Paystream Advisers survey on e-invoicing suggests adoption has some way to go yet

Paystream Advisers have produced a survey-based research paper on electronic invoicing titled "Global Electronic Invoicing: The State of AP Automation Worldwide".

It's well worth a look and provides some thought-provoking data.  Pete Loughlin from Purchasing Insight was also involved with the work – he’s a genuine expert in the field and is always worth reading.

Here are a few points I noted from the report.

1. There’s still some way to go in terms of e-invoicing adoption... even further than I would have thought!

While paper invoices are waning, early predictions of the death of paper were vastly exaggerated. We have yet to witness a truly paperless office, despite 30 years of hype and expectation. The new global eInvoice research reveals that only 16 percent of AP departments receive the majority of their invoices electronically and a paltry 5 percent receive more than 75 percent of invoices electronically. The majority (60 percent) of respondents report that they continue to receive over 90 percent of their invoices on paper”.

2.  There is an increasing mood for change, although organisations are probably over-optimistic. Those who haven’t adopted yet perhaps don’t realise that you can’t just flick a switch and move all your suppliers onto e-invoicing overnight.

“Despite the number of companies that are currently trading invoices on paper, survey respondents are not without ambition, and analysts see a current trend that respondents are aiming high when it comes to AP automation goals. Half of survey respondents reveal they are looking to implement eInvoicing in the coming year, and well over half of those (31 percent) are looking to achieve at least 75 percent electronic”.

3. Why is the US so backward in this area? Why do they like cheques so much? It really seems weird for a nation that is so technologically advanced in most other ways!

Electronic banking and eInvoicing has not sparked as much adoption in the U.S. versus other regions of the world, despite the fact that the U.S. is one of the most technologically advanced markets on the planet. It’s been observed before, and our survey results reinforce that Americans like paper.

Even in Africa where the banking infrastructure does not exist, the rapid growth of mobile phone adoption has brought about a revolution in SMS banking, allowing people in remote areas to enjoy the benefits of electronic payments.

4. Perhaps the most interesting point – supply chain finance opportunities are beginning to outweigh simple process efficiency as a driver for e-invoicing.

The original business case for eInvoicing that predicted AP efficiencies are being dwarfed by the significant returns that can be obtained through financial supply chain management.

This also explains why companies embarking on new automation programs cite cash management as a key driver of eInvoicing. The shape of the AP automation business case has changed and cash management and the benefits derived from financial supply chain management are now a major component.

We argued recently that CPOs and other procurement leaders should take a look at the whole invoicing area again if they are not currently involved in or responsible for this area of business. And that is precisely because the opportunities from innovative supply chain finance tools such as dynamic discounting are growing rapidly. That gives CPOs the chance to make their mark and generate real value from the invoicing process – improving efficiency and driving tangible financial benefits.

Anyway, you can download the report here. One other note – the report features several e-invoicing providers who were involved as sponsors of the work, I believe  (Ariba, Taulia, Tradeshift and GXS). Nothing wrong with that, and they’re all well worth considering as providers, but as the BBC would say, “other e-invoicing and supply chain finance firms are available”. OB10, Basware and Oxygen Finance come to mind immediately for instance.

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