Whilst it is certainly true to say that some e-invoicing projects have not succeeded immediately in the past, the majority proceed very smoothly when planned appropriately. In particular, it is important to be aware of the potential pitfalls and adopt a strategy that avoids them.
There are several reasons why e-invoicing projects may not succeed, the main ones being:
- Inadequate project planning
- Poor project management
- Underestimating the breadth of the impact of such projects on various processes and departments within the business
- Focusing too strongly on the technical aspects without sufficient attention to other areas
Senior management buy-in
Equally, there are a number of factors that contribute to success.
One of the key factors is ensuring there is a good understanding at senior management level of the benefits that will be realised within the business. Not just the obvious time savings on data entry and reduced print and postage costs, but also the potential impact on the business overall. This includes enhanced visibility of key financial data, improved compliance with approved contracts and the potential for negotiating better discounts with suppliers on the strength of earlier settlement.
Establishing the wider importance in this way helps to ensure senior management support for the project across all of the parts of the business that are affected, especially when backed by a business case that offers a fast return on investment.
Alongside this, there should be a project owner, or ‘roll-out champion’, with a commitment to getting a high number of suppliers and sub-contractors on board through a phased programme. Ideally, this person will have the necessary seniority within the company to ‘make things happen’.
At all stages, effective communication with everyone involved – internally and externally – will be essential. This begins in the very early stages of project by explaining the purpose of introducing e-Invoicing and then keeping people up to speed with progress. Ensuring that such communications are positive will be a great help in keeping everyone onside.
It also makes a lot of sense to learn from the experiences of other companies that have implemented e-Invoicing to avoid any pitfalls they may have encountered. However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, so while the experience of others may have some relevance, your programme needs to be tailored to the specific needs of your business and to the resources available.
In this respect, it is important to be realistic about the technical capabilities within your organisation and the potential impact on the workflows of the people involved. For example, a typical programme might be planned over a three-year period, bringing the main suppliers on board first and then gradually adding others.
In parallel, you should take the time to understand any issues or concerns from the supplier side of things. Anticipating and addressing such concerns will support a smoother roll-out overall.
When selecting an e-invoicing partner, therefore, it makes a lot of sense to work with a company that already has considerable experience of implementing such programmes successfully in similar businesses.
Causeway’s Tradex e-invoicing platform hosts the largest business trading community in the UK construction sector, with more than 170,000 companies leveraging the platform to trade millions of electronic documents per year.