e-invoice adoption in the United States – the real story

e-invoice adoption in the United States – the real story

A torrent of tweets amplified one another over the last few weeks about the apparent enormous current interest in e-invoicing in the United States. Apparently, 42% of companies – a sizable proportion by any standard – are evaluating their electronic invoicing options.

They were all quoting from the very fine report published recently by PayStream Advisors’ e-invoicing Adoption Benchmarking Report. But unlike the many tweeps who were excited by this, I was a little underwhelmed and in my opinion, there was some much more interesting revelations in the report.

Purchasing Insight logoAmongst those surveyed 29% of US businesses will be using e-invoicing by the middle of 2012. Of the 71% that remain, just over half are thinking about it. That’s nothing to get excited about. It fails to compare favorably with Europe (anecdotally at least) and much of Latin America is steaming ahead because e-invoicing is becoming mandatory.

On its own, these numbers make the United States look a little slow. But that would be the wrong conclusion to draw. The PayStream Advisors report has further insights and when taken in their entirety, they paint a very interesting picture.

The growth in the adoption of OCR and intelligent data capture is quite astonishing. Those using these technologies will almost double from 37% to 67% this year compared to last. The report notes: “The lack of a significant adoption rate of technologies like OCR is not due to the solution no longer being viable, but rather it being poorly understood and viewed as ‘lacking.’ While first generation OCR software engines were indeed unreliable and often produced inaccuracies, significant improvements have made technologies like OCR a powerful and dependable automation component.”

As we’ve argued before, the difference between e-invoicing and OCR/intelligent data capture is merely one of semantics. Whether you receive the electronic invoices directly or you use software to convert and deliver the electronic data to your ERP, it makes little difference – you are still automating your accounts payable process by using electronic data rather than paper and manual processes. And that’s the point.

Asking companies whether they plan to implement e-invoicing is perhaps asking the wrong question. The real insight from this report is the apparent significant growth in companies planning to implement AP automation – by whatever means.