- Shared supplier networks encourage collaboration: Shared supplier networks provide more value than point-to-point solutions by supporting many-to-many relationships between buyers and sellers. A buyer or seller who enrolls into the network can immediately start transacting with all other members on the network without having to register separately for each trading partner relationship. These shared networks will minimize buyers' risk by enabling them to achieve a critical mass of supplier adoption more quickly and easily.
- Imaging and Web invoicing will cross-pollinate: Imaging and Workflow Automation solutions have evolved to meet organizations' internal needs around invoice receipt and management. Web invoicing solutions provide similar functionality and are explicitly designed to facilitate buyer-supplier collaboration. However as the Internet expands into all corners of business communication, the distinction between internal and external breaks down. Both types of solutions will flourish for years to come, but cross-pollination is bound to occur.
- Multiple solution models will co-exist: There is not a single model for Web Invoicing & Electronic Payments. Solutions are available in software form, as well as on an outsourced basis. Likewise, some vendors emphasize a modular "mix-and-match" approach while others concentrate on providing a set solution. There is also tremendous variability in terms of solution focus. Some vendors focus tightly on specific aspects of the invoice receipt-to-pay cycle, while others strive to provide the functionality as part of a larger enterprise content management (ECM) or business process management (BPM) offering. Industry consolidation notwithstanding, this diversity will continue.
The benefits of Web Invoicing & Electronic Payments are clear. However, all solutions are not equal and neither are every organization's needs.
Technology buyers should keep the following factors in mind when deciding on the best solution to meet their organization's needs:
- Financial Automation Goals. Organizations that have been slow to adopt other financial automation technologies but want to take an incremental step forward should consider electronic payments as a starting point. On the other hand, organizations that are comfortable with technology and want to accelerate the pace of improvement in their invoice receipt-to-pay cycle should think about an application that delivers full-cycle functionality.
- Adoption Readiness. Every organization does not stand an equal chance of succeeding with automation. Differences in culture, financial resources and human capital mean that certain organizations are more likely to succeed. Individuals investigating Web Invoicing & Electronic Payments should determine how their organizations stack up in each of these areas. As a rule of thumb, an organization's overall use of financial automation technologies relative to its peers provides a rough indicator of its readiness to adopt such solutions, especially in their more challenging end-to-end form. So, if electronic supplier invoicing processing "sounds space age" to your organization, it probably is not a good fit.
- Process Complexity. The higher the complexity of an organization's invoice receipt-to-pay process, the greater the payoff from automation. An organization should consider the number of suppliers and invoice formats it receives, as well as its overall invoice volume and the complexity of its average invoice when evaluating Web Invoicing solutions. Finally, the steps required to process, approve and pay invoices are also critical and will have a direct bearing on their choice of a solution.