E-Invoicing is just the first step – consider the holistic approach to e-procurement

As of January 2019, Italian companies are required to switch to e-invoicing solutions. What does it mean for business? What about companies not ready for shift yet? Christian Sammarco from Comarch Italia answers these questions.

Electronic Invoicing. Is it an obligation or an opportunity in the modern business?

The new e-Invoicing requirement that will enter into force on 1 January 2019 can be seen both as an opportunity to make progress along the path of digitization, and as a mere legislative norm that entails higher costs but does not bring real benefits to businesses.

First of all, we must understand that this is an obligation imposed by the government, and as such, it is inevitable that there will be some visible resistance to its adoption. In addition, adaptation to the new legislation involves the introduction of new data exchange systems. The costs related to their design and implementation depend on the degree of digital maturity of a given company.

There is no doubt – all companies will have to take a new approach to document management and face new challenges to redesign their procedures and processes. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to translate these changes into advantages that justify costs and even produce added value for the company.  Moreover, smart companies should plan the strategy to digitize the whole supply chain, not only e-invoicing. The full automation and cost-saving will be obtained after e-procurement digitization. 

What are the business advantages and benefits of e-invoicing?

There are countless benefits of electronic invoicing. First of all, switching to a purely digital flow saves time and money when sending and receiving documents that otherwise would have to be exchanged in a paper format with significant costs of buying office supplies, printing, enveloping and shipping.

What is more, having data in digital format allows companies to create an administrative flow that perfectly meets the needs of customers and suppliers by enabling both greater integration and simplicity in the overall management.

A document becomes official once issued. How many times have you found certain payments to be missing during verification of the received payments? Normally, you would contact the invoice recipient who would then inform you that they could not pay the invoice because they had not received it. How could that happen? Was it delivered to their mailing address? Did the email end up in spam? Did the EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) system discard the invoice without reporting the problem to the management system? Generally, the most common solution would be to reissue the invoice but this causes a delay in payment and an additional administrative task. Instead, thanks to the receipt notification of invoices sent to the SDI (Sistema Di Interscambio; Italian tax office’s online platform that enables Italian companies to exchange electronic invoices with Public Administration), the recipient will be officially informed by the system every time an invoice is sent and when is the payment deadline.  

Is it true that, in order to exchange invoices with the SDI, it is necessary to follow a long and complex procedure?

It really depends on a provider you choose. At Comarch, for instance, the interface service is compatible with the SDI and ready-to-use, intuitive user portal that was created after months of consultations with the users.  We took into consideration the business needs of end-users and the regulations on electronic invoicing imposed by the Revenue Office. 

January 1st, 2019 is approaching. Is there still enough time to implement the service?

It is possible, but again – only with an experienced provider. With Comarch`a solution, the onboarding phase is fast and allows the service to be up and ready in no time. If a company has some special, individual needs it is also possible to design the active and passive flow of invoices in a very flexible way.

Is it possible for paper invoicing to be completely discontinued when electronic invoicing is implemented?

As I have mentioned before, it is possible to create electronic invoicing solutions that are perfectly tailored to your company's needs, in order to manage and integrate the public administration invoicing flow with invoicing flows to customers, business partners and suppliers.

For example, Comarch B2B e-Invoicing makes it possible to send Fattura XML format to the Revenue Office and, at the same time, generate invoices to other business partners of the company. You just need to enter the requested information and save it in the desired format.

We often hear about EDI when electronic invoicing is discussed. How are these two solutions connected?

Sending invoices in XML format to the public administration means using EDI, i.e. interchanging electronic data with the Revenue Office.

EDI stands for electronic data interchange, which means a generic electronic data exchange. One of the main objectives of EDI is to make data flow between partners more homogeneous and standardized so that information can be transferred quickly, easily and effectively.

Regarding the connection to e-invoicing, the digital data contained in the invoices can be extracted from the sender's management system and taken over by the EDI provider, which generates different flows from the same data source (the invoice). The companies with a comprehensive approach to digitization in the supply chain gain the competitive advantage over the companies that decide on digitizing only a single process.

About Christian Sammarco

Christian Sammarco works as Business Solution Manager in Comarch Italy. He supports the onboarding of customers in EDI and electronic invoicing processes in compliance with new Italian regulations about e-Invoicing. Christian has developed 10+ years of experience in EDI and automation of business process. He helped many companies from different sectors (retail, food, automotive, logistic, travel and so on) to optimize their processes thanks to the integration of EDI flows. Christian has a Degree in Computer Engineering. He also obtained various certificates in Project Management, such as Prince2, certification in IT Project Management at George Washington University and Project management certificate with Cegos.

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