How can a web-based ERP boost your invoicing process


In an older post (http://goo.gl/jXGmOi) I discussed how web-based or cloud Financial ERP can help you unlock new possibilities for your Business Processes. The basic argument there was that an open system (like a cloud-based system is, by definition) could involve your customers in a specific business process (like sending a Sales Order, posting a comment that needs subsequent action from within your CRM etc.).
The reaction I got from a number of readers was that new best practices could be devised and applied in a very important, so to speak, business process which is of everybody’s interest, big or small: that of invoicing the end-customer. We shouldn’t forget that many small and medium enterprises are focusing their I.T. operations on Accounts Receivable, inside which the invoicing cycle represents a significant part. Therefore, in this post I’d like to focus on this specific issue: how can your invoicing change when you’re using a web-based Financial ERP


To answer this question, we need to utilize functionality that is inherent to web-based systems (such as openness and accessibility through a web-browser) and point out how such functionality is not present in legacy ERP systems.

Starting from the preparation of the invoice and seeking customer approval, we know that in most cases this is not a frequent process. Usually, accounting prepares and issues the invoice and simply sends it to the customer. If errors are found, then there is some kind of communication (verbal or through email etc.), the issue is resolved and then a credit note and a new, correct, invoice is issued.
But, in the web, it is possible to seek customer’s approval before the actual action of issuing the invoice and posting it to your G/L. A PDF copy could automatically be sent to the customer along with an explanatory email requiring their approval in order to continue with the actual issuing of the invoice; or the customer could be prompted to enter a B2B portal and provide their electronic approval for the invoice in question, even before a PDF equivalent is produced. This will take load off of accounting for the approval process and also minimize errors and credit notes processing in general.

After the invoice has been issued, there is the question of sending it to the customer. This could be done on paper, by enveloping the invoice, sending it through “snail mail” or sending it through email. In both cases, you are not sure whether it has reached its destination and in the case of actual mail, you know that it’ll take a lot of time to reach the recipient and surely you can’t have a return receipt (unless you call on the phone or send another email etc.); let alone the fact that actual printing of the invoice and physical mail cost way to much (studies show that the cost per invoice could reach as high as 7 € per invoice – all costs considered).
But in the “cloud invoicing”, an email could be automatically generated and forwarded to the recipient. What’s more, this email could request from the customer to simply “click there” and declare that the invoice was received, checked and found OK in all of its details; or if it wasn’t found OK, then the customer could immediately inform you of the problem and probably automatically post an “action required” entry in your CRM.
Another idea is that invoices are not even transmitted automatically through email; instead an automated process could inform customers that their invoice is ready to “pick up”. Then they would go into your B2B portal and get the invoice for themselves, probably also get a machine-readable file (e.g. XML) to post into their system as Accounts Payable. Ultimately, your system may log their action of getting the invoice, thus saving you more hassle from checking whether invoices were delivered, managing undelivered messages etc. 

Then comes the invoice payment, where a web-based platform could allow the recipient of the invoice to automatically pay the invoice (sure, some kind of interface with the bank is required here!) or, if this is not directly possible, at least have them declare that they have paid, attaching the payment slip or other supporting documentation.

The above show us that web-based or cloud solutions for Accounts Receivable are not just a “technology hype” but are the vehicle through which Business Processes can be redesigned, optimized and streamlined; and the costs pertinent to those business processes can be decreased significantly.

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