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My name is Drew, and I’m a paperholic.  I know I admitted that in my last post, but as in all good 12-step programs, one should begin by identifying the problem.   Which brings me to my purpose in this post.

Paperholism is a corporate malady afflicting accounts payable departments across the globe.  It is almost endemic in its scope!  Many try to ignore the problem or pretend it doesn’t exist by saying things like, “Well, everyone processes paper!”  Or, “I don’t process as much paper as that company over there!”  Or, “I know I get paper invoices, but I have a process for it…I have it under control…I could stop any time I want to!”  All said with desperate denial amidst desks piled with paper (or computers filled with PDFs) and empty envelopes strewn about the floor.

Sound familiar?

Do not despair, there is hope!  Many recovering paperholics have found freedom in e-invoicing through Paperholics Anonymous’ proven 12-step program for kicking the paper invoice habit.  To that end, I want to share with you those 12 steps in summary form here along with a link to someone who can help.  There is hope…and it all begins with taking the first step and admitting your problem.

Step 1 – Admit that you are powerless over paper – That your paper-based invoice process is the problem.

Step 2 – Understand how the power of e-invoicing can bring sanity to your AP department.

Step 3 – Make a decision to turn over paper invoice processes to the power of networked e-invoice technology.

Step 4 – Make a searching and fearless inventory of the true costs of paper invoicing.

Step 5 – Understand the business case and embrace the benefits of e-invoicing.

Step 6 – Be entirely ready to have e-invoicing remove all the exceptions and defective data of paper invoices.

Step 7 – Enlist the help and wisdom of a community that has discovered the power of e-invoicing.

Step 8 – Make a list of all your vendor invoices and make a plan to digitize them all.

Step 9 – Enable direct e-invoicing for vendors wherever possible, and have options for the rest.

Step 10 – Continue the value of e-invoicing by ensuring compliance to PO and contracts and, where wrong, correct it…automatically!

Step 11 – Seek to improve your return on e-invoicing through the power of dynamic discounting.

Step 12 – Having been awakened to the results of e-invoicing in Accounts Payable, carry the message of the Networked Economy to the rest of your organization.

Breaking free of a paper addiction will not happen on its own if you ignore it.  Recognizing and admitting the cost of paper invoicing is the first important step down the path to freedom from paper and all the benefits invoice automation confers, but it is just the first step on a journey.  By following this 12-step program, many recovering paperholics and AP departments before you have successfully made this journey to e-invoicing and have learned along the way the true value Accounts Payable can contribute to the larger organization as a strategic partner.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks, and take the journey to freedom from paper with me as I explain and expand on each of these steps in subsequent posts.  But in the meantime, if you are ready to start walking the path or just want to learn more about the paperless life, click here.

Counselors are standing by.

This story originally appeared on The Networked Economy. Follow Drew on Twitter at @dhofler for more insights on e-invoicing and Ariba LIVE.