“PEPPOL – Does anyone care?” [LinkedIN discussion]

In our LinkedIN group ( and maybe others too), Larry Galaviz posted a discussion, with the intriguing title “PEPPOL – Does anyone care?” He explains:

“PEPPOL has been active now for several years as the (alleged) primary platform for government invoicing in the EU. As of this writing, we have been an Access Point on PEPPOL for several years and the only true government E-Invoice interface we have in production is with Austria. We support a major US based international company that does business in all EU countries yet this is the only one active. Other EU countries continue to use their country specific e-invoicing platforms (e.g. SOGEI in Italy, FACE in Spain, UJP in Slovenia).”

And then he gets to the bottom of his question:

“Does anyone care that the country specific solutions are generally the preferred solution (over PEPPOL) and that there is not much movement to get away from the country specific solutions? Country specific requirements in the EU are all different, all require special security, and all require special processing controls to be able to exchange transactions effectively.”

“The 400 pound Gorilla”

To finally adding his own answer in the comments:

“I’ve found that unless you get the “400 pound gorilla” behind the effort, it will probably not be fully successful. Basically this mean unless the EU is able to achieve buy-in by EU countries to deploy PEPPOL as a mandated standard that is applied consistently throughout the EU, PEPPOL will continue to be modified or ignored altogether.

After seeing many attempts at creating a single structure standard (like PEPPOL), I’ve yet to see anything that comes close to the open/inclusive architecture of EDIFACT and ANSI-X12 standards. PEPPOL represents an excellent architecture but I fear it will fail the long term adoption test.”

PEPPOL as the single EU structure standard?

From my perspective his own comment contains the element that ‘subconsciously’ is at the core of the of the discussion: “Will PEPPOL become the single structure standard of e-invoicing in Europe?” I am acutely aware of the wrath that will descend upon me, by my  two cents of thought. I believe that PEPPOL will not become the single structure standard of e-invoicing in Europe.

I can think of several reasons, also found in the comments:

1
The new EU e-invoicing standard and its CIUS
With the upcoming European Norm on e-invoicing many countries and sectors are considering establishing their own usage guidelines or even national formats. From that perspective the way the EU Norm on E-invoicing was set up, could very well become a threat to PEPPOL adoption. (In fact in adoption of e-invoicing across  Europe as a whole)
2
The heterogeneity of the EU business population
The use of PEPPOL requires a certain level of ‘IT maturity’, that is not -yet- met by quite a few EU Member States. More importantly  we should not forget that on average over 99% of the companies in the EU consist of SME’s, over 70% of which are micro – SME’s, of which some 60% are single contractors. PEPPOL is way to difficult for those hard working guys and women. Based on the current toolset and focus, I wonder whether PEPPOL will ever become successful for those huge segments of the business population in the EU.
3
Current day to day practices To put it bluntly: I believe that PEPPOL as an infrastucture will have/get a very legitimate place in the EU E-invoicing arena, but so does e-mail: Usage of PDF+UBL by e-mail already is a very viable solution for single contractors and SME’s and – whether you like it or not- could very well become the defacto standard*; And so do other infrastructures like EDIFACT and ANSI-X12 that have been in use for decades.
(* Oh, and please don’t come up with the ‘security’ argument, unless you can provide me with a independent report based on quantitative research that shows that e-invoicing by e-mail is more insecure than gold old paper invoicing. (Mind you: paper invoicing is the bench mark to compare e-mail e-invoicing with!) I have yet to receive such reports).  
4
Next generation service providers
As e-invoicing becomes more an more commonplace a new generation of service providers is entering the arena: providers of bookkeeping, administration software. They will be the ones that are implementing e-invoicing functionality that can be used by companies. Again, remember the
My point here is: Unless mandated, PEPPOL will not become THE sole, single transport infrastructure for e-invoices in the EU. It will have to earn its place in a competitive market next to other transport infrastructures, that have been around and successful for quite some time now. Maybe if PEPPOL decided to focus on ‘target group’ there is a good chance to become more successful.

Enter the discussion here


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