A growing trend in e-invoicing is for the customer to request, and occasionally demand, to be invoiced in an electronic data format.

This recipient driven e-invoicing is designed to save the effort, time and expense of re-keying the invoice information as well as eliminating any re-keying issues.
The enticement to the supplier is the promise of paying to terms and resolving issues immediately.

On paper, if you’ll forgive the pun, this looks like a win: win for both parties. Where it falls down is the lack of harmonization. Every one of your customers is likely to have their own individual requirements for the file format and it’s method of delivery. There is no industry standard, or even conformity within accounting software communities. Even customers using the same accounting software can have different flavors and bespoke built elements.

Further muddying the waters is the growing band of value added networks (V.A.N.S), many coming from traditional EDI backgrounds. Your customer will invite (or compel) you to join their network to ensure your invoice data is transcoded into their desired format. There is, of course, a cost to be a member of the network and to transmit documents across it.

So, whilst receiving an invoice in the data format of their choice is a massive win for the customer it’s a minefield for the supplier. The invoice run becomes fractured moving from a single process to a number of separate processes for each file format; value added network and delivery method present across your customer base. In addition each process needs to be monitored and supported to ensure your invoices are actually getting delivered.

That’s assuming your IT resource is such it can cater for every variable and individual requirement sufficiently to get it set-up in the first place.

There are of course options and solutions available. You could try resisting overtures to provide your invoices electronically, but eventually that could lead to rejecting new business where it’s a requirement of the contract or losing business to a supplier willing or able to conform.

One solution is to outsource to a specialist e-billing company who can provide a diverse and rich mix of options. These may include fax, post, email, portal, EDI and V.A.N. delivery in a variety of formats from PDF to XML and CSV data, all customized, tweaked or completely specific for each recipient.

Let the separate and occasionally disparate processes required to deliver your invoices the way your customer wants become their responsibly. This brings the invoice run back to being a single unified process from you to them.

Under those conditions it truly does become a win: win.

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