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No scanning please

When Denmark legislated against paper invoicing in the public sector (including municipalities) back in 2005 service providers (including banks) where not ready with easy solutions for the SMEs. The solution was that enterprises where told to go to the local post office to have invoices scanned. The state paid the cost.

Many enterprises (worldwide) that have banned paper invoices tell their suppliers to send paper invoices (or e-mails with PDFs) to scanning services often offered by e-invoicing service providers. This is meant to be an interim solution - when SMEs realize that "Press SEND" makes more sense for all than "Press PRINT" - then this wasteful habit will disappear.

But to get there real fast we need a wide network of generic e-invoicing portals (NOT buyer specific!) - and here naturally banks are needed.

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Comments: (12)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 21 July, 2011, 20:03Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

While buyer portals will be buyer-specific, bank portals will also be bank-specific (try selecting the same utility in the bill pay pages of Internet Banking portals of two different banks, and you'll get my drift). Even third-party e-invoicing portals will inevitably acquire multiple flavors for different billers / banks as they try to boost their adoption.  Unfortunately, like e-billing portals that have been around for over a decade for consumer bills without much standardization, I'm afraid generic e-invoicing is also a pipedream. 

Bo Harald
Bo Harald - Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData - Helsinki Region 21 July, 2011, 21:56Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes I do not quite understand your point. The way we have done it is to use a standard making it possible to change service provider without changing your systems. Some fine-tuning obviously needed. Naturally all invoices end up for payment in a bank of the receivers choice. I have heard claims about pipe dreams often in the past and in most cases we have been able to prove the pessimists wrong..
Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 22 July, 2011, 10:10Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

By generic e-invoicing portals, I understand that they provide identical user experience regardless of biller, bank or portal. When I read "to get there we need ... ", I thought you were highlighting a major challenge in establishing generic e-invoicing portals. Perhaps I misunderstood. If you've already achieved success in this area, maybe you could quote a few success stories.

Bo Harald
Bo Harald - Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData - Helsinki Region 23 July, 2011, 11:43Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

By generic e-invoicing portals we mean e-invoicing services where senders of e-invoices can key in invoices or upload invoice files - and furthermore send it to all receivers (4-corner service provider network essential). NOT having to use buyer specific portals. And there should be a development toward a common standard for the mass market - to make life easier for invoicing software/cloud service providers.

It is not realistic or necessary "provide identical user experience regardless of biller, bank or portal". That is not the case for e-banking either

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 23 July, 2011, 19:18Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

When defined that way, I admit that generic e-invoicing portal is not a pipedream and I can think of at least three providers of such solutions, namely, PayPal, TradeShift and Intuit (Full Disclosure: Neither I nor my company have any business relationship with these companies). At the same time, their mass adoption is faced with several barriers.

From the perspective of buyers/payors, they become non-generic since the processing at their end would differ for e-invoices received from the multiple e-invoicing providers. If I recall correctly, an Intuit PaymentNetwork executive mentioned a couple of months ago that the challenge is to get buyers/payors to adopt such generic solutions. After all, from their perspective, why won't they like to get all invoices from all suppliers in a single format of their choosing, which appears possible only with a buyer-specific e-invoicing portal? 

Let's look at it from the supplier's perspective. For the supplier's C-Suite, I don't there can be any argument that the primary purpose of raising an invoice is to get paid as quickly as possible. Only the buyer whose name is on the invoice is going to make the payment. If one buyer wants their invoices on paper sent by snail-mail, another wants them as PDFs sent by email and the third one wants them to be published on their e-invoicing portal, it's not such a big deal for the supplier to comply with the diverse stipulations of the three buyers as long as doing so would expedite receipt of their payment. Therefore, even for a supplier, I fail to see a compelling reason to adopt non-buyer-specific generic e-invoicing portals. While they might cut down some wasteful effort in the invoicing department, that's negligible compared to the overall effort incurred by the supplier company in servicing the buyer.

Bo Harald
Bo Harald - Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData - Helsinki Region 24 July, 2011, 07:12Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Let us put it in simple terms: for any SME it should be possible to send all the invoices in the same way to all customers - with the same service. They do not have time to learn to use different buyer-specific portals.

For buyers it should be possible to receive all invoices into his e-invoice-receiving service - reformatted by the service provider so that the ERP application and the payment initiation gets them into one format.

Bo Harald
Bo Harald - Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData - Helsinki Region 24 July, 2011, 07:22Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

"From the perspective of buyers/payors, they become non-generic since the processing at their end would differ for e-invoices received from the multiple e-invoicing providers."  There is usually a need for using a service provider who can reformat the invoices received in different formats > then this is generic.

"If I recall correctly, an Intuit PaymentNetwork executive mentioned a couple of months ago that the challenge is to get buyers/payors to adopt such generic solutions." Why difficult - many benefits with using generic solutions - many disadvantages with using buyer- specific. "

"After all, from their perspective, why won't they like to get all invoices from all suppliers in a single format of their choosing, which appears possible only with a buyer-specific e-invoicing portal?" First of all: bad service to force partners away from generic solutions - secondly by using service provider the invoices arriving at ERP are in single format (and you cannot really force all customers in your own model).

Think: just like payments with 4-corner model and unified standards. Of course this will be the end-game. Despite some vendors preferring a fragmented world.

 

Rein Geerdes
Rein Geerdes - Unisys - Villeneuve-Loubet 25 July, 2011, 15:57Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

We don't need a wide network of generic e-invoicing portals, we just need to use secure e-mail with embedded poayment options.

Why email is the strongest medium for online billing

Email usage continues to increase globally. Although growth rates vary from region to region, this increase goes hand in hand with the increased use of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Nielsen published a study which found that consumers of social media were also the highest consumers of email

Billing portals continue to deliver poor ROI

Web portals can provide a customer with a wealth of information that enables online analysis of billing, payment, historical information such as previous month's bills and self service options. The fundamental problem with accessing this kind of information online is the initial registration process required, along with the need to enter a username and password each time you visit the portal, one or two portals seem manageable, but once you translate all of your monthly bills to portals you end up with a large amount of URL's, usernames, passwords and navigations on each site to wade through - not to mention remembering to view these bills each month. This is one of the compelling reasons why companies do not achieve a ROI when trying to convert paper based customers to portal registrants.

Email delivery drives faster payment

How can this process be simplified, yet still provide value for the customer and how can the supplier drive faster payments and improve cash flow?

Emailing an interactive eBill attachment to a customer and enabling them to view, sort, analyze, query and submit payment from within a secure email attachment is the most simple aand most appreciated option. All required action can be performed from within the bill, thereby retaining the customers attention and making the call to action i.e. payment, available in one click.

Supporters of portal billing argue that the majority of email sent to inboxes is spam yet they email bill notifications to their users. Recently Symantec released statistics indicating that 92% of email is spam. However spam filters are catching 90% of this leaving very little in the inbox. As inboxes become more intelligent, as in the case of Gmail's priority inbox, spam email communications are now being pushed to the bottom of the queue. Furthermore, ISP's are continually improving their criteria regulating what mail is allowed to land in the consumer's inbox, before the inbox even starts it's intelligent (algorithm driven) work.

Increase email reach through social media

Interactivity on marketing communications has continued to increase with the introduction of social media sharing options on these emails. GetResponse's E-mail marketing and social media integration report suggests that this is a worthwhile tactic for increasing email reach. The study of 500 million emails showed that including three or more social sharing icons increased average click-through rates from 7.2 per cent to 11.2 per cent.

With thanks to Unisys partner Striata

Bo Harald
Bo Harald - Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData - Helsinki Region 25 July, 2011, 17:41Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

E-mail for invoicing has not been seen as a solution in the Nordics. For consumers and SMEs the most convenient solution is to receive the invoice to the netbank (almost all use e-banking) and then get an SMS notification where you also can approve payment just by pressing "a". You can also pick invoices for automatic debit - by issuer and by size - and then move back to approving every one when you so prefer. Obvious consolidation direction for SEPA direct debit - if we are at all interested in lowering costs for enterprises.

On the sending side it is important to supply the data elements your customer needs - ie use standards in sending portals supplied by banks and others.

b2b is all about automating accounting, VAT processes, financing etc. see earlier blogs

Bo Harald
Bo Harald - Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData - Helsinki Region 25 July, 2011, 17:46Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Rein: "username and password each time you visit the portal, one or two portals seem manageable, but once you translate all of your monthly bills to portals you end up with a large amount of URL's, usernames, passwords and navigations on each site to wade through - not to mention remembering to view these bills each month. This is one of the compelling reasons why companies do not achieve a ROI when trying to convert paper based customers to portal registrants."

this is the reason why we need generic e-invoicing tools - use one - send to all (just like payments) - but it has to carry rich data - and standardized (just like payments when it comes to discipline - but more fields - just like ISO20022)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 25 July, 2011, 18:42Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

All along, I was thinking of a generic e-invoicing portal. Now, thanks to Rein G's comments, I suddenly realize that we are staring at not one, but multiple, portals.

To me, the adoption challenge seems to multiply for the following reasons: 

  1. As I've commented before, even a single portal lacks a compelling reason for adoption either by suppliers or buyers. Can't imagine that the situation improves for a network of portals. 
  2. Is there any guarantee that a single supplier company will only use one (brand of) portal? If not, supplier employees will have to get trained on different portals.
  3. Surely each third-party portal provider will promise to deliver *all* invoices from *all* suppliers in the *same* ERP format, so that the buyer/payor would have to invest only *once* in integrating with *all* portals. In an industry that has a multiplicity even of standards, I'm not sure how many average buyers/payors from outside the industry will believe such promises.
  4. I don't know why we are talking about forcing all customers to your own model. We are actually talking about forcing all suppliers to the buyer's/payor's model. Service to customers is mandatory. However, giving business and paying suppliers on time might be enough service from buyers/payors to suppliers. 

Forking out money is considered as one of the greatest sources of friction, as evidenced by the universal popularity of *FREE* offers. If I as a supplier can reduce some of that friction by agreeing to follow different invoicing process - be it portal or email or paper - of different buyers/payors, I will gladly do so in order to receive my payment on time.

Bo Harald
Bo Harald - Transmeri, Demos, Real Time Economy Program,MyData - Helsinki Region 26 July, 2011, 07:48Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

We are delivering it - and the global movement towards a network of interoperability between service providers is growing by the day. The ISO20022 standard is global, ready and free to use. This is question of will - as always with innovations. Some prefer to see the difficulties - others the opportunities.

 

Bo Harald

Bo Harald

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A discussion of trends in innovation management within financial institutions, and the key processes, technology and cultural shifts driving innovation.


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