E-Invoicing in 2016 – Let’s Agree on a Definition First!

improper payments Andrey Popov/Adobe Stock

Within procurement technology, e-invoicing is a simple market to understand on the surface and perhaps the most vexing to analyze as you peel the solution onion — its underpinnings are perhaps more influenced by new and emerging technology than any other related solution area.

We encourage Spend Matters readers interested in learning more about what’s changing with e-invoicing and related areas to join us for the ISM and Spend Matters Global Procurement Technology Summit on March 14–16 in Baltimore. And, of course, we also encourage Spend Matters PRO Advisory clients to reach out to us for further information at any time on the market and how to think about solution selection, vendor shortlists and how to get the most from an implementation or program based on organizational requirements and needs.

E-invoicing can be confusing — and complicated — for a number of reasons. For one, it can mean a lot of different things to different procurement and accounts payable (A/P) organizations, as well as to vendors. Just ask yourself whether it is:

  • An extension of accounts payable automation software that focuses on efficiency and workflow for processing to enable procurement and accounts payable departments?
  • A supplier-side toolset closely linked with order-to-cash, quote-to-cash or accounts receivable processing?
  • An outgrowth of purchase-to-pay (P2P) and e-procurement solutions to close the transactional loop?
  • A global (or regional) platform for value-added tax (VAT) and other compliance?
  • A means to eliminate paper invoices from suppliers?
  • Portal technology for supplier registration, invoice submission and self-service?
  • A Trojan horse that can begin to “eat into” electronic data interchange (EDI) connectivity by automating machine-to-machine connectivity?
  • A means of building greater visibility into transactional documents to enable trade financing (receivables and payables financing) activities such as dynamic discounting?

Or, is it the easy answer: all of the above (and more)?

In reality, it depends. But more broadly speaking, the even bigger challenge with e-invoicing is the disparity of technology capability between suppliers. Some look more like managed services providers, delivering a solution in which technology is a means to an end, while others lead with technology and are really at the cutting edge of procurement and B2B technology. In no other procurement area is the range of offerings and capabilities — not to mention the core competence of the vendor — so varied.

As this series continues, I’ll share some of the reasons why, based on how the e-invoicing market is evolving and, in many cases, accelerating shifts in multiple directions at once in 2016. And if you really want to dig into the technologies (and vendors) shaking things up in the sector, join me at the ISM and Spend Matters Global Procurement Technology Summit, where we’ll have multiple sessions and discussions on the building blocks of transactional connectivity in 2016 — and far beyond.

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