OPTIMAL SYSTEMS is setting a good example and has launched an initiative to further drive digital invoice processing. To this end, the provider of the Enterprise Content Management software enaio® informed its suppliers about the advantages of electronic invoicing and was thus able to significantly increase the rate of invoices received by e-mail. At the same time, the company sends outgoing invoices electronically to its customers, provided that they have given their consent. The aim of the initiative is to complete the electronic exchange of invoices entirely without using any paper in the medium term.

The Digital Office Index of the digital association bitkom published in March 2016 showed that 58 percent of German companies still create their invoices on paper. Even among companies with 500 or more employees, with an enormously high invoice volume, almost half of them use paper. The situation is slightly better when it comes to receiving invoices: Only about 40% of German companies receive invoices in paper form.

These are the cost drivers in the manual processing of invoice receipts (source: OPTIMAL SYSTEMS)

There is still a long way to go

“These figures prove that we still have a lot of catching up to do in terms of electronic invoice exchange in Germany,” says Sven Kaiser, Head of Marketing at OPTIMAL SYSTEMS. “That is why we have launched this initiative and want to convince other companies of the benefits. It wouldn’t be very authentic if we recommended e-invoicing to our customers and continued to deliver by mail coach.”

Fully digital internally

Internally, the ECM provider already processes its incoming invoices completely digitally on the basis of enaio®, thus reducing the time from receipt to posting and clearing by 10 percent. enaio® enables fast, secure processing of electronic invoices and their exchange. Check routines and digital workflows for information purposes and approval ensure a high level of security. The system automatically recognizes incoming invoices, distributes them to the relevant staff and optionally compares the data with data available in the ERP system or the financial accounting system. The processes can be linked directly to the associated electronic invoice.

Suppliers who send their invoices electronically benefit from shorter processing times, faster clearing, and lower costs. On the recipient side on the other hand, the faster processing of applicable discounts, rebates, or seasonal offers has an impact. Costs are also reduced by eliminating manual work.

A standard format for electronic invoice exchange

Ideally, the electronic invoice is exchanged using the ZUGFeRD data model. ZUGFeRD stands for “Central User Guide Forum Electronic Invoice.” This is a PDF/A-3 file in which the invoice is stored as a long-term archive-safe PDF/A file and the invoice data as an XML data record. The customer can pass this machine-readable XML data directly to his ERP or financial accounting system, therefore saving the need for manual entry or extraction. enaio® archives files in this format in an audit-proof manner and reads out the XML file during storage so that the invoice values are presented to the user when opening the index form and he no longer has to enter them himself.