This contribution is a follow-up to the previous articles regarding “Paperless vendor invoice – Which solution in a complex world”. It addresses the outbound invoicing process, as it is part of a broader accounting process, the ”Order to Cash” – ”O2C” for outbound billing or ”e-billing”.

The process follows the evolution of the law in the context of public procurement where the use of e-billing will rapidly increase; it will gradually become compulsory by 1st of January 2020. The obligation of the state to accept electronic invoices is extended to local authorities and all public institutions as of 1 January 2017.

Issues – coming schedule and challenges

For example, the order of June 26, 2014 in France defines the electronic invoicing obligation schedule for senders to state bills, local authorities and their public institutions:

  • 1st of January 2017: obligation for large companies and public organizations
  • 1st of January 2018: obligation for medium-sized companies;
  • 1st of January 2019: obligation for small and medium enterprises;
  • 1st of January 2020: obligation for micro-enterprises.

This provision also generalizes to local authorities and all public institutions the obligation of the state to accept electronic invoices.

As part of the European strategy for digitalization, the European directive on electronic invoicing in public procurement in 2014 relays the obligation of electronic invoicing in public procurement and emphasizes the development of a European standard to ensure interoperability between different local/national systems.

Dematerialization allows mutual gains for companies and administrations: reduced costs (printing and mailing), reduced carbon footprint, removing manipulation of ”paper” documents, reduction of processing time, guaranteeing delivery of documents, fluidity in the exchanges. The invoice dematerialization approach can also be a competitive advantage (dematerialization clause present in public procurement) and a communication element to be reckoned with (exemplary, image and reputation).

Rollout of such solutions involves many actors, at least 3 or 4:

  • The sender and its service provider or integrator,
  • The receiver and its service provider or integrator.

Based on experience from such projects, the feedback shows an implementation delay that could conflict with the above schedule.

The On-Boarding process of electronic billing (e-billing) and how to prepare it

In the On-Boarding process there is work to be conducted in conjunction with the client (preparation and monitoring, for example and with the supplier (contact, NetMeetings, and implementation). The main steps of the process are:

  • Preparation: this first step identifies the initial supplier target group by using “Pareto” analysis and similar tools. Furthermore, we need to define the best suited communication strategy towards the suppliers based on the market experience gathered with numerous successful On-Boarding operations.
  • Contact: The On-Boarding team will contact a known supplier provided by the sender and establish who is responsible for the Account Receivable process (sending of documents). This contact person will then be addressed in order to arrange a live demonstration if needed.
  • NetMeeting: In this session the on-boarding team will promote the benefits for the supplier and address any concerns or questions.
  • Implementation: The supplier is guided through a process of user acceptance testing and production approval before being set live.
  • Monitoring: Throughout the whole On-Boarding process, the rollout manager will not only be available to manage progress reporting, but also to give advice on how to improve further.

The On-Boarding operation should be conducted by a dedicated centrally managed team from Europe to ensure a consistent and optimum delivery of the service. The On-Boarding team should support the European languages.

e-billing - On-boarding process step by step

How can I send invoices to public organizations?

To help medium sized companies, the government proposes free and shared technical solutions (Chorus Portal Pro 2017). It will allow the deposit, reception and transmission of electronic invoices and monitoring, and will be made available free for suppliers. It will replace and will draw on the Chorus bills tool currently used by suppliers of the state.

This platform allows state providers to transmit their invoices electronically without using paper. They can also track the progress of their invoices. Chorus offers three transmission modes which are adapted to the needs and supplier capabilities:

  • The upload of invoices in PDF (signed or unsigned) to the portal;
  • The keying of invoices on the same portal;
  • The transmission of invoices in Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), for suppliers with large volume of invoices.

A few helpful tipps

Dematerialization promotes a “collaborative way of work” and softens the organization of a company; this is why the company is very interested, however it cannot be implemented without prerequisites.

  • A precise definition of objectives and scope (needed to determine the target ROI),
  • Objectives coupled with a driving process of change, and to be accepted by all.

Finally, as for the Account Payable process, the advice so far is to proceed step by step. For instance, for companies who question the approach, conducting a pilot phase before rollout will reassure them about the implementation costs and create a solution.

Author: Joseph Elias, Inbound/Outbound invoices processing consultant by ASTERION