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PEPPOL will change the game in e-invoicing

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Are you keen on e-invoicing? If yes, then PEPPOL (Pan-European Public Procurement Online) probably is on your radar screen already. And if it is not, I suggest that you look into it. Together with the existing European e-invoicing infrastructure, the PEPPOL standard has the potential to become the game changer in international e-invoicing and e-procurement. I believe that PEPPOL is about to reach the tipping point, and the change will happen rather sooner than later.

The origin of PEPPOL is in the Pan-European Public Procurement Online project. Funded by the European Commission, the project’s aim was to simplify electronic procurement across the borders and make it possible for European suppliers, large or small, to deal electronically with any European public sector buyer. In 2012, OpenPeppol association took up the torch, and continued on with the governance, maintenance and development of the created specifications.

Interoperability is the Key

The reason why I would bet on Peppol is the fact that it solves the biggest issue in cross-border e-invoicing today – the question of common interoperability. The Peppol network is an open, many-to-many platform, which is standardized in all three necessary levels: addressing and routing of the messages, document specifications and transfer infrastructure of the network.

With the help of these key components effortless interoperability can be achieved. In my opinion it is the key to the widespread adoption of e-invoicing. Interoperability makes it easy for any company, regardless of size, to join e-invoicing. It is crucial for supplier activation. In addition to e-invoices, Peppol network can transport other electronic business documents as well, essential for efficient and transparent e-procurement processes.

If you access one, you access all

Today there are nearly 130 access points (service providers) in the Peppol network. Connecting with any of the Peppol-compliant service providers, like OpusCapita, you can reach all the other access points and their respective customers, whether it is a company in Norway, a public sector entity in Austria, or an organization in the healthcare sector in UK.

Interoperability is the biggest advantage of Peppol in practice. I have always thought that e-invoicing should be as easy as it is to hand a letter over to the local post office, or it is to make a call on your mobile phone. If you know your partner’s address or telephone number, you can communicate with him successfully, no matter which operator he is using.

Peppol is necessary also for B2B communication

Corporations should not alienate themselves from Peppol just because it has a background as a B2G standard. The technology is mature, and Peppol’s specifications have for a long time been increasingly in use also in B2B trade, for example in Norway. In addition, Peppol is actively widening its standards in order to address the needs of B2B e-invoicing even better. I recently took the lead for one of the working groups, advancing the invoice response policies. I am also very happy for the fact that Peppol and EESPA (European E-invoicing Service Providers Association) have joined forces to accelerate the e-invoicing adoption in Europe. Many believe that Peppol and EESPA together have a clear potential to change the game outside Europe as well.

Demand maximum reachability

The latest effort in the EU-level to promote e-invoicing is the directive that obligates public agencies to support e-invoicing and migrate to e-procurement by the end of 2018. The global Billentis Market Report 2016 believes these activities may cause a strong tailwind for e-procurement in the private sector as well, and I absolutely agree. This will also boost the popularity of Peppol to another level.

Smart thing for European corporates to do now is to be ready. Making use of Peppol is at the moment just one of the many options in the market. There are still direct connections between business partners and of course e-invoicing service provider network solutions available for e-invoice exchange. It does not have to be an either-or choice for the companies, nor should it be their headache to begin with.

I strongly believe that in a few years’ time, the e-invoicing landscape of Europe will be transformed, and e-invoicing will finally become “just” invoicing. In the meantime, find the best partner who can bring you all the benefits with the least effort, leave the complexity of invoice formats and standards for your e-invoicing service provider to resolve, and demand maximum reachability!

 

Ahti Allikas
Solution Owner, OpusCapita
Member of EESPA Executive Committee, Lead of Invoice Response project in OpenPeppol