If digital and electronic invoicing sound like the same thing to you, you’re not alone. Can an invoice be one and not the other? Absolutely.
With all of the hype surrounding digital (i.e. digitalization, digitization, digital transformation), it seems like the optimal form for invoicing. And yet, it has its limits. A PDF is digital, as is a Word document, a photograph and even a freeform text file. Digital just means that information is stored in ‘soft’ copy rather than on paper. And while an e-mailable soft copy is worlds better than a piece of paper, it doesn’t necessarily leverage the speed, efficiency, or effort-reducing capabilities of computing. Taking a picture of a paper invoice technically makes it digital, but that doesn’t make the data in that invoice accessible to most software programs.
The alternative to a digital invoice is an electronic invoice. Rather than being scans or images of invoice information, electronic invoices contain data directly in a file and, more importantly, in a format that can be accessed and interpreted by software. Electronic invoices change the playing field for companies looking to invest in either invoice automation or the automaton of the end-to-end P2P process, but they aren’t always the friendliest or most convenient format for the humans involved in the invoicing process.
Here are some examples of how the digital/electronic divide plays out in the real world:
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