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An article relating to this blog post on Finextra:

The e-invoicing chimera

Is paperless invoicing as elusive as the paperless office, asks Deutsche Bank Research.

See article

eBilling - E-invoicing : Lost in translation


What struck me most about the Deutsche Bank Research into e-invoicing was the fundamental lack of distinction between B2B and B2C electronic billing processes, all of which have been grouped together under the heading 'e-invoicing'. 

The research did cite a report that showed that invoices for B2B were nearly double that of B2C. But this is where the understanding of the vast gap between e-invoicing and ebilling seemed to end. The bulk of the report then focused on B2B automation with a smattering of B2C thrown in just to confuse the reader.

E-invoicing and ebilling are not the same thing.

I would accept that potentially the nuances of the difference were lost in translation, as the bulk of the research was drawn from the Germanic markets and the main external source cited is a German consultancy.

However, if the industry is to make the significant progress forward that the European Commission's Expert Group has predicted (and my fellow blogger Bo Harald has frequently expounded) then we need to start getting the basics right and this begins with using the right terms.

This may not be easy -even Wikipedia is unclear: (see the discussion page) 

I was going to just add this comment, but then decided that it actually needed a whole article - so I based my overdue blog on it. 

You can read the full blog (billions of savings, myths and truths), but here is the conclusion: 

E-invoicing is the exchange of invoices between businesses (B2B) that regularly do business with each other - automating the Accounts Payable processes of receiving and processing incoming supplier invoices. 

eBilling is the delivery of electronic bills to end consumers (B2C) and providing a payment option for them.

E-invoicing is generally highly automated with integrated workflow that needs agreement on standards and specifications.

eBilling is the replacement of paper with electronic documents delivered via email (the simplest and easiest model) or via a website (biller direct, bank aggregator or consolidator models). 

And finally...

I don't blame the authors for not getting the naming convention right - as an industry we can't even agree on whether we include the hyphen or not, but 'e-invoicing' looks much better than 'einvoicing, whereas 'ebilling' is preferred to 'e-billing'. The lexicon for electronic billing and invoicing is now pretty clear - we just need to start paying attention to how we use it.



Comments: (6)

Rik Coeckelbergs
Rik Coeckelbergs - The Banking Scene - Brussels 14 May, 2010, 15:45Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Honestly I still don't really see the difference, after all E-invoicing is just like ebilling the replacement of paper with electronic documents for saying in a regulated way: "you owe me X dollars". Or is the just the mapping that is different because the so bills need a clientfriendly lay-out and e-invoices may need a little more coding to automate the supply chain of buyer and seller even more?

I mean... the purpose of a bill and an invoice are the same I suppose (unless my English is failing on me too), why then would one try to make 2 standards for it?

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 19 May, 2010, 12:52Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

First of all, I fully agree that we need to get the terminology right so we talk about the same things. 
However I also have an isse with separating B2B from B2C, the main reason for this is that a company does not always know if they are invoicing a B, C or even a G. 
If I am sending an invoice to a 1 person business, is that a B or a C?, it might be a Business but he/she might act like a Consumer, e.g. by directly making the payment online. 
Its a 2 sided market of senders and receivers, so overall we should not try to force eInvoicing into 1 fixed model.

Tonnis de Boer

Michael Wright
Michael Wright - Tilte, Taxd, Welleasy - London 21 May, 2010, 11:51Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Rik - You are right that in most cases the invoice and bill contain the same information - however the processes that accompany each are different in the "e" world.

E-invoicing is an automated process - not typically in human readable or display format -in fact the objective of an end to end e-invoicing process is that there is no human intervention. Although the data may be decipherable by someone that understands XML - there is actual print version that needs to be produced. Therefore e-invoicing shouldn't be discussed in terms of B2C processes as consumers will not be automating their payments for many years (although I can see this in the distant future).

eBilling is totally focused on providing a human readable format - just electronic rather than paper based and hence this is not trying to automate the exchange the information in the document but only trying to replace the costly paper and print process.

So it is the mapping that is different - but also the intention of the process and the format of the document vs the data and the use of the document or data once received.

My point is that companies shouldn't be thinking that these are the same thing and can be achieved by a single solution. It should be fairly simple to start - are you changing the delivery method of the document or automating the delivery, receipt and input of the information within the document ?


Michael -

Rik Coeckelbergs
Rik Coeckelbergs - The Banking Scene - Brussels 22 May, 2010, 15:50Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes


I think a company should not have to make a difference whether there is a customer or a business at the other side of the chain. As long as the output has a decent translation of the message, the same info could be given in a readable lay-out to the customer, in a coded lay-out to the business.

I think that is perfectly possible if for example banks could play a role in it, or another company that makes the translation... in that case company A sends an XML-invoice out and then there are 2 possibilities at the other side:

- a company B => they choose how to interpret the given info

a customer => gets this via an online banking platform, where the bank services his customer by translating it to a propor lay-out.  Or a simple tool generates an email with the info of the XML-invoice for example.


So to me sending out invoices/bills electronically need only 1 standard to work on.

Michael Wright
Michael Wright - Tilte, Taxd, Welleasy - London 28 May, 2010, 11:12Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Rik - what you describe with a generic XML invoice format would be the nirvana of eBilling.

Banks would be a good place for the rendering and the presentation as they would wish to facilitate the payments. This is a growing feature of Internet Banking in the US.

The issue is that billers won't ever relinquish their control of the final format of the bill - they use the bill for more than just conveying a total owed, there is marketing customer service and feedback elements built in. Billing and payment are still separate (see point 5 on this newsletter).

Therefore the invoice or bill, as we know it, is here to stay for B2C customers. 

For B2B customers - who don't care about the additional messaging and just want the financial information - the XML would be perfect -and this is what e-invoicing is trying to bring about.

Hence I believe that the goals and objectives are different for ebilling and e-invoicing and that they will require different solutions - even for those businesses that have with SME customers and may have to do both.

Michael Wright -

Michael Wright
Michael Wright - Tilte, Taxd, Welleasy - London 29 May, 2010, 17:27Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

@Tonnis – while we shouldn’t force one model as you say, the distinction between the terminology will allow us to start to define the different models with more accuracy.

E-invoicing will generally not have a B2C component as consumers are unlikely to have the automated processes that will drive the efficiencies of an e-invoicing system.

eBilling may have B2B components as pointed out – but if these are SME type businesses then they can probably be treated as B2C and will benefit from the electronic delivery rather than the automation.

My argument is that when companies are approaching electronic billing,  they will generally only be interested in either automation or electronic document delivery – both will provide cost savings but the projects, collaboration and solutions are vastly different.

Michael Wright -

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