Electronic invoicing – a topic for winners?

The whole world is talking about digitization, but it’s often forgotten that it’s not the big things that dominate day-to-day management. Just as any BoD would love to have more time for strategic issues, as a modern executive it would be great to only have to worry about the “digital agenda.” But the challenges are mostly at the rather unattractive “hands on” level. The best example of this is electronic invoicing. Anyone who thinks that this topic has been dealt with exhaustively is way off the mark. From our (experts’) point of view, this was actually already the case at the end of the 1990s. Nevertheless, electronic invoice processing is currently experiencing a boom.

What does this have to do with information governance? Very much so, because it exemplifies how long a technology takes to

  1. Getting into the heads of decision makers and
  2. to gain a foothold in the company and
  3. to be perceived as a change in the business model!

So why did it take so long? The answers can only be guessed at. There are a few hard facts about it, though. Switzerland pioneered the legal basis for e-invoicing in the mid-nineties, both in private and public law. There are no legal obstacles that would have made implementation impossible. The technology was there, B2B networks and standards existed since EDIFACT times and became affordable with the advent of the Internet, at least for the majority of companies. The economic benefit can also be recalculated. Security concerns exist, but solutions exist for this as well (e.g., digital signature, blockchain).

Consequently, there is really only one central reason for the late realization: Management did not care, or considered it unimportant, or too troublesome. Above all, it hardly brought any presentable laurels.

The management level is currently desperately searching for digitization topics and commissioning IT companies to “finally do something”. That this is the wrong approach is probably clear to most. But where can you find good use cases for digitization? Why wander off into the distance…? Exactly, here we land again on the topic of invoice processing! Instead of outsourcing the accounts payable to XY-country, one could also use the achievements of technology! There are no additional interfaces, customers are more satisfied, and internal employees focus more on value-adding activities.

“Every Business is an Information Business” means understanding that the value creation factor information is real and does not only exist in the heads of Big Data protagonists. This is part of active information governance = ACTIVE MANAGEMENT OF INFORMATION. This must be established at all levels, from the board of directors to the smallest employee. For this to work, information must be managed comprehensively, not just in the context of “flagship” projects. Most executives understand that their business models will change. However, to accept this needs at least 2-3 manager generations (about 10-20 years). This is consistent with the introductory remarks on e-invoicing.

What does this mean in practice? If the chief financial officer doesn’t want to digitize his store, then the normative and strategic management level must ensure that this happens. Small and quick projects with an immediately noticeable result are necessary so that every employee sees: There is progress here!

Start with real digitization and finally do away with paper invoices!


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