A brief history

The idea of eInvoicing is not new. The first electronic invoices were sent over 30 years ago using electronic data interchange (EDI). Since then, the use of eInvoicing has continued to evolve at a slow but steady pace. In the last few years, a new wave of interest has emerged among corporate accounting organisations and large financial institutions.

The main weakness in adoption historically was cost. In the early days, EDI was relatively expensive and resource-intensive to implement. It was the province of large organisations that could afford to invest in the technology and mandate its use amongst trading partners. In addition, the electronic invoices would often be in a format that was unique to the large organisation.

Factors such as the widespread adoption of EDI, the growth of the Internet, and the range of options now available to exchange data mean that eInvoicing has become affordable for all – from the smallest to medium and large size organisations. The Internet has enabled the creation of web forms and web invoicing so that electronic invoice data can even be entered online. All of this has led to a wider adoption of eInvoicing – and other B2B ecommerce transactions – across different sized businesses, different industry sectors and different geographical locations.

Governments drive eInvoicing

However, the main new driver behind eInvoicing adoption has come from a governmental level. In Europe – the most active region for eInvoicing – a series of legislation has been created to promote the uptake of electronic invoicing across the European Union. Furthermore, many public sector organisations in Europe – including Sweden, Norway, Spain and Denmark – have announced compulsory eInvoicing programmes. As a result, all government suppliers must invest in eInvoicing technologies to perform billing.

Elsewhere in the world, governments have been slower to embrace eInvoicing but every country has developed its own set of regulations covering invoicing and eInvoicing. This has created the most complex area for any organisation that trades internationally and wishes to adopt eInvoicing – regulatory compliance.

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