Guide to finding the best PEPPOL solution for your business

The complexities of modern networking between businesses have increased exponentially thanks in no small part to the advent and appropriation of the internet and the interconnectivity it allows for international business relations and relationships. The complexities that have become most apparent reside in the stringent and often overlapping inconsistencies between legal frameworks and protocols of different countries that house businesses that seek to trade across borders with efficiency and without the fear of litigious problems down the line.

These complexities have had an adverse effect on SMEs especially, many of whom cannot afford to navigate the intricacies and complicated regulations that can stem from interacting effectively with multiple potential international partners. This is where the innovation of PEPPOL (Pan-European Public Procurement OnLine) comes into the fray – the PEPPOL network is effectively democratising electronic trade and allowing communication and officiality to translate across borders with ease and reliability. You may have seen websites offering this, for instance or Seeburger and even IBM offering PEPPOL Solutions. As more push continues for businesses and suppliers to have a freer rein and choice on potential partners – it’s vital for networks to adapt with the times or be left behind, and some businesses are looking towards the future like never before.

First, a little about PEPPOL and how it all works.

What is PEPPOL and how does it all work?

PEPPOL was an abstract idea in its inception, being the reactionary response to business owners and enterprises around the world in both the public and private sector becoming frustrated with the intricacies of international e-procurement procedures and networking requirements.

The notion was to streamline international and complicated technical standards into a simple and comprehensive system that allows an interpretable protocol to exist across borders. This can extend to the democratisation and collation of purchasing orders and invoices across companies, making a universal language of sorts through a network that is inherently open. The establishing of this network has been met with high regard and thunderous support from the European Union and has quickly become standard for e-commerce channels across several forward-thinking countries, including Australia.

At its core, PEPPOL creates a uniform open network for communications and procurement that is standardised, reliable, secure, and officially recognised across industries and countries. So, how does it achieve this impressive goal? By changing from a proprietary model to an open one.

Proprietary v open network

It’s a debate as old as time in the technology realm. A proprietary network is the model that was the norm for a long time in the burgeoning e-commerce platforms for businesses. Essentially requiring multiple channels and service providers for different regions and industries. Many businesses will also need multiple Access Points (AP) to deal with their respective clients, different e-invoicing formats and time spent to ensure they’re properly calibrated and this is where the costs and intricacies came to fruition for many enterprises.

PEPPOL is a truly open networking system, effectively creating an even ground and universal language within a network that allows the transfer of procurement documentation across borders as well as the establishment of new connections between enterprises that was previously untenable with a proprietary model.

To put it in an allegorical context, consider it like the Euro as currency. Before the euro, there were many more countries on the continent that had their own version of currency, if you were a traveller going through Europe and wishing to purchase items in each one, you’d be required to constantly change your currency from one to another. By forming a uniform and agreed upon value and monetary language – the Euro made it insurmountably easier to make exchanges and purchases in multiple regions without the need to constantly change and spend time and money adapting to each new region.

E-Invoicing & the PEPPOL difference

Through the advent of e-commerce and trade through B2B and beyond – e-invoicing has become the common practice and essential aspect of all business-related transactions between suppliers, customers, and businesses. There are certain caveats that are required for it to be permissible as a digitised invoice document, the invoice data for instance has to be issued in Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) or XML formats and be issued using an internet-based webform. The e-invoice should also contain data from a supplier that is able to be integrated into the purchasers Account Payable system without requiring input from the administrator.

The PEPPOL difference

As you can already tell, this can already be causing headaches for businesses who have the notion of engaging in B2B transactions across borders. PEPPOL has revolutionised and streamlined the networking model for international transactions by effectively creating a universal language that is official and agreed upon by a slew of governing bodies and institutions.

A PEPPOL e-invoice through the open network is digitally created in a supplier’s financial sector and transmitted digitally to the receiver and processed automatically. The standardised PEPPOL format allows a singular ‘language’ of sorts for companies to adopt and use which creates less friction, ease of access and more importantly, opening more channels of communication.

Choosing the right solution

Now that we have a grasp on the revolutionary concept of PEPPOL and it’s utility for opening doors internationally and across borders, it’s time to begin the question of finding the right solution for your prospective business and to begin wondering if you’d like to be part of the future of e-commerce, or be left behind.

There are a variety of PEPPOL Access Points that are available for your specific needs and requirements, it all depends on the nature of your business and what that AP can provide. It should be noted that once you are connected to an AP, you have full access and ability to invoice and communicate with any other company that’s connected to the network.

Some universally admired examples have been with sites mentioned already, which have effectively become APs with all the bells and whistles you could hope to have. Their e-invoicing platform has an already established network with PEPPOL and can automatically translate an invoice through the PEPPOL standard to any other connected company. They also have a handy search engine built in-site for you to determine your prospective business partners to see if it’s viable to trade with them straight away.

Seeing as government entities have already adopted the PEPPOL format, it seems rudimentary to not be on the same bandwagon. There are collectively hundreds of APs that are suited for different types of business models and entities. Many will offer the scope of connectivity but like any entity, they have their pros and cons. The importance of communicative ease and openness for communicative channels to be established is a vital aspect to consider regardless of business type as they will be a representative of sorts for you and your prospective B2B recipients.

Other factors to consider when looking for a PEPPOL AP include their willingness to adapt with the new technologies and maintain a high standard with their updates and connectivity. An added layer of confidence stems from an effective and demonstratable sense of security for the network that will be housing your AP for the duration of your business. While the network is secure, the AP should also have a level of safety with it’s own systems.

It’s time for you and your business to enter the e-commerce world and become part of the future.

Samantha Rigby
Samantha Rigby
Samantha is the head of content, lifestyle and entrepreneurial columnist for Best in Australia. She is also a contributor to Forbes and SH. Prior to joining the Best in Au, she was a reporter and business journalist for local newspapers.
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