eInvoicing without the Network

July 14, 2011 Sparky the Shark

PurchasingInsightI recently had an opportunity to author a guest blog post on PurchasingInsight, talking about the great value preposition of a cloud-based supplier portal. Following is a copy of the blog post. Enjoy!


Recent surveys confirm that e-invoicing has finally reached the early majority of users in the technology adoption life-cycle. Paystream Advisors, in a late 2010 survey found that 40% of the survey participants had plans to adopt e-invoicing. This all looks very promising and should help Accounts Payable (AP) organizations around the globe increase operational efficiencies and at a minimum realize savings from reduction of the time spent for data entry and exception handling.

Typically, and how most people define it, e-invoicing is implemented through a network to which suppliers submit an invoice on one side, and the buyer receives the invoice on the other. The important part and function hereby is, the buyer receives the invoice electronically, meaning as raw data and structured in a way that their ERP or accounting system can process it. The key value and therefore driver behind e-invoicing has been cost savings on the buyer side, achieved by this Electronic Invoice Presentment (EIP).

But networks are no longer needed to enable e-invoicing. One of the great benefits that “the cloud” has brought us, is extending the reach of the enterprise, its data and processes in a selective and controllable way for the line of business and IT departments.

While companies were previously reluctant to allow suppliers or customers to directly engage in processes that created or updated data inside their systems, cloud-based solutions provide an opportunity to move tasks or entire business processes more efficiently managed by the business partner outside the company’s firewall and into the cloud. There, business partners can securely access the relevant information, complete tasks and participate in the business process directly, feeding to and from the company’s systems in real-time. This approach greatly simplifies collaboration with suppliers and customers, increases productivity and eliminates redundant process steps such as keying in data again, answering status inquiries and many more.

Thanks to the cloud, supplier portals have evolved from status tracking tools to comprehensive collaboration solutions that also help automate supplier relationship management (SRM). As such, supplier portals offer comprehensive self-services for suppliers, including 24/7 status information for invoices and payments and supplier master data management. These features alone can save AP departments up to 28% of their time – given that roughly 15% of an AP clerk’s time is consumed by supplier inquiries and another 13% by managing supplier master data and performing address updates and bank information updates.

In the opposite direction, submitting invoices via the supplier portal through upload, data entry or by turning a purchase order (PO) into an invoice with a click of a mouse button delivers full-blown e-invoicing capabilities and a tight integration with the buyer’s ERP system ensures that every possible check is performed before the invoice data is submitted to the buyer, eliminating errors and the need for subsequent exception handling.

Free e-invoicing as part of a supplier portal. No need for a network. The list of features, functions and benefits of a cloud-based supplier portal goes on and on. The extensive value, ease of use, and accessibility of a cloud-based supplier portal greatly promotes and drives the organic growth of an organization’s e-invoicing portion and opens the door for more value generating opportunities, Dynamic Discounting being a prime example.

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