Energising the European Economy One Step at a Time through Electronic Invoicing

January 2013 marks a significant milestone for one key action of the European Union’s Digital Agenda as the deadline for member states to legislate so electronic and paper invoices are treated equally – removing one of the barriers to European-wide implementation of electronic invoicing (e-invoicing). It is estimated that, once adopted, e-invoicing will save businesses in Europe a significant amount of money, with the European Commission Expert Group on e-Invoicing's Mid-Term Report  noting annual cost savings as high as €200 billion. This is money that can instead be invested on driving innovation, supporting business growth and contributing to a healthier economy.

Using technology to improve business processes like e-invoicing not only helps to cut costs but also improves the efficiency of the entire supply chain. With e-invoicing, businesses face fewer payment delays, save money from printing and postage costs, and establish an automated, integrated system for efficient processes.  Furthermore, there are huge environmental improvements that can be achieved, not only by using less paper, but also by cutting out the energy costs from the transportation of invoices. According to the same mid-term report by the Expert Group on e-Invoicing, up to 3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions can be saved each year in Europe through e-invoicing alone.

The EU is therefore driving the initiative to harmonise invoicing standards across Europe by 2013, with the Commission’s goal for e-invoicing to be the predominant form of invoicing in Europe by 2020.

Today however, most European businesses are far from prepared. For many businesses looking to switch from paper to electronic invoicing, there are still a number of obstacles to adopting a fully digitised process. The main barriers appear to be the lack of technological expertise or capacity, limited trust in the security of digitised data, and the lack of acceptance by suppliers and customers who are not quite ready to let go of paper systems.

Ricoh’s i-Invoicing is unique in that it supports businesses to make the switch from paper to digital – which cannot be done overnight. A shift to electronic invoicing must be done in several stages and therefore a business will need a process to manage both paper and electronic invoices in tandem as the business, its customers, and its suppliers, make the transition to a digital way of working. By providing a service that includes paper and digital, Ricoh supports this transition.

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