Monday, June 20, 2011

Five easy steps to national e-invoicing

We have recently experienced a surge in interest for global e-invoicing from multinational enterprises. This is not surprising - cost savings are so large - and the usual ice-hockey stick effect typical. And we should be very pleased that the ISO20022 e-invoicing message standard (built on UNCEFACT CII V2 content standard) is ready for global adoption - strongly supported by SWIFT.

Still it is clear that the immense competitiveness improvements that can be made are in the national markets. Any government worried about cost-efficiency - its own and in all enterprises should now take strong action - establish national programs. We have been through this process and recommend the following five "easy" steps:

1. See to it that service providers create e-invoicing portals - so that the smallest SMEs have the templates for keying in their invoices (no investments, no IT-skills needed) and larger ones can send files (in local or ISO formats) from their invoicing programs to invoice service providers of their choice. Banks are a must-have both for providing the portals, file services and payment automation at the receiving end.

2. Agree on national interchange in 4-corner model (just like payments) and agree on national standard so that e-invoice applications and services can adapt and use ISO20022 as network standard - especially important for x-border.

3. Set deadlines for incoming paper and unstructured PDFs and charge visibly for having to send paper. Scanning should be stopped and receiver-specific portals replaced by generic.

4. Service providers should accept local standards and preferably convert to ISO in network. Endgame is ISO end2end.

5. Tell the wide SME-sector the e-invoicing is not a goal in itself - but the base for automated accounting, automated cash flow estimates, automated VAT, automated invoice financing, real time visibility of financing, better cash flow/less need for financing/lower credit and currency risks as invoicing frequency can be a increased etc

No time to lose - now Action - Bold Action is needed.


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