Paperless invoicing offers real savings for UK businesses

A report commissioned by Open Business Exchange shows that electronic invoice delivery can offer substantial savings to UK...

A report commissioned by Open Business Exchange shows that electronic invoice delivery can offer substantial savings to UK companies, writes Eric Doyle.

The report entitled Electronic Invoice Delivery Imparts Improved Profitability to UK Business, found that electronic invoice delivery (EID) can save businesses receiving 140,000 invoices a year about £16,000 a month.

Mark Stevenson, a researcher for Abstraction and author of the report, said that expensive systems, such as electronic data interchange (EDI), are giving way to more flexible Internet-based e-procurement implementations. "But," he warns, "e-procurement is not an 'install and enjoy' experience. While the aims of e-procurement are laudable, the difficulty of getting a critical mass of buyers and suppliers to subscribe to any marketplace along with implementation issues, such as supplier catalogue generation and ERP integration, mean that such initiatives require vast amounts of effort and co-operation to launch successfully."

Open Business Exchange's OB10 service is designed to act as a link between businesses and their partners. Companies tend to prefer to use their chosen ERP systems but are forced to find some language of convenience when invoicing partners which have based their businesses on other ERP and accountancy packages. OBE's chief executive Alain Falys claimed that this situation will persist for at least the next 10 years, despite the advance of XML. "It will be a long time before every partner and service supplier, down to the local window cleaner, is XML-enabled. Even large companies will prefer to stay with their well-tested and expensive EDI systems."

The OB10 service offers an exchange server that can take electronic invoices generated by any of a number of accountancy packages and reformat the data for delivery directly into a specific customer's accountancy system. Even the small suppliers, such as the window cleaner can submit invoices via a Web form provided by OBE. Forwarded invoices can also be supplied as HTML pages for filing or e-mailing and OBE also keeps a securely stored copy of each transaction so that disputes between business partners over payment dates, for example, can be more rapidly verified using OBE's audit trail.

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