Over the years, Web invoicing solutions have emerged to facilitate external exchange of transaction-related information and funds between buyers and suppliers. On the other hand, front-end imaging and workflow solutions have evolved to meet organizationsâ€™ internal needs around invoice receipt and management. But Web invoicing and front-end imaging solutions both have the same ultimate goal – eliminate paper from transactions. They simply have evolved from different starting points.
However, as the Internet expands into all corners of business communication, the distinction between internal and external breaks down. This is already affecting the AP automation landscape with imaging vendors offering vendor portals, explicitly designed to facilitate buyer-supplier collaboration and enabling suppliers to submit electronic invoices. On the other hand, Web invoicing solution providers have begun offering paper documents to electronic data conversion services, either directly or through their partners.
Our research indicates that industry consolidation nothwithstanding, both types of solutions will flourish for years to come, but cross-pollination is bound to occur. Ultimately, accounts payable departments will benefit from this convergence as AP automation solutions incorporate better options for invoice receipt, approval processing, and discrepancy resolution that provide both internal control and external collaboration.