By Gavin Jones, Financial Operations Manager and Credit Management Expert.
We live in a connected digital age.
Our funds are mostly digital currency, our credit scores are a composition of coding that determine our risk factor and most of our communication is done instantly through emails or social media.
So why is it, in this age of instant transmissions and cost effective cloud based platforms, do so many businesses still resort to mass printing their invoices and sending them out to be delivered or, as the age old excuse goes, to be lost in the post?
As more and more businesses make the transition to E-invoicing, they will inevitably face similar challenges as each stakeholder engaged in the proposition brings their own agenda to the table. We will examine some of these stakeholders and the pros and cons of e-invoicing for each.
The Sales or Marketing Team
One of the biggest hurdles any type of change faces is the potential disruption to the customer. How will customers handle the transition? Could changes impact on the pipeline? How does this fit in with our sales strategy?
A simple answer to all of the above is two words that speak volumes: Customer Experience.
E-invoicing is, at its core, a key benefit for the customers. It is a reflection of your organisation’s brand and showcases the fact that you are setting yourself apart from the competition. Think the likes of Amazon or Tesco, who are taking proactive steps to transform their online interactions and put the customer at the centre of their strategy.
In a 2016 study by the CMO Council, by far the most important element of ‘customer experience’ was fast response time to customer issues or needs; with E-invoicing, that most basic of back office requirements is taken care of instantaneously and with little effort on your behalf.
The Finance Function
Where is the ROI? This will be the key question that comes your way when it comes to justifying and pushing a move to E-invoicing. To start with, if you are currently printing out invoices, using a stuffer to put them in to envelopes and then paying for postage then this should be a quick and easy analysis to show that over time there is a cost saving element on top of the more intangible benefits mentioned previously.
Secondly is the more difficult to assess impact of E-invoicing on cash collection. As a start, a quick survey of the credit management team should uncover how much time is spent (re)sending invoices and credit notes to customers, which as a cost should be virtually eliminated.
The IT Function
The questions you will have from the IT department are likely to depend on the nature of your E-billing platform and whether it is hosted locally or not. The security of your data is and should be paramount to any transformational project and customer details/billing fall firmly within the description of a key asset that requires protecting. Before you put forward any business case for a move to E-invoicing, it is crucial to both understand and address these issues comprehensively.
In the way of a conclusion, E-invoicing on its own is a brand-promoting, cost-saving and efficiency-gaining project that is a necessary step for any business looking to stay competitive in today’s technologically focused environment. It is also however, a crucial element of a greater project that is a completely web-based customer interface that allows clients to not only receive invoices but log queries, place re-orders, make payments and successfully interact with your business.