Despite the pandemic, a bulk of employees in Singapore still go to their workplace to manually process invoices.
This is shown in a survey last year that polled 400 employees in the country which noted that one of the key challenges for operations, accounting, and finance staff (workers who have to deal with performing invoicing tasks) is the job of managing the different filing processes each company has in this period.
The rise of remote work and flexible work arrangements as the new normal means that employers need to think of a more universal and convenient way for workers to process important documents like invoices, regardless of where they are working.
These similar sentiments are shared by Chan Tze Hing, E-Commerce Lead at VP Label, Vulcan Post’s shopping arm. VP Label allows customers to purchase products from local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and participate in #supportlocal initiatives.
At VP Label, Tze Hing processes numerous invoices for and from the SME sellers on a daily basis. That’s because a part of the business’ sales process requires the sending and receiving of sales and transaction invoices from merchants. There are over 70 Singapore merchants on VP Label, such as Omnidesk, Boxgreen, and Hydragun.
Most of the time, the invoices are sent via PDF email documents with the occasional physical invoices, and the hassle to manually key in the data and keep track of them is time consuming and takes up more than two hours of his daily work.
Tze Hing stores his sales data on Microsoft Excel sheets which carries the risk of data being lost or deleted if not careful. “There’s a serious need for a go-to solution for all to rely on and to streamline the invoicing process, as companies big and small are on different stages of digitalisation and there’s no standardisation,” he commented.
The E-Commerce Lead highlighted that invoices should be a top priority to be paperless amid Singapore’s digitalisation push. Not surprisingly, this is also a top issue faced by the 400 Singapore workers in the earlier mentioned survey.
To help firms and employees not waste any time stressing out over invoicing issues, nationwide e-invoicing network InvoiceNow uses the Peppol framework to facilitate the exchange of invoices between different accounting systems. InvoiceNow helps businesses issue e-invoices to other companies on the network in a common structured digital format and might just be the answer to bringing all firms on the same page by levelling them up to the same stage of digitalisation.
InvoiceNow also strips away the tedious process of manually entering invoicing information into the systems – which is a time-consuming and an error-prone process employees commonly deal with when filing invoices.
Launched in 2019 by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), InvoiceNow aims to cut the amount of time and effort needed to re-key data into company systems with the use of e-invoicing, which can help companies save up to S$8 per invoice processed, according to an internal study.
Simple steps to send and receive invoices quickly
To find out how InvoiceNow works and whether it’s as efficient as it seems, we tried out the solution through VP Label.
The signup process for InvoiceNow was simple, said Tze Hing. “It took around 15 minutes to sign up and use a solution in the cloud.”
Tze Hing shared that you will have to first check if your finance or accounting solution is Peppol-ready and listed in IMDA’s pre-approved solution provider list, or you can check with your banking provider if they can assist with a solution offering.
“After that, get your solution provider to activate the InvoiceNow feature on your existing solution or if you are using an in-house system you will have to find an access point provider to connect your solution to the network,” he said.
VP Label opted for InvoiceNow service provider e-Invoice.sg, an electronic invoicing and access point service for the Peppol network in Singapore. The list of all approved solutions and access point operators can be found here, under ‘Access Point and Solution Providers’.
To complete the setup, Tze Hing shared that SMEs just need to update all purchase order documents with their business identity information for invoicing. “You can start to send and receive invoices directly through your finance or accounting system immediately afterwards.”
Invoicing via InvoiceNow to get paid faster
When sending an e-invoice to others, businesses can do a quick search via the Singapore Peppol Directory to check if the recipient is Peppol-ready on InvoiceNow.
Singapore-registered businesses on the network can be searched by name or UEN number. For overseas partners who are on the network, sending and receiving e-invoices is also seamless.
“Prior to InvoiceNow, suppliers invoice us with PDF and physical invoices, which we laboriously copy and paste the invoice details into excel sheets. We then process the invoices through manual bank transfer,” shared Tze Hing.
“Now, we don’t have to manually key in the details of invoices on an excel sheet. These details are auto-populated in the system when our suppliers send them to us via the network.”
He added that InvoiceNow allows for faster completion of payments as the company’s bank account or PayNow account can be linked up. “Previously when we used PDF invoices, we had to manually open our banking app, log in to the business account and initiate a transaction. This takes up considerable time if we have multiple payments to make at once.”
“When we issue invoices to home-based businesses, as the invoice information is already populated in the accounting solution and in their system too, there’s no need to re-key the invoice information. This makes the verification and approval process faster which speeds up the payment process. The payments which can be made via PayNow can be scheduled too, and this helps the busy SMEs – who may forget to make payments due to their hectic timetables – make payments on time,” Tze Hing said.
“For a business manager like myself, the invoicing solution saves up a lot of time taken to generate and process invoices and it frees up my time to focus on pressing needs like sales and onboarding new clients,” Tze Hing added.
Save on paper costs, helping SMEs stay green
As InvoiceNow also cuts down the printing of invoices and paper usage, companies get to save on the cost of buying printing papers and be environmentally friendly.
Now that the invoices are transacted electronically via the network, the printing of invoices are greatly reduced. Companies no longer need to print invoices for the purpose of evidencing sale transactions or for tax and audit reasons. With that, businesses get to lower their carbon footprint and stay green.
E-invoices are legal and are accepted by the relevant authorities, so businesses do not need to worry that the invoices are not accepted when e-filing for company records and taxes.
Tze Hing added that e-invoices are a lot faster to process than physical paper invoices. “They do not require manual input of information, and we just need to check through the line items and corresponding costs before approving it and scheduling payment.”
With InvoiceNow, employees also no longer need to key and rekey data into electronic systems, and this removes errors caused by manual data entry.
The solution’s direct transmission of e-invoices from one finance system to another without human intervention skips labour-intensive steps such as verifying information, rectifying errors, and resolving conflicts. This helps businesses save time and money spent on deploying resources which includes manpower to manage these problems.
The InvoiceNow community
It shouldn’t be a lonely journey for companies who take the bold step to embark on digitalisation, and Singapore has been making it a nationwide effort to ensure that all firms get the required support.
For example, to engage with the community actively, IMDA provides regular business briefings and technical workshops on InvoiceNow throughout the year.
These include briefings on learning how to leverage on corporate services to strengthen business processes and grow your design business, as well as tips to help SMEs to navigate the new normal with digitisation.
There are also monthly business briefing webinars for interested firms who want to find out more about InvoiceNow. In the monthly webinars, newcomers can learn how to come on-board the InvoiceNow network, transact, and enjoy the benefits of the service.
For those who are grappling with digitalisation and need guided assistance or support with e-invoice transactions, IMDA provides call support for businesses who need help with sending or receiving their first e-invoice on the InvoiceNow network.
Interested in finding out more about InvoiceNow? You can sign up for the next InvoiceNow business briefing for free here to learn more on how to speed up your invoicing processes and get paid faster.
This article was written in collaboration with IMDA.
Featured Image Credit: InvoiceNow, SanSan