More organisations are turning to electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) to extend business process improvements to the accounts payable function. However, moving from paper invoicing to e-invoicing is not just a technological shift. It’s a crossing that involves change, in the way trading partners do business together and in the processes organisations use to manage invoices and pay suppliers. Without proper attention to these changes, an e-invoicing initiative will fall short of its objectives.
With that in mind, Etosha Thurman, Managing Partner – Networks Programs at Ariba, an SAP Company, provides 10 things you can do to drive successful e-invoice adoption.
10. Enlist the support of an executive sponsor.
Having an executive who is not only familiar with your e-invoicing initiative, but actively involved will help create internal awareness of the programme and drive internal alignment and support for your e-invoicing programme vision and goals.
9. Involve key stakeholders in AP, Procurement, IT, Finance, and Treasury in the change management process.
Make it clear to everyone why you are making the transition, the problems you face with your current process, and how e-invoicing will solve them by improving the way you create and deliver purchase orders, receive invoices, and collaborate with your suppliers. Without the involvement and support of all these groups, you will deliver conflicting messages to your supplier community that can stifle e-invoice adoption.
8. Define a supplier enablement strategy that ties back to your programme goals.
Targeting an arbitrary number of suppliers for e-invoicing adoption is not a strategy; it’s a recipe for failure. You need to precisely define goals that you expect to achieve from e-invoicing over a specific timeframe, from six to 18 months. For example, your goal might be to increase discount capture to R1.5-million annually. With that as the driver, the programme focus will be the onboarding of a smaller, but targeted group of suppliers interested in accelerating cash flow and most likely to support early payment discounts.
7. Establish programme metrics and share them through regular programme reviews with your stakeholders.
Make sure that these metrics are tied to the goals of your programme, because what’s tracked and measured will get done. These could be to increase the number of invoices processed per FTE, improvements in Days Payable Outstanding, or touch-less invoice processing rate. Show progress on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis and share your results with your executive sponsor, and your vendor.
6. Assign resources to conduct on-going supplier enablement activities.
These people will serve as the face of the programme, responding to inquiries and questions from internal staff and from suppliers. The people you designate could be project managers, administrative assistants or contractors; what’s important is that they are influential within the organisation and are granted the authority to drive change. While these resources are key to driving e-invoice adoption, note that the effort required for this activity will decrease over time.
5. Create programme specifications with your suppliers in mind.
E-invoicing is a collaborative process. To gain support from your suppliers, you must demonstrate the value that they will receive, and understand the areas of greatest interest to them. That can vary by supplier. For example, an e-commerce-savvy supplier might insist that you provide delivery of electronic purchase orders to get them to send you electronic invoices, whereas another supplier might want to create an invoice without a PO through a supplier portal. Make it clear that your programme will support these different priorities.
4. Define a compliance programme that incorporates your “EDICT.”
Your compliance programme must clearly outline the objectives of your e-invoicing programme and what you expect from your suppliers. This doesn’t require a threatening letter or harsh tone. Instead, lay out an “EDICT,” which involves setting Expectations with Deadlines; offers Incentives for participating or Consequences for not supporting your e-invoicing programme; and communicate the mutual benefits that show you are in this Together.
3. Clearly communicate your e-invoice programme to your supplier community.
Your message must encourage suppliers to transition to e-invoicing by a specific date and reinforce that mandate with the laggards. Every new supplier must acknowledge this change, and you must make it easy for your suppliers to enroll for e-invoicing. Take advantage of this process to capture all essential information about a supplier, including early payment discount terms.
2. Incorporate collaborative commerce as your new business standard in everything you do.
You must embed e-invoicing and collaborative commerce in your everyday practices and make it clear to everyone and in every communication that this is the way you do business. Include e-invoicing messages in your RFPs, contracts, on your supplier portals, and in supplier review calls. As your programme message continually appears in these different areas, you are more likely to get the e-invoicing adoption you are looking for.
1. Make a special effort to engage your strategic suppliers to determine mutual programme objectives and measures of success.
These suppliers matter the most to you, and you have a vested interest in gaining their strong support for business commerce collaboration. To that end, make sure you reach out to them to understand their requirements and how this new process for transacting would best serve them. In many cases, these will be your most technologically savvy group of suppliers, and most willing to participate.
By following the 10 steps Thurman has outlined, you lay the foundation for successful e-invoice adoption. Equally important, you can position yourself to achieve an even greater return on your investment.
The benefits of e-invoicing include lower costs; faster invoice processing cycles; a dramatic reduction in invoice errors and exceptions; and the ability to expand the capture of early payment discounts. E-invoicing solutions also help suppliers get paid faster and, through a self-service portal, offer real-time visibility into invoice and payment status.