Author: Pete Loughlin

Governments in many countries are considering how best to capitalize on the opportunities that electronic invoices present. Some countries like Brazil and Mexico have used the force of law to insist on the use of electronic invoices - other countries have mandated that suppliers to public sector use e-invoices. But some of the biggest economies in the world, notably Germany, the UK and the United States seem hesitant. Perhaps they don't want to interfere too closely in commerce. Maybe it's the fear of the bureaucracy of new legislation that puts them off. It could be lack of political will. But by providing no encouragement or leadership, these governments are depriving their economies of literally $billions in efficiency and liquidity and as a stakeholder in this, I'd like to propose a three point plan to persuade businesses to use electronic invoices.

It's clearly the right thing to do. So why isn't everybody doing it? I'm going to have to come clean. I was, for years, one of those people that was reluctant to recycle. I wasn't a global warming skeptic or anything like that. My formative years were in the 1970's when we thought the oil was about to run out. Green was good and what is now called sustainable energy sources were seen as the way of the future. I have a scientific education so when I hear that a large majority of scientists agree that there is an urgent need to control carbon emissions I don't think twice about ignoring the conspiracy theorists and crackpots that claim we can carry on regardless. So why was I reluctant to recycle? Why was I not in the least bit motivated to turn off my standby lights? And why do I love plastic bags? And what's any of it got to do with electronic invoicing?

Question: When is an standard not a standard? Answer: When there’s loads of them. In Europe, there’s more e-invoicing standards than there are languages spoken so, when the EU Commission in it’s draft directive on e-invoicing in public sector calls for more consideration into developing a common standard, is it suggesting we need more? I spoke to Mikkel Hippe Brun, Chief Strategy Officer at Tradeshift, to get his thoughts.

Taulia has a world-class product that gives customers a high return on their cash balances while putting affordable working capital in the hands of suppliers. Dynamic discounting is a simple model and very effective but Taulia have always had one big problem – they only serve SAP customers. Because their dynamic discounting solution is native to SAP, there’s a huge market that they simply can’t access. But now there’s a team that can access the non-SAP market – they’re called Taulia.

A few years ago, I was walking down the street in Rugby, England when I heard a load voice shout "Pick that up!" The voice coming from a loud speaker high up on a lamp post. Some kids were hanging around and one of them had dropped litter. I didn't know until then that the CCTV camera footage was being monitored in real time. This is in the UK and I had thought, naively it seems, that CTV cameras in the street were there to help find missing kids and catch rapists. I abhor litter louts as much as anyone but a surveillance state seems like a bit of a heavy handed approach to keeping the streets clean. A few months later, I was in a cab in Oslo, Norway. There was a small camera pointed at me throughout the journey. I asked and the driver explained that all cabs have these cameras. The video footage is never looked at unless there's an incident - in which case, relevant footage will be examined. Seems like a great idea to me. Now you may ask, why am I bothered about a camera in the street but not a camera in the cab? Actually, it's for the same reason that I have a problem with Sarbanes Oxley and the growing cult of transparency.

Supplier relationship management is an art that takes years to master and very few actually achieve true mastery. I have a fairly low opinion of myself in this respect. I find it difficult to deal with suppliers I don't like on a personal level. And while I don't suffer fools gladly (who does?) I do aim to operate on genuinely friendly terms with suppliers. This, I know, can hinder your objectivity. It's difficult to be hard on an under-performing supplier when you are anxious that personal relationship will be  threatened - but I like to sleep at night. This dim view of myself was contradicted recently by a colleague. "You're very good at supplier relationship management" she said. "You're not always the good cop - and you know when it's the right time to throw a penguin."

Earlier in the week we wrote about the brave transition that Basware made from old school to new school thinking on software sales. To many if not most who take an interest in enterprise software, whether that’s from an end user or buyer point of view or from a software supplier point of view, the case for SaaS ranges from attractive to compelling. But there seems to be a significant community that remains wedded to the old school way of thinking. I sit on the end user/buyer side of the fence and, for the benefit of those old schoolers on the other side of the fence, I’d like to describe from personal experience, the contrast between the two models, not from a functional perspective but from from a commercial relationship perspective.