7,000 Year Old Accounts Payable Invoice

"Do you know the History of the Invoice?" I am honoured to be a regular Conference Speaker at the Accounts Payable Association (APA) and Purchase to Pay Network (PPN) annual Conferences, and this is a question I have regularly asked Accounts Payable audiences. Amazingly, it is a question I never get an answer to!

Despite the sheer brilliance of Jamie Radford (APA) and Ellen Leith (PPN) Founders and Leaders of both Industry leading events in organising awesome Conferences, I find that the Accounts Payable World, does not know its history!

According to my research the first use of an 'accounting document' to record a transaction between a buyer and seller originated in Mesopotamia over 7,000 years ago! It acquired its English name "Invoice", which we are familiar with today, from the French word 'envoi' during the Middle Ages.

From these ancient beginnings at the very heart of civilisation sprang an Industry which today provides employment to hundreds of thousands of people across the World, processing millions of Invoices everyday!

It is at the very heart of every Business on Earth. All Businesses will perform 3 primary actions in which they will buy, create and sell. Two of these actions lead to the creation of either a Supplier or Customer Invoice, driving the Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable process respectively in every Business on Earth.

This basic record of buying and selling are the primary drivers of all Financial and Management Accounts in every Business. The humble Invoice, 7,000 years old in origin, driver of employment to potentially millions is actually a multi-billion-pound industry which is always the primary focus of Finance Transformation programs!

How we go from Mesopotamia 7,000 years ago to driving a multi-billion-pound industry today consuming the attention of Transactional Finance Teams, Management Consultants and Finance Automation providers the World over, is because the Invoice has remained largely static! Its evolution in 7,000 years has been at a snail's pace and the bulk of Invoices produced in the World today are still on paper. Within the EU alone that is 80% of all Invoices!

It is this paper Document, the humble Invoice, whether it be an Accounts Payable or Accounts Receivable Invoice that consumes the creative intellect of Finance Technology companies the World over. From the day an Invoice could be printed and faxed, Global Corporations have endeavoured to find the most technologically advanced and cost-efficient means to process the Invoice.

Every experienced Accounts Payable Manager will have seen Fax, Scanning, Optical Character Recognition (OCR), Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), Self-Billing and many more solutions. They will have experienced Finance Shared Services, Global Business Services (GBS) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) all attempt to manage that Invoice better, faster, and cheaper than ever before.

The Technology, however, has just gone into hyper drive!!! Like a burst forward from the Star Trek Enterprise, we have had Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and then Artificial Intelligence (AI) with Machine Learning (ML) come along in a short space of time. Accounts Payable team tasks could be automated, costs reduced, and processing efficiency and compliance significantly improved.

However, according to no less an authority than Gartner, we can now actually hyper-automate the entire Accounts Payable process!!! The largest gamechanger in the 7,000 year history of the Invoice has arrived! Finance Automation powered by AI and ML is going to eliminate the cost differential in off shoring and outsourcing Invoice processing. The future has arrived and its HYPER-AUTOMATION!

Talk to Finance Transformation UK partner Kanbina and lets hyper-automate your AP process today. Transforming Finance - Faster, Better and more Cost effectively!

Author: Michael Ryan

With 25 years' experience Transforming Finance across multiple Sectors as a Consultant and as a Finance Transformation Leader, Michael Ryan is uniquely placed to advise Clients on creating a World Class Finance Team. Call him now on 0203 1466878