eInvoicing – and three ways it helps SMEs

Forget the papers piled in your outbox. Forget the PDF on your desktop. Australia’s innovative small businesses are increasingly recognising the value of eInvoicing – the digital alternative to paper.

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The digital revolution

As a bank we’ve watched eInvoicing evolve into the critical customer tool it is for businesses today. Previously, electronic invoicing still required manual touchpoints. Today that process is far more streamlined and automated – a process allowing for the digital exchange of invoice information between suppliers and buyers.

Printing, posting or emailing paper-based or PDF invoices are no longer required and manually entering data or scanning invoices are a thing of the past. Many systems allow users to connect and transact almost immediately with others in the same network.

It’s important to be clear what eInvoicing is – and what it isn’t. It’s not simply emailing scanned or formatted invoices – systems which still require a manual touchpoint. Nor is it a system which automatically matches invoices to purchases. And finally, it can’t automatically pay invoices – although it does significantly speed up the process for users.

This transition can be tough for some businesses, particularly suppliers that have become accustomed to a certain way of work. Or even some who would consider themselves fully ‘digital’ after moving to a PDF or scan-based invoicing model. But the benefits of eInvoicing outweigh the change.

eInvoicing aims to standardise the way information is structured and exchanged between two or more parties. Furthermore, it can enable cross-border digital exchange of procurement documents providing rich actionable data.

In Australia, Peppol is used as the standard framework for eInvoicing. The system is an international eProcurement framework which aims to offer an efficient, accurate and secure way to transact.

Costs and cashflow

Perhaps the most significant benefit of eInvoicing is its impact on the bottom line for many SMEs. Gone are the financial and productivity costs of reams of paper or endless emails. Gone are the storage costs associated with keeping boxes of documents. And in many cases SMEs get paid much quicker which can improve cashflow and lead to other benefits.

In Australia more than 1.2 billion invoices are exchanged every year, according to the Australian Taxation Office. Traditional invoices can cost up to $30 to process – while the same cost for eInvoicing can be as little as $10. The opportunity eInvoicing offers could save the economy $28 billion over the next ten years.

At ANZ eInvoicing users have enjoy reduced transaction times compared with other means. This helps them run their daily operations more efficiently at a time when SMEs need as much help as they can get. That's the feedback we’re getting directly from small businesses.

COVID-19 was the tipping point many Australian businesses needed to finally take that next step into the digital. At ANZ we worked closely with many of our small business customers during that time to ensure they were making the most of the benefits offered by digitisation. That included payments - a critical part of the operations of all businesses, no matter their size. 

"The most significant benefit of eInvoicing is its impact on the bottom line for many SMEs. Gone are the financial and productivity costs of reams of paper or endless emails.”

That work continues today. It’s never too late to go digital and the benefits are manyfold, especially for the crucial smaller business sector. With SMEs making up 32 per cent of Australia's GDP and employing 41 per cent of Australia’s workforce, when SMEs grow, Australia grows.

We believe eInvoicing is an essential part of this growth - towards digitisation, cost efficiency and fraud reduction. We see it as good for our suppliers and we are looking at ways to extend this same capability to our customers.


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Safe, secure and sustainable

In our experience eInvoicing is a reliable and secure way of transmitting data. It is less error-prone and helps avoid common pitfalls associated with email security, such as scams and phishing.

eInvoicing systems operate through the use of ‘access points’, or approved service providers that aim to prevent, detect and mitigate fraud.

It’s also good for the planet as it saves on material costs and reduces environmental impacts through less printing and physical delivery.

Indeed research from PwC suggests 5,000 tonnes of carbon could be prevented from reaching the atmosphere by dispensing with paper invoices.

Making the shift

As a bank ANZ has seen a significant shift in attitudes toward eInvoicing since the beginning of the pandemic.

Ultimately the benefits extend beyond SMEs – it good for larger businesses too. At ANZ we see our role as fostering best practice across industry.

We are encouraging our suppliers to move towards eInvoicing and we want to use our capabilities to enable our customers to move their suppliers on to the technology as well.

We’ve watched with excitement the uptake of eInvoicing among both our customer base and elsewhere. And we see a big opportunity for further adoption in Australia and around the region.

Adil Farouk is Group Procurement Operations, Performance & Insights Lead at ANZ

This week is eInvoicing week in Australia

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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