Being from Ireland, I have watched the antics of the European Commission from afar. Many of us got great merriment from the whole palaver about crooked cucumbers and bendy bananas back in the mid 2000s. But really that was just legislation gone awry at a micro level. At a macro level there have been some powerful changes. By happenstance I was lucky enough to be in Dublin on New Year’s Day 2002 when they transferred from the Celtic paper Punt to the cultureless plastic Euro.
On New Year’s Eve I was buying pints in the local with one currency and the next morning it was coffee and the newspaper with another. Weird, but the transition was marvellously smooth. No one batted an eyelid, exchange and change was calculatedly without a hitch everywhere I went, even where it was done by a calculator rather than the point of sale system. A massive legislative and logistical migration done well on the day.
The EC is leading the charge for something else nowadays: electronic invoicing, the complete elimination of paper from the B2B purchase cycle. I am a big supporter of this. This initiative is a follow on from the SEPA (Single European payment Area) project and will have far reaching implications. One of the drivers is the desire to reduce inefficiencies and administration costs in the public sectors across Europe. In coming years if you want to trade with a public entity in that market you will need to provide electronic invoicing.
What is electronic invoicing? The electronic transfer of invoicing information (billing and payment) between business partners (supplier and buyer).
In a recent iPOS customer survey 77% of recipients were considering document capture/scanning as a way to address their supplier invoice management. This is solving the wrong problem. We should not be seeking to better manage the paper invoice .We should be investing time and effort in removing the paper from the process. The suppliers need to generate electronic documents and the customers need to consume them. For many companies the Pareto principle will probably apply; only 20% of their suppliers will be responsible for 80% of their purchase invoices. So tackling the most frequently used suppliers will deliver rapid improvements.
Modern legislation does not require us to have, let alone keep, the paper invoice (see ATO and HMRC). We just need to be able to adequately recreate the documents when requested. At its most basic level that means having a PDF invoice instead of a piece of paper. But the real efficiencies lie in being able to integrate the billing system of the supplier with the purchasing system of the buyer. According to the EC, eInvoicing is more accurate, quicker and greener. In the SunSystems world iPOS XML will eliminate paper invoices, much better than scanning them.
You can read more about Professional Advantage and iPOS here.
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