7 reasons to underestimate the EU E-invoicing Multi Stakeholder Forum [UPDATE]

One of the things we learned the last few years while blogging is that a blog post should be positive and constructive. You should not try to blame anyone, be sarcastic or try to rant. And so we did. Partly because every time we post something that contains a bit of criticism, we get phone calls.

(Sometimes we are even forced to take these posts off line. Really. It’s true. But we have never taken a post off line.)

But this time, just for once (at least this month) I am going to break the rules when it comes to the EU E-invoicing Multi Stakeholder Forum.  We strongly believe that current setup of this forum will not substantially aid the adoption of electronic invoicing in the European Union. For several reasons.


That is a good question. And because as a blogger you first need to think out the outline of your blog post, we thought this one through.

The reason is that we find the current representation theoretical and unbalanced, the approach symbolic and fear the outcomes to be political/lobbyistic. And we feel the sense of urgency of a practical ‘Commissioner Kroes’ approach in the current turbulent time frame.

So, we’re not trying to offend you people, we are just concerned. Oh, and by the way, we love freedom of speech.

The reasons why the forum will never work


Theoretical and unbalanced representation (to say the least)

Just look at the composition of the forum. Most members come from public sector, from lobbies, from lobbyist like organisations (sectorial representatives) and from the European Commission. I am sorry guys, I don’t want to offend you and respect what you do for the sake of e-invoicing.

But where are the SME themselves? Where are the controllers that deal with invoices every single day and deal with requests/obligations to connect to all sorts of exotic e-invoicing solutions?  Where are the IT practitioners that have to battle with bits and bytes to get things done? And know what is and isn’t sound to do? Where are the owners and directors that are confronted with yet another credit crunch?

I bet that no more than 5% of the representatives has ever sent an e-invoice. And I bet that no more than 0,5% of the representatives has ever implemented an integration between an ERP system and and e-invoicing application.


Missing the mass middle

Just talking about how important the SME’s are is very touching. But just talking about them won’t help them a bit. Representing SME’s by sectorial representatives is very touching too. But these representatives can’t and don’t tell the story that these SME’s really have to deal with (see above).

And, these SME’s don’t care s**t about political advice the forum creates at the end of 2013.Furthermore the SME’s are much more heterogeneous than some of us would like to believe. At the bottom we have the micro SME’s and the self employed. Don’t worry about them, they are the biggest adopters of the full potential of e-invoicing. Don’t bother the top of the SME’s too. They know where to go to. And will do just that.

What everyone tends to forget is the ‘mass middle’ of the SME’s. This mass middle (thank you CloudTrade) can’t use the simple e-invoicing solution the small SME’s can use and don’t have the funding to invest in heavy e-invoicing solutions like the top SME and corporations can.

If the forum does not focus on the mass middle, they missing out on one of the real barriers of e-invoicing adoption in Europe.


Lack of speed and timing

Electronic invoicing is picking up speed in ways we can’t believe. We earlier discussed how the uptake of e-invoicing resembles the uptake of e-commerce and the current situation with the phases in the Gartner HypeCycle.

And sure, you can collect all kinds statistical info, and present it somewhere next year. But then the “e-invoicing” train has already left that particular station, picking up even more speed.

We monitor the market adoption of e-invoicing and ap automation in real time using over 1.500 parameters. And rest assured: e-invoicing will be the dominant method in Europe well before 2020.

So go ahead and have a meeting two or three times a year, but please don’t be surprised to see how the world has changed once you’ve delivered.


Missing out on a key player

Sending an invoice to someone else is similar to sending and invoice from one application to the application of the customer. Now this whole e-invoicing thing wouldn’t be a problem if the respective applications could talk to each other.

But because there are so many of them and because they don’t talk the same language, e-invoicing suddenly becomes difficult.

So where are the financial applications in the E-invoicing Forum equation? Where are the representatives? Where in the working program are they mentioned. (Humour yourselves and count the mentions in the documents)


Best practices

Every time we see this coming up: “There is a lack of best practices”. Huh? Do you mean that you haven’t found them yet? Did you ever search on Google and Youtube? Are you looking for best practices other then the hundreds available already? Or do you need best practices that fit your specific interests?

Why not start at websites that host hundreds of best practices already:

Or visit some social networks like LinkedIN, Facebook and Twitter.


UPDATE 1: The preparatory and exploratory character nature

We received notice that the current task of the forum have a rather preparatory and exploratory character. And if that isn’t surprising enough. We later learned that the results will be discussed in the next meeting somewhere in march 2012. And after that meeting the results will be disclosed to the national fora (and we quote): “when all national fora will have been set-up”. Wow. Thank god for the organic uptake of e-invoicing in the EU.


Some other things

There are also some other things. Things we rather don’t discuss, because then it would get personal. And, after all, we are still dignified professionals. Right?

So, stop being slow, get practical, talk and listen to the right people, get informed, take measures and most of all trust on the organic uptake of e-invoicing in the EU.

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  1. Hello
    I’m not sure to capture the essence of your different remarks.
    Nevertheless, what I can say so far is there is some elements of truth in what you say.
    We still have people swimming in the deep dreamy ocean, reinventing the wheel for their pleasure, while some are dealing with e-invoicing all around the world and offering to their users a real true and alive platform to operate.
    And these guys do not promote their platform just because they go over all dreamers to transform a wish in something consistent.
    As you can imagine, I’m part of these guys ;o)

  2. I do not agree with most of your post (or do you miss the former Expert group?)
    If the national fora that you forgot to mention will do their job they will be the place where what you ask for will happen. The main goal of the multi-stakeholder forum is to monitor adoption, coordinate the efforts and avoid that every Member State will go in its own direction.

  3. What about the fact that there is no incentive for the industry players to work together with the current business models?

  4. Hi!

    Couple of current players in the market are trying to write their own rules, but still hope there is opportunity for a successfull interoperability in the market.

    Totally agree that current business models cannot be based only on transactional revenue and there should more value added services in the market. The fact is, there are only limited amount of invoices, and after tough competition average transaction price is even below 0,05 €, there is no business case to have so many players in the market. We can allready see same phenomenon as in the transactional printing market for 10-15 years ago. Prices are declining even the e-penetration is still very low.

    But, let’s try to concentrate on open ideas ( networks, address services :-)) and make positive business case for the customers and service providers at least in European market!

  5. Hello Andrea Caccia,

    Thank you for expressing you opinion.

    Only 15 or so of the national fora are in place. Some of these national fora have an even worse set of objectives and an even worse representation then the EU Forum.

    We’ll just have to wait and see. But it’s not looking good.

    E-invoicing Platform team