Europe is moving to e-invoicing with small steps and giant leaps – Findings from the invoicing survey in 16 countries


Itella Information as a leading European company in invoicing processes and e-invoicing conducted a study among consumers and companies about invoice processes and habits in 16 European countries.  The survey covered Itella's both areas of interest: purchase and sales invoices. All in all 9,037 consumers and 4,765 invoice decision-makers from enterprises were interviewed by phone in their native language during 2010.

The survey is most likely the widest survey ever conducted regarding invoice processes and transfer to e-invoicing among companies and consumers. It gives a good overall picture of the e-invoicing stages of different European countries. The survey supports Itella Information's assumption that in order to have efficient, quick and seamless processes related to invoicing companies must handle different data formats, channels and  legislation in different countries and also keep in mind the different attitudes that prevail in companies and among consumers.

- In order to be among the top class performers in all actions related to purchase to pay and order to cash processes, companies must find the ways to make their processes the most streamlined, with less mistakes in even shorter amount of time. After all it is always a question about how to use the resources a company in a flexible and cost-effective manner, states Heikki Länsisyrjä, director of Itella Information business group.

The survey indicates clearly that Europe has many different stages related to invoice processes, some countries have adopted e-invoicing faster than others, differences are also among the purchase and sales invoice side and consumers are also very different habits and expectations when asked about receiving and paying invoices.

Every second company in Europe sends and receives at least one electronic invoice a month. Correspondingly over 40% of consumers receive at least one electronic invoice in the same time period. In general, Nordic and Baltic countries are the most electronified and East Europe the least electronified.

Fully electronic invoices are stressed in Finland and the United Kingdom. Email invoicing is emphasized in Estonia and again the United Kingdom. Most emphasis on outsourced printing is found in Finland and Sweden. Sales invoicing is least electronified in Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia and other East European countries.

The wide-ranging use of email invoices is the most surprising finding of the study. The email invoice is not only a minor solution for small enterprises but it is comprehensively used in all size classes. It has twice as many users as have fully electronic invoices, which, according to the narrow traditional definitions, are the only real electronic invoices, or e-invoices.

- The extensive usage of e-mail invoicing between businesses, is a solution which optimizes the flow from a sender perspective, and do not take into account the receivers possibilities to optimize his end of the document flow due to the typical lack of automated processing of an e-mail. The survey shows that the invoice senders are focusing on saving money at their end not focusing to the win-win situation you can have with better integrated processes with full electronic invoicing, Länsisyrjä states.

There is strong conviction of the speedy electronification of invoicing in the Nordic and Baltic enterprises. Trust in electronification of invoices has grown remarkably in the Nordic countries where comparable enterprise results from 2008 were available for this research. A slower electronification prognosis with continued reliance on paper invoices prevails in East Europe and also to some extent in Austria and Germany.

Most consumers still receive paper invoices in all countries, although those who no longer receive invoice letters can actually be found. In Denmark and Estonia every fifth consumer says they receive their invoices only electronically.

- It looks like e-processes in invoicing are speeding up in Europe and especially in Nordic and Baltic countries. The fact that consumers in these areas are so widely receiving e-invoices is supported by our experiences from the company side. Companies are demanding services that will accelerate the move towards e-services. This is not affecting only to the quick adaptation of e-invoicing but can also be seen as the demand to sharpen the entire process, states Heikki Länsisyrjä, director of Itella Information business group.

Itella Information survey invoicing in 16 countries.

Itella Information enhances the efficiency of financial information flows and leads the way in electronic invoicing in Europe. Services comprise solutions for the efficient processing of incoming invoices within the organization, and for cost-effective sending of invoices, electronically or on paper. Itella Information operates in 15 European countries with a staff of about 2,000 professionals. Net sales in 2009 amounted to EUR 247 million. The Itella Information business group is part of Itella Group. Further information