Is it Finally Time for E-Invoicing?

Peter Loughlin, who writes the Purchasing Insight blog in his free time (how does he find it!!), is one of the best voices in the P2P space today. As he should be -- Peter lives and breathes it in his day job, and is not only well versed, but extremely articulate and opinionated to a fault. A recipe for a great blogger and analyst? You bet. I had the pleasure of catching up with Peter over a pint last month in the UK, and the enthusiasm for eProcurement and invoicing systems is infectious. I don't entirely agree with him on every issue and business model, mind you, but perhaps our points of argument and debate -- stay tuned as the banter begins -- will help everyone to flesh out what the best models and capabilities in the future will look like. If you don't already read his blog, Purchasing Insight, you should.

In a recent post, Peter traces the history of e-invoicing and why such initiatives have largely failed to gather the expected steam they tried to muster in the past and why this is changing today. In this analysis, Peter suggests that "electronic Invoicing has for over a decade promised to deliver a fundamental change in the way accounts payable operates...promises all made in good faith but promises that were not delivered...[one reason is] e-invoicing doesn't make sense. Until now!" Peter's argument also looks at the history of AP outsourcing and data integration challenges (and how the latter has been cleared up today to make it easier to get to "100% electronic" as he describes it).

Today, Peter argues that "for the purposes of AP automation, consider invoice images, scanned or otherwise, as electronic invoices." Moreover, with this new interpretation, he suggests it is possible to get to "100%" automation by using a "range of invoice types" that encompass EDI, XML, PDF, invoice scans, etc. Yet I'm not as convinced as he is that a scan/capture solution in fact creates an e-invoice. It creates an electronic record. But just as true electronic medical records in healthcare are rarely fully integrated with scanned/captured physician notes (not to mention prescription records, ER visits, etc.) to provide a complete 360 degree of the patient, simply "going digital" with paper invoices is not electronic invoicing. At least not in my book (just yet). Over to you, Peter...

Jason Busch

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