Electronic Invoice – To Be or Not To Be

There are a lot of opinions about what constitutes an electronic invoice, including pontification on this blog about the distinction between “real” electronic invoices versus the pretenders – emailed invoices and imaged paper.  But, perhaps because of the advancing years, or maybe just a wee bit more experience, I’m beginning to soften my stance.

I’m still firm on the position that a stream of invoice data – raw from the supplier and understandable by computer systems – provides the most benefits. But if the goal of electronic invoicing is to improve visibility, reduce approval or match time or take advantage of dynamic discounts then I’m starting to believe that these goals can be achieved with a process that includes these “impure” electronic invoice sources.

I’ve said this before that any Accounts Payable Automation solution worth its salt will include the capture of invoices from every source; paper, fax, email, web and EDI. Perhaps as an extension of this thought and in an effort to avoid the mistakes of EDI in the past, let’s cultivate a mindset of inclusion instead of exclusion.  I know that my marketing folk’s heads are exploding now as I muddy the waters that divide us from imaging providers but can’t a paper invoice, once scanned and properly indexed, be counted as an electronic invoice? It can be matched to a PO. It can be routed for approval. It can be aggregated into dashboards and fed electronically into ERP systems.

Maybe if, instead of adhering to a dogmatic definition of what is an electronic invoice, we should look at the objective we are trying to cover, efficiency we are attempting to gain and the vision we are striving to implement. It is true that a supplier that remains completely offline will miss out on many of the benefits of electronic invoicing.  It is also true that a company with a solution that is at once comprehensive and flexible in its approach will have the highest prospect for success. Of course iPayables is such a company.

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