A couple of articles ago I mentioned the EU’s draft Directive on eInvoicing. It is a sensible document. However it has some problems which raise important questions. The core problem is that the reasoning in the Explanatory Memorandum to the draft is flawed. This is not just grumpy pedantry but something fundamental.

For years the growth in the use of electronic invoicing was hampered by a very simple fact. There was nothing in it for suppliers. Think about it. A supplier wants to be paid and needs to send an invoice. Whether that’s a paper invoice in an envelope with a stamp on it or an email makes very little difference. The cost of a stamp has got nothing to do with it – unless a supplier is sending many very low value invoices, the postage cost is trivial. While only a few customers demand electronic invoicing, while the business world was largely paper based and while suppliers were being asked to subsidize the cost of their customers' e-invoicing programs by paying for the privilege of sending an invoice, there was always going to resistance. But the world has now changed and the business case for e-invoicing is now fundamentally different to the one-sided calculation with all the benefits loaded on the customer side that would have been built perhaps 5 years ago.

A few weeks ago, somebody asked me why supply chain finance had suddenly burst into life - especially in the UK - with a new breed of SCF providers appearing at the same time?. Why is it that in the space of a few months the market place seemed to blossom? Tungsten bought OB10 to create a new SCF proposition. Crossflow Payments emerged in the summer and there were others. Why the sudden explosion? There was nothing sudden about it. These operations have years of planning and preparation behind them. It appears sudden – but it’s not. And we’re about to see something similar happen in Europe around e-invoicing.

In October 2008, some colleagues and I were in Brussels for a European Commission/PEPPOL session. Halfway through the morning we called our office travel agents and asked if they could book us onto earlier flights home and left. During the morning session I wrote in my diary “trying to decide between slitting my wrists or hurling myself from the window. One of the most dispiriting experiences of my life is sitting here listening to policy officers and IT staff talking rubbish and reinventing the wheel. Do our taxes pay for this nonsense? Yes they do”. Two things reminded me of this recently: the first was reading a PEPPOL Business Interoperability Specification (BIS 28A  – Ordering) which was out for review; the second was the reaction when the Draft Directive on eInvoicing managed to omit any mention of PEPPOL.

Please forgive the contrived alliteration but it had to be done. Today, Basware and Bravo solutions announced a partnership that appears to create a powerful synergy from their individual strengths. Both best-in-class P2P solution providers. BravoSolutions' key strengths are in spend analysis and eSourcing while Basware are best recognized for their supplier network and the application suite aimed at automating procurement and AP. By combining both technologies the pair believe that they can "extend the value delivered to customers and plug the 'savings gap.” The press release issued today explains the detail:

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.