Persuading business to use e-invoicing is like persuading people to recycle

Persuading business to use e-invoicing is like persuading people to recycle

Posted by Pete Loughlin in e-invoicing, Electronic Invoicing 30 Jul 2013

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?Purchasing Insight logo

I’m a recycler now but it took me longer than many to buy into it but my reluctance wasn’t out of laziness. I had what I thought were genuine objections. Like these:

Standby lights are there for a reason. Modern electronic devices like TVs and computers minimize the power they use by going to sleep. The standby light is there to tell you it’s still on. That’s a good thing. Telling me to turn my appliances off when I’ve already invested in technology that goes into sleep mode to save the planet and save me money just irritates me. I’m not doing it.

Washing my yogurt pots with potable water uses more energy than I save by recycling them. And as for plastic bags! Plastic bags are made from the byproducts of the petrochemical industry. If we didn’t make plastic bags out of those byproducts, we have to burn them. We get oil out of the ground to fuel planes and trucks – not to make plastic bags. Getting rid of plastic bags might solve a litter and landfill problem but it won’t solve the global warming problem.

You’ve heard it all before. These aren’t genuine objections at all. What I’m really saying is “I don’t like being told what to do.” And this is what businesses in Europe are going to behave like when they’re given the option to send invoices electronically.

Everyone knows it makes sense. We all know that if every business used e-invoicing it would make a big difference but unless there’s something in it the people that need to be persuaded, they’ll find reasons not to do it. Which is why we need a way to directly incentivise businesses to do the right thing – because optional isn’t an option.

Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin

  • Roger Gregg August 1, 2013 at 10:09 am /

    I love the analogy Peter.
    42 million trees are felled each year just to make the paper on which the world’s 100bn bills are printed. That’s a bit of recycling there too.
    Lets be honest, if a supplier is asked to do anything difficult, they will push back. Printing, stamping and posting bills is easy. Its expensive, but its easy. Its what they are used to. It doesn’t require change.
    Ask a supplier to provide you with XML, EDI, UBL, even a simple csv and they will naturally say no. Sure…if they have SAP, Netsuite, etc they might be able to. But Xero, Quickbooks, QBO, Sage, Saasu, MYOB etc – I think not.
    Ask a supplier (any size of supplier) to email you a PDF and they’ll say “what’s your address?”
    So let’s for the moment accept that there are going to be a lot of people comment on my reply by saying “but that’s not electronic invoicing”. Okay, I hear you. But what does it matter if an emailed PDF doesn’t fit the classic description of what you all think electronic invoicing is. Who came up with the definition anyway?
    Bottom line – the supplier doesn’t need to do anything special or difficult or at any expense, and the invoice is sent electronically. You see that…INVOICE sent ELECTRONICally. Thats close enough for me.
    And before all the scare mongers and companies with vested interests shout “but you cant use the data” please sign up for an invitbox account, email your little system generated bill in and watch our servers extract the data within milliseconds before you embarrass yourself.
    Let’s not make this hard. If a client can have automatic data extraction, automatic price checking, audit trail, multiple approvals, one click export to accountancy software and 7 years of online data storage … all for less than the price of a stamp … saving them 50% – 80% on AP processing costs, is that not the incentive for business?
    Okay…be gentle with your cross examination. We bruise like a peach.

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