I’ll admit, I didn’t read the full report but then again, I don’t think it’s meant to be a cover-to-cover read. I’ve been a fan of Bruno’s for a few years now. I’ve enjoyed his reports (I do believe they are the de-facto go-to source for all things e-invoicing) over a period of years. He and I have chatted more than a few times and I’ve been lucky enough to have interviewed him multiple times as well. It probably would come as no surprise to him that I’m a little disappointed. Not with the report, but with the incremental (some might say sluggish) growth of e-invoicing.
We’ve had the mandates for years now. We’ve had the business case too. We know as it has been proven countless times that e-invoicing is a win-win for both the sender and the receiver. We know the costs are coming down. We even know the issues with regards to networks are opening up – so why doesn’t everyone care more? Why (I must lead a dull life as I literally have asked myself this in a quiet moment), why I say, hasn’t every company switched over? It doesn’t make sense to me. The tech is there – from a multitude of reputable sources. It even includes print and scan & capture in many cases, thereby covering your need to send or receive paper invoices where required. I just don’t get it – or I didn’t until I had this thought. E-Invoicing is a technical improvement to a physical (and operational) process. Also, e-invoicing is most often described as a cost-saver, or more efficient, or enabling faster invoice processing – all true to be sure. But what’s missing is cash. Cash management, working capital optimization, cash flow forecasting, etc. – these are topics which keep a CFO up at night. Currency exposure, supply chain risk mitigation, growth and profitability – THESE are the topics I think need to be connected to e-invoicing (as they surely can be).
If we can see a red line drawn through the key priorities of the CFO and a small tech solution like e-invoicing – then I think we would see some top-down push. For the EU, the motivation to mandate B2G e-invoicing seems to focus on cost savings. For the Brazilians, their focus was fraud prevention around tax avoidance, but I think the Americans got it right. The USA is mandating B2G e-invoicing because they think e-invoicing will speed up cash flows and that alone will promote growth. Everything I’ve read leads me to agree with the American premise.
Now, in this quiet moment as I write this blog post, I begin to wonder if we can’t do better. Better than simply sending and receiving e-invoices quickly. Paying invoices quickly obviously helps too but the visibility across purchase to pay is where I’m going with this. I think process efficiency (with e-invoicing) is no longer enough. I think supplier networks aren’t enough either. I think the future best-in-class organizations will be measured exclusively on how effectively they leverage cash management visibility within their relative buyer-supplier-bank ecosystems. Draw a red line through this and I think you have something powerful.
Maybe that was a bit of a rant but sometimes a small amount of catharsis is required.
Until the next time,
Rowan Lemley has over 10 years of experience in the purchase-to-pay arena. During that time, he has lead product marketing for AP Automation, B2B networks, and most recently eProcurement and Product Information Management solutions.