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We’re often involved in the discussion of outsourced vs. in-house e-invoicing solutions.  The importance of invoicing to any business leads to a fear of ‘giving away’ any control over this.  Whilst such protective yearnings are just part of being human, it’s sometimes better to let go.  Consider the importance of postal delivery, or power-supply and wiring to your business, yet these are areas we are accustomed to handing over to experts – saving time, money and painful mistakes in the process.

Yet, invoicing is not an area where many businesses have experience of involving expert partners.  As the rate of e-invoicing adoption grows year-on-year, it’s not hard to find tales of woe from companies who have invested heavily in a DIY solution, perhaps generating PDFs of invoices and emailing them, to then find out this only answers a percentage of the need.

Let’s talk about cars

We like to take the analogy of a need for motorised transport.  It’s quite possible to go out and purchase a go-kart, which can be extremely fast in a very limited set of circumstances (see a great example in the video below), but in doing so you’re left poorly equipped to pick up the kids from school, transport goods, take a trip up a snow-covered mountain or cruise leisurely to visit relatives.

We liken an outsourced e-invoicing solution to a chauffeur-driven service where the vehicle is selected based on the objective of the journey.  And yes, sometimes that might be a go-kart.

Typical benefits of outsourced vs. in-house e-invoicing solutions

Some of the differences are apparent when you look at a typical in-house e-invoicing solution vs. a full-service outsourced e-invoicing solution.  Often, the ‘missing benefits’ are noticed within the first few months of an internal/DIY e-invoicing solution.

Typical internal e-invoicing solution feature-set:

  • Automatic creation, and attachment to email, of PDFs from invoicing data
  • Automatic sending of invoices
  • Measurability of email open-rate*
  • Notification of email bounces
  • Online Portal
  • Payments online
  • Raise queries online
  • Daily account balances

*Almost an irrelevant metric, as this requires images to be downloaded to detect an ‘open’.  This is sometimes automatic, and sometimes readers choose not to – simply downloading the PDF instead.

Outsourced e-invoicing feature-set (Netsend):

  • Automatic creation, and attachment to email, of PDFs from invoicing data
  • Automatic sending of invoices
  • Multi-distribution by EDI, data transfer, email push/pull, fax and/or post
  • Multi-document sending including invoices, statements, dunning letters, credit and delivery notes
  • Printing and posting as primary delivery method and/or backup function
  • Automatically handle bounced emails, without human intervention, to print and post and ensure the invoice gets through one way or another
  • Fully-managed outsourced service
  • Conversion process to move clients from post to electronic delivery
  • Maintenance of email and contact details for sending, including customer self-service – allowing them to make changes to their contact details, and reprint old invoices without them needing to phone through on a customer service line
  • EDI set up for all types such as Tungsten, Tradex, Basware, Accenture, Ariba, Tradeshift etc.
  • Future-proofed, cloud-based solution
  • Fully user-customisable by clients
  • Low cost configuration and customisation
  • Digitised return-to-sender process for bad addresses and gone-away post
  • Fully integrated with SAP as required; by API or other method
  • Flexible Options for your customers
    • Customer email subject line for every recipient
    • Customer specified email file size limit
    • Push and pull email
    • Portal access via username/password or automatic, secure link
    • Online credit card integration/statement position and collection tools
    • Additional messaging opportunities via batch inserter
    • Automatic distribution rules, sub-batching and exception management
  • Multiple languages as standard
  • Online Portal
  • Payments online
  • Raise queries online
  • Daily account balances
  • Multiple document types hyperlinked online
  • We could go on; you’ll find many more capabilities listed here

And yet what of the difference in control?  When outsourcing e-invoicing to an expert partner, the business actually retains control.  It is the risk and challenge of keeping up with the pace of new formats and integration that is outsourced.  A professional e-invoicing partner will provide a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to ensure invoicing requirements are met and the solution is a success.

Questions to ask when considering outsourced vs. in-house e-invoicing solutions

The main concerns about outsourcing e-invoicing to a partner boil down to trust in their experience and capabilities.  To address these concerns, it’s wise to carefully review any potential partner’s client-list and seek out case studies and testimonials where possible.

Asking an e-invoicing partner for a client reference can give you the opportunity to dig into more detail, about what they are like to work with, than you’ll find in any brochure or data-sheet.

Ask question about how they offer more than if you were to deploy an off-the-shelf solution, or develop a solution in-house.

Ultimately, you are paying for an e-invoicing partner to take away the cost and risk of keeping up to date with e-invoicing standards, client/partner integration requirements and ensuring that the top-level objective of delivering invoices more accurately and efficiently is met.

Questions relating to how they can ensure these objectives are met are a necessary part of evaluating e-invoicing solution providers.

So keep your go-karting to the weekends, let your chauffeur take the strain day-to-day.

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