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Ending the paper chase

E-invoicing is not new – electronic invoices have been sent using electronic data interchange (EDI ) for many years – but as more businesses address business processes, there is more impetus behind integrated solutions

For resellers, e-invoicing represents an interesting new sales opportunity, especially in the UK, which is lagging behind the rest of Europe in its adoption.
For resellers, e-invoicing represents an interesting new sales opportunity, especially in the UK, which is lagging behind the rest of Europe in its adoption.

that automate the sending, acceptance, processing, approval and payment of invoices.

For resellers, e-invoicing represents an interesting new sales opportunity, especially in the UK, which is lagging behind the rest of Europe in its adoption. Even so, Keith Howell, Business Generation Director at Ricoh, doesn’t expect the channel to adopt it overnight.

“There will be different levels of take-up. IT resellers will be much more comfortable selling a cloud-based service than many traditional dealers operating in the print space, for whom this hasn’t historically been core business,” he said. He added that for this reason Ricoh had decided to implement a three-phased rollout of its e-invoicing solution that would enable channel partners to familiarise themselves with the technology and gain first had experience of its benefits. “We’re taking them on a journey,” he said.

This started with Ricoh’s own implementation of e-invoicing – it has now transferred around 80% of its channel partners onto the e-invoicing platform – and continued with the adoption of e-invoicing by the channel. This spring the roll-out enters a new phase with the piloting of a solution targeted at SMEs that will ultimately be sold through the channel.

“It can be a very complex product so what we’ve done is to create a simplified transactional model that is both easy to sell and use,” explained Howell.

“There is no real cost per entry and it has a simple pay-per-click focus, which is a concept that the channel is comfortable with. We believe that once the pilot reveals it’s a low maintenance, easy to understand service with fantastic end-user benefits, the take-up will be significant.”

In the final stage of the roll-out, Ricoh resellers will start selling the service to their customer base. The dealer’s margin opportunity is based on the cost charged for each click: the more customers they bring on board, the bigger the reward.

Howell added: “We’re hoping for a fast take-up by the middle of this year. But it’s important to have that proof of concept first; we’re making sure our dealers have the experience, credibility and confidence to sell and support it.”

A fully automated solution

Canon, too, is actively pursuing the purchase-to-pay market, of which e-invoicing is just one part. The company has just announced a partnership with enterprise purchase-to-pay specialist Palette, which will involve the integration of Palette Arena, Palette’s complete purchaseto-pay suite, with Canon’s document and image processing technology.

Daniel Seris, European and UK Marketing Manager for Canon, said that e-invoicing solutions like EDI, invoice networks or even XML PDFs address only part of the problem – receipt of the invoice and data entry – which any on-premises capture technology could do anyway, and that Palette is a much more comprehensive solution.

“The Palette suite essentially starts to deliver its benefits around better control of the company’s cash position after the invoices are uploaded into the system, by providing visibility over all Purchase Orders and invoices and their status, not only in terms of approval, but also when they are due for payment. Palette is a complete finance and procurement suite that sits on top of the ERP. Whilst the information remains on the ERP, the user experience is via Palette,” he said.

Seris added that Palette integrates with accounting, information and business systems to automate and streamline accounts payable activity across an organisation. “This fully automated, web-based, digital purchase-topay platform improves invoice management from receipt to payment at around one-tenth of the cost,” he said.

To meet increasing demand for software-as-a-service, Canon will also sell the PaletteOnline cloud-based purchase-topay solution to European customers that want to drive efficiency in their financial and back-office processes while benefiting from the flexibility of monthly service fee payments instead of upfront payment for a system. PaletteOnline gives any size company a fast route to easier, more flexible invoice processing.

“With Palette, we can now offer fully integrated purchase-to-pay solutions that quickly deliver real efficiency gains and ROI, not only by replacing paperbased routines but by changing the way financial departments operate, therefore streamlining accounting and buying processes,” explained Seris.

Because the solution sits outside the traditional printing market, Seris said that the rollout would be “careful, and dependent on the capabilities of its partners”, adding that Canon was already engaging with partners across Europe and helping to train salespeople in how to promote and sell a fully automated, digital purchase-to-pay platform.

He claimed that a couple of opportunities had already come through UK partners.

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