No matter how far technology has reached into our personal and professional lives, it seems we just can’t get rid of paper cluttering our desks, folders, and cabinets. Despite the ubiquity of PDF documents and ever-increasing use of the web and computers for banking and commerce, the bill, statement and invoice still rule the roost when it comes to sheer volume of paper. (OK, next to junk mail, but…)
This problem is exacerbated in the European Union where the requirement to document and validate value-added taxes (VAT) results in the creation and exchange of over 30 billion invoices every year, at an estimated cost of €30 per invoice. Add to that staggering cost environmental pressures to “go green” and reduce waste. Add to that the loss in business agility resulting from delivery times and internal routing. And then add to that the human errors attendant with the transposition of data from these paper documents to electronic systems, which can cost over €100 per incident. Facing a global economic recession, the benefits of moving to electronic, or e-, invoicing systems are real: expected cost reductions on the order of 80%!
The EU acted in 2001 to harmonize invoicing legislation and encourage the use of e-invoicing across all 25 EU member states (Council Directive 2001/115/EC ). These regulations mandated a common set of master data fields in addition to the use of technologies to better manage the integrity and authenticity of invoice content. Yet even with this harmonization framework, there are still over 200 e-invoicing systems in place all over Europe, making it very difficult to exchange electronic invoices across national borders. Given this challenge, the CEN/ISSS Workshop on Compliance of eInvoices works to create standards and best practices for a more universal solution that can be implemented on a broader scale and provide for improved accessibility, efficiency, and cost-savings.
A solution based on the PDF file format (ISO 32000) and Adobe LiveCycle ES is a good example of those best practices in action. LiveCycle Enterprise Suite is built on open standards like PDF and XML. LiveCycle ES can also protect integrity with digital signatures; import data into a PDF document; archive those documents with the ISO ratified PDF/A format; distribute and then also process, verify, and validate e-invoices on the way back in.
Nick Pope, Technical Editor of the CEN/ISSS Workshop on Compliance of eInvoices, had this to say about the solution: “By combining two de-facto standards – XML for data portability and PDF for human readable documents – with the power of digital signatures, intelligent PDF supports trading between virtually any two partners with fidelity and easy accessibility.”
E-invoicing systems based on LiveCycle ES have already been successfully deployed by several organizations. Poste Italiane estimates that more than 1.5 million pages have been converted to digital resulting in substantial cost savings. Cuatrecasas, Spain’s second largest law firm, has reduced invoicing costs by thousands of euros annually. And Europcar leveraged e-invoicing to not only reduce costs but also improve interoperability with their clients’ ERP systems, enhancing the customer experience.
To read more about Adobe’s e-invoicing solutions using PDF and LiveCycle ES, please read the whitepaper, “Applying best practices for secure, automated electronic invoicing.”