If you receive many utility bills a month, one day you’ll probably ask the question, “Are electronic bills right for us?” Hand-keying utility bills into your energy management software isn’t your only option--you can receive electronic bills instead.
But how do you know when the time is right? Here are considerations when thinking about importing electronic bills vs. entering bill data manually.
Advantages of Electronic Bills
No more keying errors
When you receive bills electronically, you avoid errors that can result from manual entry. The data flows from the utility vendor to you with no opportunity for human error.
Your utility bills contain many line items of detail, which take extra time to enter. Probably you avoid entering many of them to save time. With electronic bills, you can receive all the details, error-free. More details may lead to better analysis.
May be cheaper
You could have an entire department devoted to manual entry, which sounds expensive. With electronic billing, you don’t have to staff an entire department just to get bills into your energy accounting software.
Disadvantages of Electronic Bills
Setup and management
Receiving electronic bills requires initial configuration and ongoing management. It's not quite as easy as pushing a button.
Specialized software/Value Added Network
Electronic bills require specialized software to read the data, interpret it, and receive the data. Plus, you need a VAN, or Value Added Network, to be the intermediary between the vendor and you.
No hard copy bills
Some organizations really like a hard copy utility bill, but electronic bills eliminate paper bills. Some energy information software recreates the bill image, so you can still print a paper bill if you need it.
Higher skill level required
The configuration and management of electronic bills requires IT, project management, and interaction with your utility vendors. These are higher level skills than manual data entry.
More cost factors
When all costs are considered, you might not save money with electronic bills by the time you set up the process and replace data entry labor with higher skilled IT and project management labor.
There are some conditions that are more optimal for electronic bills:
- You deal with relatively few vendors
- All or most of your facilities are in the same region
- You receive at least one hundred invoices per month from the same vendor
- Your vendor offers support resources and actively promotes the use of electronic bills
Use electronic billing when it makes economic sense and will increase your business efficiency.