How Implementing an Electronic Invoicing System Works

I come from a consulting background doing process redesign and large IT Implementations for a major consulting firm.  One of the areas which I greatly enjoy is finding solutions to problems.  There is usually a better, cheaper, faster, more enjoyable, more profitable way of doing most anything and electronic invoicing is no exception.

One of the questions I get is how to implement an electronic invoicing solution. How you implement really depends on the type of solution you are going to use.  The number of features requested and the complexity of your needs are key items driving the answer to these questions.

I like to break it down into the 4 general areas:

STEP 1:  Understand the scope of what you need and what you are implementing.

You may start with a limited solution which includes only up-front imaging, no workflow, no payment, with invoices loaded into your ERP system for processing.

You may instead be doing a more comprehensive solution which includes a vendor portal, up front-imaging, multiple file imports, workflow, PO matching, payment processing and invoices loaded into your ERP system for processing.

STEP 2:  Establish a realistic time frame for the type of solution and level of change management. A limited solution may have little configuration required and few users involved from a processing perspective and therefore can be accomplished in a shorter time frame.

A more comprehensive solution while providing many more benefits, generally has additional configurations so that the system meets your specific needs and this may take some additional time.  The number of users involved, generally from a review or approval perspective, also plays directly into change management activities.

STEP 3:  Configure the system for your specific requirements.

The service provider you have selected should discuss with you the solution best suited for your company and how the various options available will best be able to meet your needs.

This is the part I feel is most important.  Automating a bad process leaves many of the benefits left on the table.  Having a knowledgeable team who has seen both the best and not-so-best practices at numerous companies will be able to share with you what has worked with companies like yours.  This is an invaluable opportunity.  In addition they are undoubtedly cheaper than what most consultants would charge just for a review of your processes alone.

So look for a service provider who will work with your staff and help you apply the best-practices for your company’s situation.  In this way they can help you achieve the benefits you are looking for.

STEP 4:  Roll-out, ramp-up and enjoy the benefits and fruits of your efforts.

Electronic invoicing is, at the end of the day, a tool for Accounts Payable.  It is not outsourcing, it is not giving up your role, not giving up control and not a replacement for account payable.

It is a tool; it is a resource for you to make your department an even greater asset to your company.  One key way that you can do this is to take advantage of the partnership offered by your provider.  Think of them as an extension of your department.  Their goal should be to make you successful and this is best accomplished by effectively rolling out and gaining participation of this effort.  You do not need to do this alone.  They are there to help make you successful.

As I said earlier, there is usually a better, cheaper, faster, more enjoyable, more profitable way of doing most anything.  Electronic invoicing is here and ready for those Accounts Payable departments ready and willing to make the change.  Pick up the tool, become a partner and see what we can accomplish together.

Robert Ripley is Chief Operations Officer at IPAYABLES.  His experience at iPayables and previously at Accenture includes IT Integration, business process design and AP Automation with Fortune 500 companies.

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