There’s no easy way to say this, ERP systems may be great for planning resources in an enterprise, but they are not typically designed to work as e-invoicing platforms. That’s not to say they can’t send electronic invoices, but the limitations on what can be sent, and how, can be frustrating and costly. Furthermore, customising a standard ERP implementation can drain a considerable amount of IT resources.
With the widespread impact of the coronavirus pandemic, businesses have turned to electronic invoicing to ensure invoices reach their customers, wherever they are. Electronic invoices don’t get snarled up in postal delays, nor languish in post rooms waiting for staff to return to the office and process them. Electronic invoices are an immediate and effective way to reliably reach customers in the new normal.
Businesses have had to quickly pivot existing AR processes to ensure electronic delivery. This has led to many different implementations of e-invoicing, not all of which are optimal.
One of the classic shortfalls when trying to move over to electronic invoicing is having to manually produce a PDF for each invoice and send it one-by-one over email. ERP systems offer a route to automate this, to some degree. However, there are still limitations and challenges when trying to do manage invoices via an ERP system − as we’ll expand on below.
Delivering attachments with invoices
Simply delivering invoices is one thing, but sometimes you may want to attach additional documents, such as terms and conditions or other important information. Being able to decide who receives which additional documents, under what conditions, can prove challenging to set up and maintain within an ERP system.
Who receives what and when?
Sometimes invoicing is straightforward. Too often however, there are additional conditions as to who receives what and when. For instance, invoices above a certain financial threshold might need to go to a different contact, or even group of contacts.
Reviews and approvals will also impact the route by which an invoice must travel before it can be sent. Sometimes, the criteria has to do with the amount of invoices, and sometimes, invoices need to be batched for review and approval according to other criteria.
These nuances to delivery go well beyond the capabilities of a standard ERP implementation − often translating into a major IT project with the associated pain and delays we are all too familiar with.
When invoicing exceptions occur, the impact on cash flow quickly becomes problematic. Businesses need a way to swiftly identify and handle these exceptions. Yet, the larger the business, the greater the volume of exceptions and anomalies to automated invoicing processes that will need to be handled.
How well could your ERP-based invoicing handle bounce-backs, out-of-office responses or lack of response and late payments? How much automated follow-up and exception handling can be put in place to keep things running smoothly, before it requires manual intervention?
Simple follow-up techniques, such as delivering to an alternative contact or even automatically printing and posting a physical invoice, can be challenging to set up directly within an ERP system.
Maintaining e-invoicing when ERP changes are made
Major ERP updates (e.g. moving to SAP S/4HANA), or even moving from one ERP system to another, can risk disruption to associated invoicing processes. By separating your invoicing layer from the underlying ERP system, you can maintain unbroken invoicing processes without duplicating or missing any invoices/payment records as you transition from one ERP instance to the other.
Invoicing as an extension of your ERP system
A dedicated process layer, running separately but connected to your ERP system, offers the most reliable and streamlined approach to managing the nuances and logic to fully fledged electronic invoicing in a large business.
Outsourcing the process to an expert partner, such as Netsend, provides the optimal combination of technology and service to deploy, manage, and maintain your electronic invoicing.
Learn more about the process of integrating your ERP system to an efficient e-invoicing system by downloading our free white paper, Invoicing Beyond an ERP System.