E-invoicing is gaining in popularity. Partially due to statutory obligations but also because there are gains to be made: "It's going to spread like an oil spill. The market demands it.” Ilse Bouwman, Customer Service Manager at Eneco, has noticed this growing interest in e-invoicing.
This is due to the legislation stipulating that public sector parties or organizations that work for the government must receive and process electronic invoices in UBL format as of April 2019.
"Why did Eneco start with implementing e-invoicing?"
Because the previously mentioned legislation regards a significant number of Eneco’s Corporate Accounts, it also affects the energy company. That's why the energy company has started a trajectory for implementing e-invoicing.
Besides being prompted by law, Bouwman also notices an increased interest due to other reasons: “Customers ask questions about the potential advantages of e-invoicing”, says Bouwman. "The move to e-invoicing does in fact offer all kinds of benefits", says Sonja Thissen, Business Technology Consultant at Eneco.
But first, she would like to clear up a common misconception; that e-invoicing is somewhat different from sending an invoice digitally: “A digital invoice is sent by e-mail in a PDF, CSV or other formats, for instance, and is processed manually in the bookkeeping. With e-invoicing, there is a network connecting the sender and receiver, and invoices are processed automatically in the recipient’s bookkeeping.”
"What are the advantages of using e-invoices?"
Eneco started the project on a small scale with a large Dutch municipality and one retail company. “You're still talking about hundreds of invoices being sent per month.” This allowed the energy company to get some experience with e-invoicing, also regarding its advantages:
1. Less manual work, faster payments, and fewer errors due to automatic processing. Furthermore, it reduces quibbles about the accuracy of invoices because you both have the same facts. The chance of an invoice getting lost is also reduced. It is a genuine improvement in efficiency for both us and the customer”, says Bouwman.
2. E-invoicing removes a lot of complexity. Some of Eneco’s customers work at hundreds of locations. In the paper world, these were all put on one invoice at the request of the client, states Thissen. "If there was a problem with one location’s details, the entire payment stalled. With e-invoicing, the invoices are sent per location which eradicates this problem."
3. Indirectly, it also has a significant effect on the financial side, says Bouwman. “We reduce our internal costs. Furthermore, we get paid quicker and payments are more reliable. We have greater security that invoices will be paid on time. That is beneficial to our working capital.”
4. Furthermore, the project is in line with Eneco’s sustainability goals to reduce the use of paper and CO2 emissions. Plus: many parties have not yet started with e-invoicing, says Bouwman: “We have identified this trend and have picked up on it early on.”
"How did Eneco switch to e-invoicing?"
The implementation of the system was smooth: “The part that took the longest was choosing a good party to help us with this. Once that choice was made it proceeded quickly”, says Thissen.
“Storecove stood out because they had a simple story, can act quickly, are certified and their prices are favorable”, states Thissen. Eneco was connected to the so-called PEPPOL network within a few days. The energy company delivered test invoices to kick off the test process in collaboration with Storecove.
"It's important that the customer understands that they will have to dedicate time to this phase", says Thissen. “It requires good coordination between Eneco, the customer, and Storecove. They kept us continually updated with each step, so we could follow it and learn from the process."
"What is your prediction regarding the future of e-invoicing?"
Now that the energy company can see that e-invoicing is running smoothly, Eneco soon wants to offer more customers the possibility to receive and send invoices through the network.
Thissen: “Now we see it is successful, we can point out the advantages of e-invoicing to more parties. We can show them how we do it and that it works."
Bouwman thinks it's only a matter of time before e-invoicing gets bigger: “E-invoicing will become the standard in the energy market, partially due to the new legislation, but also because customers will start seeing the benefits that we experience."
She foresees increased interest and expects other sectors will pick up on it. “I believe that it will spread like an oil spill. Customers from retail, for instance, are already asking about it specifically because it can help them increase internal efficiency. That's the best thing; that companies are not prompted by legislation, but that they themselves see the advantages.”
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