In my days of selling e-invoicing, I knew that if a prospect didn't know their 'as-is' process, they were at least a year away from implementing e-invoicing. Don't skimp on Step One.
You probably don't know key metrics like your First Time Match Rate if you don't know your process. This means you won't know how much e-invoicing can help you (and you may have problems in your process which need other solutions, as well).
Furthermore, you are unlikely to know the true cost of your invoicing process, making it impossible to create a watertight business case.
By mapping out your 'as is' process, you will learn:
Why are invoices failing?
How e-invoicing can help you solve process flow issues
How many invoices would be 'in scope' if you went ahead with e-invoicing?
What your 'as-is' cost is, and how much it will decrease if you switch to electronic
How long it currently takes to process an invoice, and how e-invoicing would shorten that time.
How, by reducing the number of days, you may be able to better capture negotiated discounts.
Step One will most likely take 3 to 6 months, but by the end you will be clearer and more realistic when making your business case.
Importantly, knowing your cost-per-transaction is critical for effectively negotiating with the provider with whom you end up signing.
Step 2: Understand the company's vision:
Process change makes sense to stakeholders when it is contextualized against the company's overarching goals.
This means it's important to take the time to understand where the company wants to be in 6, 12, or 24 months, and then extrapolate that intention back to how e-invoicing can help or hinder that realization. Take the time to look beyond the 'day to day' and understand where the company is going. (Ask lots of questions and pay close attention to the answers.) You can then:
Understand and communicate the broader purpose of e-invoicing, and position it as a key enabler for achieving objectives.
To present e-invoicing to senior management, use their language.
Move e-invoicing to the top of the priority list.
This endeavor necessitates planning and time away from your day job, but it will pay off in the long run when your CFO, CPO, and CTO (Chief Treasury Officer) see e-invoicing as their single point of failure.
Step three: Bring procurement on board as soon as possible.
This is easier in a company where Finance and Procurement are already aligned, share reporting lines and objectives, and work as one team.
However, in organizations where this 'joined-upness' does not exist, it is common for Finance to own the project because they benefit from the more immediate gains, and Procurement to be involved almost as an afterthought. This has the potential to kill the project on the spot.
This is primarily due to the fact that e-invoicing is a supplier-focused program, and while Finance, or Accounts Payable, pays suppliers, they are actually owned by Procurement. This means that suppliers will first listen to Procurement about the e-invoicing project, and then to Finance. So, if procurement is not brought in, or is dismissive of e-invoicing in any way, your suppliers will sense this mood and be slow to sign up.
This is perhaps the most important aspect of getting e-invoicing right, and it is so easily overlooked as a minor detail. It isn't. It has the potential to make or break your project.
Consider the following when working with Procurement:
Why are we doing e-invoicing for drivers?
Scope - includes all suppliers, invoice types, AP transaction types, and countries?
Solution scope: just e-invoicing or a full-service solution?
Is a message required or optional?
The database's quality - will the communications ""land on the right desk""?
Signatories - how senior will they be? What about the CPO and the CFO? (Optimally, yes.)
Targets - do Finance and Procurement have the same KPIs?
Who will respond to the suppliers who refuse to comply?
Who will be in charge of the project? Perhaps Finance and Procurement should work together?
Investing time early on in seeking a Procurement partnership is critical to a successful project.
Step four is to name the project.
The nameless projects are likely to remain in project status for a long time before moving to operational or 'go live' status. This is not an accident.
Giving your e-invoicing project a pre- and post-contract name allows you to:
Give it a personality that will help people understand it.
Inspire curiosity ('What is this Globe project everyone is talking about?')
Avoid misunderstandings because you're all talking about the same thing.
Increase engagement and emotional attachment, especially if you avoid the obvious names like Globe, Probe, and e-Procurement Project - all good names, but how about something more fun, like names of characters from movies or fiction? Or how about holding a contest (with a really good prize) to see who can come up with the most creative name?
Fiveth step: Know what you're looking for before you go shopping.
What do you desire? Is it a top-tier e-invoicing solution? Is it electronic invoicing with dynamic pricing? Is it e-invoicing with workflow and routing, or is it e-procurement for your upstream procurement process? Do you need it to be VAT compliant and language sensitive because you're launching in multiple countries? Do you need to use their onboarding features? (This is always recommended.)
Knowing what you want and documenting your requirements is critical.
You will receive:
Commercial and business needs
Requirements for scope (impacting the legal treatment and the languages supported)
IT necessities (but these are probably weighted lightly, as all e-invoicing solutions I know of are system agnostic)
Resource or timing constraints
Then, ensure that the companies you invite to respond to the RFP all provide services that are similar-ish, so you are not comparing one solution type against another completely different solution type in order to make a decision.
Step Six: Calculate the cost of deferred implementation.
Quantifying the cost of doing nothing - 'continuing as is' - and having this as a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual figure will assist in driving a deadline.
It's best to develop this figure with the key stakeholders so that everyone agrees on it and understands that delaying the project by a month costs the company X.
Having a daily figure will help drive the project's pace.
Step Seven: Adhere to the provider's best practices.
The provider you choose will most likely have implemented 20 to 100 e-invoicing programs (if it is one of the bigger providers like Tungsten, Ariba, Taulia or Tradeshift). This means you'll benefit from their knowledge, which is now organized and documented.
Some providers are so confident in their best practices that they offer a guarantee on invoice conversion.
Best practices will include advice like """"clean your suppler data, or let us clean it"""", """"have procurement sign off on the communication"""", """"be available and ready to respond when some suppliers say they won't comply with the request""""."""