Can it be? Finance departments are actually enthusiastic about electronic invoice presentment and payment (EIPP)? You bet. After almost a decade of corporate resistance to creating an EIPP network, the tables have finally turned, and buying organizations are seeking out the efficiencies that come from getting the vast majority of incoming invoices through one electronic channel in one electronic format that flows automatically into accounts payable (A/P) systems.

CFOs are discovering that a lack of effective EIPP is holding back their efforts to drive working capital economics and are issuing orders to find effective ways to introduce EIPP, often in step with other large transformations reshaping the physical supply chain. "We're a lot more positive on EIPP now than two years ago," says Craig Jeffery, managing director of Atlanta-based Strategic Treasurer LLC. "We've seen real growth in the past few months. After years of treading water, a couple of vendors have achieved critical mass."

At the heart of the sea change: New technology-based services that allow companies to receive 90% to 95% of invoices electronically, even if suppliers don't deliver them that way. With this new functionality, companies can finally achieve the kind of optimal timing of payments that permits maximum use of float, early-pay discounts or receivables financing. "This is why the buy side is soaring," reports Andrew Bartels, vice president and research analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

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