This week, Berlin hosted the 8th EXPP conference – the largest e-invoicing conference of this kind in the world. An eclectic mix of solution vendors, thought leaders and experts from no less than 36 countries, it’s a melting pot where friendships are forged, partnerships positioned and, for a couple of days, commercial rivalries put to one side to advance the cause of common sense in business.
EXPP isn’t like most conferences. There are very few potential buyers and as a lead generation opportunity for solution providers it would not be considered a great success but the fact that exhibitors come back year after year speaks volumes for the value of the event.
In Bruno Koch’s opening address he made the point very clearly – a point that I’ve been making for some time – that bankers are simply not taking the e-invoicing opportunity seriously. As one banker confided to me “it just doesn’t make us money”. This is a shame in some respects and a relief in others. A shame because the banks have, for many years, been in a position to offer the expertise and infrastructure to help reduce the cost of doing business by easing the admin burden of the invoicing and payment process. A relief, because I’ve never known a bank reduce the cost of anything and their natural instinct to seek ways of making big margins is contrary to the e-invoicing agenda.
The banks’ attention will move toward e-invoicing eventually. If they can’t see ways of making money they’ll soon see ways in which they will lose money if they fail to take action. One of the recurring themes of EXPP was financial supply chain management. It is becoming clear to many that the savings to be had from cutting out the banks and creating collaborative relationships between buyers and suppliers to reduce the cost of working capital for business and create greater returns on cash provides a compelling business case for e-invoicing.
It’s not all roses in the e-invoicing garden. The recurring debate over regulation moves depressingly slowly but amongst the wide variety of great contributions at EXPP came, perhaps surprisingly, from that bureaucratic behemoth, the EU commission. They’re putting a great deal of energy and resource into sponsoring the application of best practice in purchase to pay, including e-invoicing, in order to support and stimulate the European economy.
The Commission has some way to go to convince business to take it seriously but speaking to some of the delegates, I get a sense that there’s an uncharacteristic commercial vision creeping into their way of thinking that is quite refreshing and I’m optimistic that they can make a real contribution.
As for the body shots – let’s just say a good time was had by all but there are some things that go on in Berlin that will just have to stay in Berlin.
Look out for the the special Purchasing Insight Coffee Break Podcast from EXPP
Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin