Intelligent PDF: removing barriers?

Last week, Adobe presented its intelligent PDF eInvoicing solution in a white paper. Adobe proposes an end-to-end approach in which the e-invoice is interpretable by both humans and computer systems. The Adobe approach is based on the eInvoicing processes as described by the CEN/ISSS Workshop on Compliance of e-Invoices and is expected to be compliant with EU and respective national VAT regulations.

The importance of the CEN/ISSS Workshop deliverables
The Adobe whitepaper shows once again the importance of the deliverables of the CEN/ISSS Workshop deliverables. At this point the Workshop is in its second phase, having delivered at least one groundbreaking deliverable: the Draft Good Practice Guidelines. These guidelines are available here, here and soon on 
Some groups with other interests on e-invoicing do not quite agree with these Guidelines. But we arguably can not ignore the fact that this is a serious attempt to remove one of the major barriers on e-invoicing: uncertainty on e-invoicing.

Intelligent PDF: removing barriers?
The intelligent PDF approach presented by Adobe could also serve as a mean to remove a barrier to e-invoicing: adoption in a B2B environment.

E-invoicing is acknowledged to be an unstoppable innovation across and outside Europe. Taking a leap in the future, full scale e-invoicing would mean that the vast majority of organisation is not only sending e-invoices, but also –and this very important– receiving e-invoicing.

One of the results from a major survey conducted by e-business watch showed that most of the companies prefer to receive e-invoices per e-mail in PDF. This is not the answer that some of the BSP would like to hear. But it clearly shows that receivers are in need of control over the inbound e-invoice.

The intelligent PDF approach of Adobe does just that. It combines the humanly interpretable PDF with a for computer systems readable XML format. So now we can receive and read the PDF invoice and having established the perception of control over the e-invoice, we can now extract and import the XML data into our financial software.

This enables e-invoicing between business partners regardless of size, sector, business processes and accounting software. If in fact the intelligent PDF approach guarantees compliance with the respective national VAT legislation, it would also be usable in cross border e-invoicing.

Intelligence in authenticity and integrity?
Interestingly enough, the Adobe intelligent PDF whitepaper mentions the possibility to sign the PDF document. So the PDF document is the format that is being used for formal validation. The invoice’s XML data can be submitted for material validation against external documentation such as supplier contracts. E-invoices archived in PDF/A guarantee the fidelity of the invoice, while the use of XML ensures that invoice data can be transformed to any format required by auditing software.

Maybe it is also interesting to use the XML data for formal validation. This would implicate that not only the PDF document is signed, but also the XML file, for instance with XADES or XMLDSIG. Then, the XML feed can also be used for formal validation even when archived. Additionally it would be very interesting for SME’s to use the PDF document for material validation.

So, the Adobe intelligent PDF is more intelligent compared to the plain old PDF docyument. We can expect it to have an impact on removing the barrier of awareness, including the aspect of adoption by have the perception of being in control. And maybe the approach can be made even more intelligent by incorporating XML signing. This would be very interesting because then it would not matter which document is being used for formal validation: PDF or XML, or both. Creating ease of use (which will be explained in the next Featured Article).

Read the Adobe white paper here:

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  1. Can you explain what INTELLIGENT is supposed to mean in this context. IT combines computer and human readable documents? What? Every electronic document is that!!! I have really had enough of all this marketing rubbish from vendors … everything is Smart … Intelligent … or otherwise but it is nothing but empty wordshells. Companies like Adobe are damaging our reputation as software vendors!

  2. Dear Max Pucher,

    Thank you for your reaction. You mentioned two aspects. First of all the intelligence of the Adobe approach. Second the marketing rubbisch from vendors like Adobe. With regard to the first aspect, iIn the opinion of the EEI Platform this approach form Adobe makes the PDF document more intelligent than it was before by making it ‘interpretable’ (not just readable) for both humans and computersystems. When it comes to marketing rubbish, the EEI Platform is an independent platform with the ambition to provide a sustainable and qualitative approach on creating awareness when it comes to e-invoicing and invoice automation. We hope to be able to distinct marketing rubbish from value added content. Adobe is not -yet- a member of this platform. Maybe it is interesting to investigate a possible cooperation between ISIS Papyrus and Adobe.

    The EEI Platform

  3. Thanks for the response. Adobe is truly BEHIND the market and NOT and innovator so I don’t understand the hype about this very basic functionality they are offering. ISIS Papyrus has been providing an INTELLIGENT forms and document generation component (Papyrus Client ) for over ten years now. We have several hundred thousand enterprise users. Since 2006 we now over true intelligence in a machine learning software component that analyzes user activity on data and content to automatically discover decision patterns for business processed and customer communication. We can use all the data that you put or take from a document (PDF or any other format) and use it in that decision discovery. Adobe is lightyears from such an innovative approach. I have talked to Adobe on various occasions, but they do not understand the needs of the large corporation at all. And they just see us as a competitor.

    I actually find your concepts for a platform a good approach and we are considering to become a member.