There's a lot of momentum right now around eInvoicing with various analyst surveys and studies showing that more and more companies around the world looking for ways to get paper out of their invoice receipt and approval process. However, there is also a lot of noise regarding what exactly it means to eInvoice. To some it means turning a paper document into an electronic form through scanning and sending to AP as a PDF or other scanned image. To others, it means engaging an outsourced partner to do some combination of scanning and OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to get invoice header-level info directly into an accounting system/ERP along with an attached image of an invoice. And for some it means receiving all invoice data electroncially into their ERP either through direct point-to-point connection to a supplier (e.g. EDI), or through an invoice conversion service that pulls out line level data.
On one level, all of these could be defined as eInvoicing. That is, they all take the data that would otherwise be on paper and turn it into an electronic format and thus remove paper from the process. And paper is certainly a problem...it costs money to mail, it takes time to deliver, and it can get lost as it is routed around within an orgnization. But is this the extent of eInvoicing...turning data on paper into an electronic format? If so, that's a problem because the problem it solves (paper) is only part of the problem (process). The problem with just turning paper data into electronic data is that while it gets the data to the AP department FASTER, what if the data being moved at light speed is bad data? The real problem most AP departments face is exception handling of invoices with incorrect or non-compliant data, and "dumb" eInvoicing does nothing to solve this problem.
Ariba Smart Invoicing, on the other hand, is about not only delivering invoice data electronically, but ensuring that the data is clean and exceptions are caught up front PRIOR to delivery of the invoice. The result is touchless, straight-through processing approaching 100% of your invoice volume. But don't just take my word for it, listen to what P.J. Jakovljevic of Technology Evaluation Centers has to say in his recent article, "Ariba Smart Invoicing: Worth Checking Out"...the article is, as the title says, worth checking out.
Electronic Invoicing that not only removes paper and delivers invoice data faster, but that ensures the right data is present, correct, and compliant so that you can achieve touchless invoice processing...that's not just eInvocing, that's Smart Invoicing.