A Faster And Smoother Invoicing Process

More SMEs are adopting e-invoicing solutions to help them improve productivity and cashflow.

As Singapore businesses accelerate their adoption of digital tools during the pandemic, one solution that is gaining traction among SMEs is e-invoicing, which facilitates the direct transmission of invoices in a digital format across different finance systems.

In particular, companies have been moving to implement InvoiceNow, a nationwide e-invoicing method that operates on an open standard network. According to Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), this new standard of invoicing will help both SMEs and large enterprises enjoy “smoother invoicing, faster payments and a better way to save the environment”.

InvoiceNow automates the process of sending invoices directly to clients, regardless of what finance software or platform they are using. This allows firms to get paid faster, while their customers will be able to process invoices and payments quicker as well.

You Tiao manufacturer You Tiao Man adopted InvoiceNow about 18 months ago as part of a broader digitalisation drive aimed at saving costs and growing its streams of revenue in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Previously, we had to manually send our invoices via email through a batch function. But with InvoiceNow, once an invoice is complete, it will be automatically generated and sent,” said company founder Audrey Chew.

Since implementing the solution, the time taken to process an invoice has been cut significantly. And with over 1,000 customers, this translates into not only time savings, but also a host of other benefits as well.

“We have benefited from more timely collection of money, and less manpower required to chase for payments, which frees up my colleagues to do other value-generating activities,” Ms Chew explained.

Similarly, professionals services provider Beaufort Group (https://www.beaufortcorp.com)
has seen its invoicing processes streamlined after introducing InvoiceNow across the organisation about two years ago. The group is made up of a number of entities, including flagship companies Beaufort Corporate Services Pte. Ltd. and Beaufort Tax Consultants Pte. Ltd.

Beaufort uses InvoiceNow in conjunction with accounting software Xero to automate its invoicing processes, and has also pushed its stable of clients – numbering some 800 – to do the same. “If it took half an hour to prepare an invoice previously, we can do it in 10 minutes now as we can send it directly through the network if our client is also connected,” explained David Lim Tien, Beaufort’s Client Relations and Business Development Director.

“Our clients receiving the invoices through InvoiceNow no longer have to deal with manual data entry of our invoices into their accounting system. So both sides save time.” Mr Lim Tien estimates that over 80% of the group’s clientele has come onboard.

Adopting the right mindset

While InvoiceNow has clearly helped You Tiao Man’s business, Ms Chew stressed that the solution is just one tool in their strategy to go digital. What is more important is adopting the right mindset towards change. “If a business has not adopted the right strategy or the right mindset, this tool is not going to save your business,” she said.

To expand its business beyond just being a B2B wholesaler in Singapore, You Tiao Man started selling its products directly to consumers through its own ecommerce platforms and other external platforms like Redmart and Shopee around a year ago. Due to its rising popularity, You Tiao Man also recently entered the supermarket segment after it started supplying to NTUC FairPrice Finest outlets from October last year.

“In order to diversify our revenue streams during the pandemic, we expanded online to sell directly to consumers in 2020. In 2021, we were invited to sell in NTUC FairPrice Finest outlets and NTUC online. So we went from one to three streams of business in one year. And next year we hope to add export as the fourth business line,” Ms Chew revealed.

Next steps

As a vocal advocate for InvoiceNow, Beaufort hopes to get more large enterprises on board the platform. “It is the SMEs who are running with this initiative, while the big boys have been slower to implement it. But SMEs are the ones who receive a lot of these invoices in PDF form from the big boys. So we have to do all the data extraction which takes a lot of time,” said Mr Lim Tien.

He added: “If the larger companies were on the board, I think SMEs would experience the full benefits of InvoiceNow more effectively.”

As for You Tiao Man, they are looking to adopt more digital solutions in the future, particularly in the area of data analytics.

Said Ms Chew: “In the next stage of our digitalisation journey, data will be very important. It’s still early days for our supermarket segment; right now we have about 30 outlets. Once we hit 200 to 300 outlets, we will need some kind of data analytics to tell us things like what the customer is buying, what products sells the most where.”