The arguments in favour of removing paper from the invoicing process are compelling - reduced handling costs, faster approval processes, quicker dispute resolution, and in many cases accelerated cash flows.
While electronic invoicing (e-invoicing) has been slow to take off and has largely been the province of bigger companies, the benefits of e-invoicing for a small to medium enterprise are equally attractive.
Until two years ago, WiSS, a small web design and hosting company based in Wales, followed the standard printing-and-posting paper-based method to invoice its customers.
The process was relatively simple since a majority of invoices were for annual design and hosting services. But when customers started asking for monthly invoices, WiSS had a problem. Switching to a monthly system would create significant overheads, not only because of higher paper and postage costs, but also because of the increased time required to process invoices.
The obvious solution for WiSS was to move to an electronic environment but with small to medium scale enterprises largely being overlooked in the e-invoicing area, one of their biggest challenges was to find the right solution for their requirements.
WiSS was lucky enough to find a solution right on its doorstep as located on the same premises as WiSS was Accountis, an electronic invoicing vendor offering solutions to organisations of all sizes that have the option of either licensing and running the system themselves or going for a managed service.
“We chose Accountis because it was an off-the-shelf service that would work with the accounts software we already had,” says David Lewis-Waller, director of WiSS. “We did not want to upgrade or purchase a new system, and needed a solution that was secure, managed and required no staff training. The Accountis service met all these requirements which meant that we could quickly begin billing our clients monthly without incurring any initial costs.”
The solution enables WiSS to send electronic invoices, keep track of their status through the Accountis website and also use debtor control features that ensure that reminder e-mails are automatically sent out to late payers. According to Mr Lewis-Waller, electronic invoicing has helped reduce administrative overheads and improved cash flows.
“It is hard to believe that we have increased the number of invoices we send out, but have reduced our overall invoicing costs by as much as 50 per cent in the last year and we hope to see even greater saving this year,” he says.
Notably, nearly a quarter of all the invoices sent by WiSS are still paper based. But the company is easily able to manage both paper and electronic invoices through the Accountis solution, one of the few paper/electronic hybrid offerings in the market.
Explaining the rationale behind this, Dyfan Williams, commercial director at Accountis says: “It will be a while before paper is replaced within every-day business processes and some companies will need to receive their invoices and documents in paper format for a long time. By providing a hybrid solution, we ensure that businesses find making the transition from a paper to electronic system a simple, easy to manage process.”