Worth a listen…

SSL Radio: The highlights from e-Invoicing Europe 2011 – click here to listen.

Championing the spread of e-Invoicing

OB10 is an active member of the UK e-Invoicing Advocacy Group (www.ukeag.org.uk/), a group established to champion the spread of e-Invoicing in the UK.

In time we expect this group to form the basis of the UK National Forum for e-Invoicing, encouraged and anticipated by recent policy measures taken by the European Commission. E-Invoicing is regarded as a key initiative to promote the Single Market and the Digital Agenda.

The Commission and Member States are taking action to Simplify VAT regulations on the basis of equal treatment of paper and electronic invoices, to promote standards and encourage adoption especially of SME’s. A European Stakeholder Forum is being created and Member States are forming National Forums to feed into that process; Germany and the Nordic countries are taking the lead. There is wide recognition of the massive efficiency, cost-saving and customer satisfaction benefits that come from e-Invoicing and supply chain automation.

We need UK government involvement in the creation of our UK National Forum and its ongoing participation. The National Forum will bring together many enthusiasts and practitioners and will need to expand to include all stakeholders including the public sector.

Following the transfer of responsibilities for the EU Digital Agenda from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, there is something of a temporary hiatus in identifying the place in government where this important issue is coordinated. In addition to DCMS and BIS, the Cabinet Office and the Office of Government Commerce also have a keen interest especially bearing in mind the streamlining of public procurement.

We are hoping that this issue will be resolved soon so that the National Forum can operate as a public-private body and build on the momentum we have already created in UKEAG – with the creation of case studies, contact with politicians, community groups and business people, organising promotional events and creating links with European and other e-Invoicing communities.

EESPA – The European e-Invoicing Service Providers Association

On 5th May 2011 in Brussels, over 30 firms providing e-Invoicing services from across the EU met to kick-off the formation of the new association to be called EESPA – the European e-Invoicing Service Providers Association. It should be fully functioning as a legal body by the end of the summer.

EESPA’s purpose will be to represent the supply side of the industry and its customer interests in an area of increasing public policy advocacy and the ongoing roll-out of a number of European-led initiatives to foster adoption. E-Invoicing and the related growth in e-Procurement and e-Business generally are recognised by public authorities as offering very substantial efficiency, cost reduction and customer satisfaction benefits to society as a whole. A number of policy measures have been launched such as a new VAT Directive designed to create equality of treatment between electronic and paper invoices, many public procurement projects and a revision of electronic signature and data protection rules. All of these generate considerable debate both at the time of their instigation and also at the implementation stage.

The industry welcomes these initiatives as it does the commitment of many private sector businesses of all sizes to realise the benefits of dematerialisation. As the service provider industry develops it will increasingly engage with the public policy agenda to ensure a fully workable and a fit for purpose environment for all users. EESPA will certainly want to participate in industry and official dialogues and in particular within the about to be formed European Multi-Stakeholder Forum on e-Invoicing being established by the European Commission to drive the strategic direction. A good reason to establish the association was the absence of such a body when the Commission established the composition rules for the new Forum – no representation of the service provider industry because of no established association to represent it; now being remedied.

Like all trade associations, EESPA must balance cooperation and the competitive dimensions – a pro-competitive lightly-regulated market is surely going to build increasing traction in meeting needs of e-Business in a dynamic fast-moving technological environment.

The e-Invoicing services business is finding its voice and we welcome this. All firms active in the industry throughout Europe should be encouraged to give the new association and its activities their full support.

Accounts Receivable professionals are using more electronic invoicing and less paper

US Accounts Receivable professionals are using more electronic invoicing and less paper as they see the economy making healthy strides toward sustained improvement – elements that are positively impacting their business.

According to the 2011 OB10-IARP Accounts Receivable Survey conducted by OB10 and IARP (International Accounts Receivable Professionals), AR professionals are relying less on paper and more on electronic transactions when submitting invoices to their customers.

You can download the executive summary and full survey report at http://bit.ly/imsnYv.

Save costs and the environment with true e-Invoicing

You know that the processing of paper invoices is inefficient and expensive, but have you considered the hidden costs – the impact on the environment.

It is not just the use of the actual paper and envelope to print and deliver the invoice, but also the fuel, oil, enegy and land fill space wasted on producing, delivering, storing and finally disposing of the paper invoices.

Visit our green calculator to see what impact your invoice processing has on the environment: http://www.ob10.com/Country/UK/Environmental_Green_Calculator.

The European Commission flies the flag for e-Invoicing

The European Commission recently published a report called Reaping the benefits of electronic invoicing for Europe, and based on the findings that it contained, one thing is very clear: the European Commission would definitely like to see e-Invoicing become the predominant method of invoicing in Europe.

At OB10, we’ve long said that the ability to provide invoice data electronically allows businesses to benefit from shorter payment delays and fewer errors, as well as reduced printing and postage costs, and so we were delighted to see all of these points (and many more) mentioned in the EC report. Even more importantly, the report also identified a set of clear and specific actions to make the uptake of e-Invoicing in Europe much easier for all concerned.

By publishing these findings, the EC has made it clear that a structured e-Invoicing programme can help to facilitate business process integration from purchase to payment, since invoices can be sent , received and processed without manual intervention. Also, because e-Invoices can be generated and transferred automatically (and directly from the issuer’s financial supply chain systems to those of the recipient), there are major economic benefits to be gained through the integration of systems like these, in addition to the savings made through reduced printing and postage costs.

For all of these reasons, the EC is determined to see that e-Invoicing becomes the predominant method of invoicing by 2020 in Europe. Already, it is working in close cooperation with the Member States and all other stakeholders to achieve this target and create the right environment for the widespread deployment of e-Invoicing.

To support this objective, e-Invoicing has now become a cornerstone of the EC’s flagship initiative known as A Digital Agenda for Europe, an ambitious scheme that aims to create a single digital market across Europe. As such, the EC is already calling for the removal of regulatory or technical barriers that might discourage the mass adoption of e-Invoicing.

Michel Barnier, Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, was quoted in the EC report as saying: “E-Invoicing has the potential to make a big difference: for businesses, consumers, and European trade as a whole. The benefits in terms of saving time and money are fully in line with our Europe 2020 strategy and with the Digital Agenda for Europe in particular.”

At the moment, however, the existing rules that govern e-Invoicing in Europe are still fragmented along national lines, and the true potential of e-Invoicing remains untapped. This situation creates an exciting opportunity for improvement, however, since it’s estimated that moving from paper to e-Invoices would allow the EU to save around 240 billion Euros over a six-year period.

Savings like these would clearly benefit the entire EU, and would also contribute to its ability to compete on a global scale. This last point is important, because the market penetration of e-Invoicing is already growing substantially. It is critical that the EU maintains progress in this fast-moving area.

The true environmental cost of invoicing

Electronic invoicing (e-Invoicing) networks are helping to save business customers vast amounts of paper each year by completely eliminating the need for printed invoices. e-Invoicing networks help to simplify and streamline the invoice-to-pay process by extracting invoice data from a supplier’s billing system and sending it to their customer’s accounting system – eliminating the need to process, manually key-in, or store paper invoices.

The sending and receiving of paper-based invoices can cause organisations to waste high volumes of paper, due to the fact that invoices are often wrong or inaccurate. Industry figures suggest that anywhere between 8 and 20% of invoice transations regularly have errors in them. With e-Invoicing, this issue is avoided as the inaccuracy is picked up straight away in an electronic format so there is no need for sending paper duplicates; it even eliminates the late payment notification that is also sent out when problems occur.

Many companies worldwide – including HP, GM, Dixons Retail Group, GSK, Barclays, Kellogg’s and others in the UK public sector – have adopted an e-Invoicing solution to save valuable environmental resources and improve their corporate responsibility mandates.

The numerous ways in which e-Invoicing can assist companies to improve their CSR and “green” credentials are impressive. Significant, measurable improvements can be made by switching to e-Invoicing, by reducing paper usage, fuel consumption, and storage space.

The amount of paper we waste each year is staggering; the UK consumes around 12.4 million tonnes of paper each year, and approximately 60-80% of all office waste is made up of paper, according to Envirowise. Paper invoicing significantly contributes to the UK’s office waste. Each invoice takes an average of 3 sheets of paper, which adds up to a lot of waste when the amount of daily transactions is taken into account. Furthermore, the global impact of wasted paper is a serious concern. According to recent statistics, within 15 years some 20% of Africa’s forests will be gone. The World Conservation Union’s Red List has said that more than 12,000 species (out of 40,000 assessed) face the risk of extinction. This amounts to 1 bird species in 8, 13% of all flowering species and 25% of all mammal species being affected.

Paper invoicing also raises the issue of storage and ensuring implications for the environment. e-Invoicing removes the need for physical storage space, by providing digital copies of each invoice. Without it, however, each invoice must be archived for several years before being disposed of.

Reduction in fuel and energy usage is another of the key benefits of e-Invoicing. e-Invoicing dramatically cuts fuel consumption, and by doing so helps conserve limited fuel resources. OB10 has calculated that in the last year our customers have saved enough fuel to run the average home for over 290 years and over 34,000 pounds of air pollutants through their adoption of e-Invoicing.

By eliminating the need for printed invoices, e-Invoicing is addressing environmental concerns by helping to save trees, conserve energy, and reduce waste at the same time.

But there are sound business reasons for adopting e-Invoicing too. When companies switch to e-Invoicing, accounts also become more of a streamlined and simplified process. As a result, with the reduced hassle of manual tasks, transactional costs are also noticeably reduced, typically by 60%. By replacing printed invoices with electronic ones, companies can reduce their impact on the environment every single day, and in a number of different ways.                    e-Invoicing aims to help companies improve processing for themselves, but also to help them make a contribution in an effort to help the environment.