Billentis Report 2016

These points indicate there is a prevailing appetite for structured data format invoicing.  With the current market sitting at around 75% PDF invoices (and most of these are unstructured data) there is clearly much change due, and much of this will trickle down from B2G mandates for e-invoicing standards.

It is implicit in the findings of the report, that the best solutions will need to span both types of invoicing format for some time.  A point which sits alongside the need for agility and risks of building a solution in-house, and favours highly adaptable, outsourced e-invoicing solutions.  And we couldn’t agree more.

Read these points, and others, for yourself.  Download your free copy of the 2016 Billentis Report today.

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