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Editor's note: What are the best practices in moving data to the clouds?



Considering how much faster and less expensive it is, electronic delivery of customer invoices would be standard procedure in virtually every company if accounts receivable professionals had their way. One top ERP software vendor has estimated the cost of mailing a single invoice to be as high as $15 USD. In study after study, IT analyst research has found that the average U.S. company can save up to millions of dollars every year by sending invoices electronically.

At this point nearly everyone recognizes the advantages of taking the inefficiency of paper out of the process, which include DSO reduction and accelerated cash collection in addition to lower costs and higher efficiency. So what is standing in the way?

Technology certainly is not the issue. For years now, software solutions have been enabling companies to send 100 percent of their AR invoices and related billing documents electronically -- even if some customers on the other end want to receive their invoices by postal mail. And more recently, the same capabilities are available through the Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) models.

More than anything else, the barrier to automated AR invoicing is a contact management issue. Companies need a practical way to resolve varying customer and supplier preferences for receiving documents. Along with the customers who still prefer to have their documents mailed to them, there continue to be those who rely on fax. Other customers can and want to have their suppliers send billing documents by email or other electronic means.

Satisfying these customer preferences consumes internal resources. Setting up a customer to receive invoices via fax can place impractical demands on IT staff time to maintain output information in the company's ERP system. Moving customers to email delivery may require manual modification of individual customer files by data management personnel or customer service staff. In some cases, companies even have to get programmers involved in switching documentation types.

Helping Customers go Paperless

While some customers are neither ready nor willing to change entrenched processes that are set up to handle paper invoices, others understand that they can benefit from electronic invoicing. They know there are operational advantages to be gained by moving money faster. Receiving supplier invoices electronically can help to lower a company's accounts payable overhead by dramatically reducing or even eliminating the time and money spent on manual handling of billing documents. And of course, every step toward quitting paper supports sustainability and green business initiatives.

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