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Technology Update

The CFA Technology Committee is concentrating on plans for standardizing the accounts receivable detail aging file format. With this format, each lender would be capable of interfacing with each individual borrower's accounts.
The Committee had previously voted in favor of a long format for the standardized invoice. The short-form invoice would include the invoice number and date, the name of the customer, the customer ID and the total amount. The invoice format that the Committee had approved would also include the invoice type, the name of the person who approved the purchase, that person's phone number and e-mail address, the number of items, the quantity and amount and the customer's complete address, including the zip code. All of this information would be converted into the XML computer language.
While there was much optimism about the practicality of producing the long format, a discussion with software companies exhibiting at the CFA 62nd Annual Convention in Washington D.C. resulted in pushing instead for the accounts receivable aging file format. As to the practicality of producing the long-format standard invoice, according to the Committee chairman, Steven Elias, Flexible Funding, San Francisco, the vendors found problems.
One problem with producing a standard invoice is that different industries have different types of invoices, according to one of the vendors. An invoice in the trucking industry would be materially different from an invoice in the textile industry, he said. Accounts receivable are easier to standardize since a receivable from a trucker is not really different from a receivable from any other company.
Another problem with the long invoice, according to another software vendor, was that in order for the format to be useful in the factoring industry, it would require at least two other fields. These would be the terms of the invoice and the "as of date" or the date on which the invoice terms begin. In an industry with a built in discount relating only to the merchandise, the non-merchandise amount would also be needde.
The accounts receivable product would also be in XML language. Among vendors Mr. Elias contacted at the Convention were William Stucky & Associates, San Francisco; 3i Infotech, San Luis Obispo, CA, and Bayside Business Solutions, Tapanga, CA.
According to Mr. Elias, the software companies were very enthusiastic about the accounts receivable file, but Mr. Elias said that the standard invoice format was still about two years away.
The A/R file would contain the date, the account, the invoice number, gross amount and due date.
The A/R system would eliminate the chore of entering information from paper into the computer files. Mr. Elias said that if 20 percent of the information had to be transferred from paper to the computer files, it would require the work of 80 percent of the back-office staff.