Author: Pete Loughlin

When it comes to electronic trading, the Latin Americans, most notably Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile, put the so-called developed countries to shame in terms of their ambition. While the Europeans continue to support business processes hardly changed since they were developed by the spice merchants of Venice during the Renaissance, South American governments are building business and tax collection infrastructures that many of us would never have dreamt possible.

The news that OB10 is to go public broke last night - actually a little prematurely - but now it's official and Tungsten and OB10 have announced their intentions. I spent 20 minutes on the phone with a delighted Luke McKeever, OB10's CEO, earlier today to understand the details of the deal that values OB10 at £99 million. Actually, the details are a little mundane - their IPO is of course subject to raising the cash - but assuming they do it will be used to buy out existing shareholders, to build bigger better infrastructure and technology and bolster Express Payments with funds to directly fund some new and innovative supply chain finance offerings. "That's not mundane" you might think - but it is - it's positively pedestrian compared to what Luke told me they are going to be doing in addition to all of this.

From outside of Latin America, electronic invoicing in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and the others, seems complex and mysterious. What information that is available to understand it is mostly in Spanish or Portuguese. For those of us who are a little rusty on our Spanish and Portuguese, even the English written information is difficult to grasp because the concept of e-invoicing in Latin America is fundamentally different to the concepts familiar to Europeans and North Americans. But for any business that trades in South America it is crucial to understand the new invoicing landscape.

Imagine if a stand-up comic, trying to promote him or herself tweeted: “I’m really funny. Follow me”. It doesn’t work does it. For social self-promotion to work for a comic they have to tell jokes. They have to perform, on-line, for free! If they are funny, people will retweet and they’ll grow their audience, and they’ll get more retweets and more followers and, if they work hard at it they’ll sell out venues because they’ll have built up a huge on-line audience that they can market to. That’s how twitter works and there’s a lesson in this for all of us. It’s part of the answer to the question - “What can twitter do for me?”

The fortunes could be mixed for Europeans working in IT and finance according to new research by The Hackett Group. Large companies in Europe are now losing over 130,000 jobs each year in these disciplines as well as in other key business services areas. This, Hackett claims, is due to the combined impact of offshoring, technology-driven productivity improvements, and the low-growth business environment. While they reckon that the number of jobs being lost will decline over the next few years, they estimates that by 2017 nearly half of all back office jobs that existed at these companies in Europe in 2002 will have disappeared, a total loss of 1.9 million jobs. But the picture gets worse when you factor in the latest IMF growth assessment.

It depends how you interpret e-invoicing. In its EDI guise it’s been around for over 20 years but its modern incarnation, XML data transported over the internet, grew out of the dot com boom of the late 1990s so which ever way you look at it, e-invoicing has been around for more than a decade. And we’re now moving into a new era. Its take up has grown to an astonishing level partly due to mandates in various parts of the world and partly because, frankly, it’s a no-brainer. Purchasing Insight logoWhen a technology is new and untested, there is a natural and pragmatic suspicion that prevents widespread adoption. We have, collectively, had over a decade to understand how to get it right. For established electronic invoice programs, they have had time to iterate and refine and for those just embarking on the e-invoice journey, there are well-established paths to follow. There is no need to create methodologies from scratch, no need to reinvent the wheel. Even the business case is simple because it can be based on others’ experience, not some theoretical savings exercise. The latecomers have got it easy and that’s great for everyone. So where can you access sources of best practice? How can you get at the experience of the last decade or so?