E-Invoicing is About Quality at the Source


I recently revisited a paper I wrote a number of years ago, E-Invoicing Comes of Age - Discovering What's Possible From the Latest Electronic Invoicing / Invoice Automation Capabilities, that covers a number of purchase-to-pay (P2P) fundamentals, including what to prioritize when putting an electronic invoicing program in place. Few of the arguments I make in it are any less relevant today than they were 5 years ago. (The main difference today is the added interest in global compliance requirements and trade financing.)

One of the ideas in the discussion is the importance of addressing quality at the source when it comes to e-invoicing – and putting as much back on the supplier as possible, as well as having an e-invoicing program or supplier network do the heavy lifting with pre-validations before information is directly matched against or integrated with ERP or e-procurement systems. I argue this is one of the core components of successful deployments:

Before delving into the core technical components that comprise e-invoicing capabilities and solutions, let’s first explore the afterlife of successful deployments and the elements that made them work – as these shed light on the outcomes of getting a process automated correctly versus simply attempting to streamline existing manual steps. In all cases following a successful and broad electronic invoicing deployment, A/P organizations should realize how much they previously missed by not addressing quality through the most logical step possible – ensuring that errors do not occur in the first place. Any time a person must intervene and manually enter an invoice (or even elements of an invoice) an organization becomes vulnerable to potential errors.

Without fully automating the invoicing component and allowing a multi-way match to occur before an invoice escalates for payment, companies will still find themselves buried in continued paper-laden processes.

Matching is an art – and science – in and of itself and the possibilities are limitless especially as one gets into direct and services spend (i.e., outside of indirect e-procurement). While 3-way matches – PO, receipt or ship notification, invoice – is as close to a standard as we have, matching with as many as half a dozen or more documents is not out of the ordinary.

Matching is also an inherent aspect of data quality – and by forcing supplier self-correction, it’s possible to not only free up accounts payable resources but also to avoid any potential mistakes later in the payment process.

So before you embark on implemented or scaling any type of trade financing program or e-invoicing alone, please consider the importance of addressing quality at the source. Accurate invoices and related documents are the foundation of so much more – and through e-invoicing can act as a Trojan horse for so much more.

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