Being part of Corcentric means that we are now sharing the 15+ years of experience Netsend has in the e-billing/e-invoicing space with an even wider audience. Lee Allen, Managing Director at Netsend, and Senior Vice President of Order-to-Cash for EMEA at Corcentric, was recently interviewed for a Corcentric broadcast on the topic of Leveraging eInvoicing to Improve Cash Flow While Building Business Resilience.
The full podcast can be accessed here, but here are some of the highlights:
What are some of the biggest challenges for businesses resulting from lockdown?
“The rapid transition to remote working really tested a lot of the business continuity plans in place. It’s probably fair to say that this exposed the gaps between the theory of that plan and the execution of it.”
“A lot of what I was hearing from my clients, as well as panels and webinars I’ve been on, was that businesses weren’t fully prepared to completely work remotely. They had perhaps prepared for part of the business to work remotely, but not the wholescale fundamental flip that happened for everybody.”
“Those people who had embraced cloud solutions and functions that they were outsourcing to others, they seemed to be in better shape. The transition was just that bit easier. In my world, a good example is invoice distribution. Companies who had based their distribution model around physical equipment – printers, folder inserters and that sort of stuff – often didn’t have access to those sorts of facilities. They’re all in an office and the staff are based at home!”
“With the distribution of invoices by post, it’s something of a double-whammy; because even if you do manage to envelope and send an invoice, you’re sending it to an office which is currently unoccupied! That means there’s nobody there to open the invoice and process it, and ultimately ensure it gets paid.
Would you now say that some of the old barriers to digital transformation are now lower, due to the current paradigm we’re working in?
“I wouldn’t say that any of the barriers to entry suddenly got easier, or lower. I think the need to clear them has become more urgent. All of the challenges, pre-pandemic, are still there.”
I always say, we haven’t built anything magical, but it took us 15 years listening to a broad range of clients to build the range of variables to support market needs. So if you’re looking at doing this in-house, there’s quite a project in analysing all of your exceptions and building out a solution that meets them. And that barrier is still there.”
“One of the main functions for accounts receivable is about getting paid. And I think the number one reason for people not paying invoices on time is to say you haven’t received it yet. So people who have been looking at e-billing solutions as a way to augment that process, see the value in having an audit trail, where you can pull a receipt, because it’s been sent electronically, that’s definitely going to help. The other thing is speed of delivery; if you send an invoice today, by email, your customer receives it today. And then they can flag up any discrepancies and disputes a lot more quickly – so you get to a payment solution far sooner.“
“That’s been the traditional argument. For which you need to build a business case, people want to know what is the return on investment, etc. All of the metrics about improving that efficiency are kind of soft benefits though; you can’t put a price on what you’re going to get back from this initiative.”
“But with this new dynamic, where you need this robustness in this business-critical process, the business case subtly shifts from what is the cost of doing this, to what’s the cost of not doing this? We talk a lot about how you can motivate people to run towards a brighter future, but people are more motivated about running away from a scarier yesterday. And that might be the key to how you re-present this opportunity to leadership teams.”
Is there a supplier relationship aspect that we need to factor into the cost of not having efficient invoicing processes and technology?
“There’s an entire opportunity, which is largely being missed there. This is about the experience between and buyer and a supplier. There are plenty of studies that show that the most touched document that comes into the business is an invoice. So it’s a key touchpoint for any connectivity between suppliers and their buyers.”
“When you look at where companies have been deploying their resources and energy, it’s been around web stores, the ordering process, and when you’re in that process you can get a chat-bot that will put you in touch with a customer service representative who will help you through that side of the purchasing side of the transaction. There’s loads of interaction and loads of engagement.”
“If you look at accounts receivable, that’s largely not been addressed. But if you believe the reports that the invoice is the key touchpoint, then doing that well is going to be one of those competitive environment differentiators. We say the guy who makes it easy, is the guy who gets the deal. So, are you making accounts receivable easy for your buyer?”
“Are you using the internet to let your buyer see their invoices, see their copy invoices, raise queries on them and perhaps even pay those invoices, in the same online environment. So there’s an entirely separate tranche of benefits that you can have, by implementing an ebilling solution. And it creates a closer bond between supplier and buyer. Which means you should get a preferential payment status and be seen as easier to do business with.”
How would you say e-invoicing positions companies for growth, after the downturn has passed?
“Supporting growth is all about scalability. Making sure your processes and procedures are robust enough that they can withstand acceleration. One of the benefits of getting this organised is you create the blueprint today for the growth pattern of tomorrow.”
“Electronic invoicing is far easier to ramp-up than print/post. Print/post equipment is rated to a certain volume. When you exceed that volume then you are looking at the reliability, in extreme, of the machines. It takes capital investment to get better machines to handle volume.”
“However, once you’ve created an electronic invoicing pipeline, you can just keep increasing the volume of documents that go through this. If you get this right from the outset, it will ramp and scale and grow with the business.”
“One of the advantages of outsourcing this is that you make that someone else’s problem. They have to get the bigger boat.”