P2P Europe

Ever since I read Hell’s Angels by Hunter S Thompson, I’ve always found the image of bikers compellingly attractive. And so I’ve not spared any cash when it comes to getting my own image right. When I’m wearing my black Rukka Merlin jacket with matching water-proof Gore-Tex, armored leather jeans and my Schuberth C3 Pro helmet with built in antennae, even though I say it myself, I look the business. All I need now is a bike. I remember from my teenage years, as I suspect will many others, the sad soul with the helmet and no bike. Pursuing the biker dream with not enough money for the full package, he missed the point. Having a helmet doesn’t make you a little bit of a biker. It makes you a little bit of an idiot. Making only a partial investment isn’t always an incremental step towards a complete solution. Often it’s a waste of money. And that’s what e-procurement is if it’s implemented in isolation – a complete waste of money.

The European Commission has declared some ambitious targets for e-procurement. They reckon that €2 trillion can be saved and they intend to get government organisations using purchase to pay best practice to deliver these savings by 2016. These targets are of course way too ambitious. What’s more, the Commission is going about it in completely the wrong way. They may be ambitious and their methods may not be perfect but I’m impressed and delighted at what they're doing.

In my recent article, “e-wheels on my Wagon” I explained why I think PEPPOL is a decade behind the curve. Actually, I want to go further than that and explain why PEPPOL fails to address one of its primary targets – stimulating cross-border trade, particularly by and for SMEs. e-wheels on the wrong wagon in fact.

Finally the penny has dropped. Automating the purchasing process and controlling spend more closely by using modern technology reduces cost compared to following a manual or paper based process. This could save between 5% and 20% of procurement expenditure according to the EU commission. That means that the EU could reduce its public procurement spend of €2 trillion and save a massive €100 million. And all this can be achieved in 4 years – apparently. That’s a huge amount of money. 150 large hospitals could be built with that so it’s worth aiming for before anyone gets excited – and I hate to be the bearer of bad news – it isn’t going to happen.

Basware have just made a very interesting announcement and launched Alusta, a “cloud-based platform for business-to-business transaction collaboration." According to their announcement yesterday, Alusta (Finnish for "platform") provides "open, centralized access to all Basware services via a scalable, secure, open collaborative commerce ecosystem for buying and supplying organizations of every size and location." If it lives up to half of the hype, this will be a truly impressive platform. Alusta isn’t ground breaking. It isn’t even new thinking but what it promises is to bring together a wide set of leading edge tools technologies and techniques to create a purchase to pay platform that could be world beating. That’s the promise anyway. So what’s it got that’s so impressive?

This is how it will be read. When the European regulators produced guidelines on how bent a banana could be, there was a media frenzy. Headlines like "Europe Bans Bent Bananas" and "It's Official - Bananas Banned by Brussels". It was a Euromyth of course but it sells newspapers and I can feel the same thing is going to happen when the CEN get's its hands on e-invoicing standards.

Some great things have come out of Australia but leaving Rolf Harris and Skippy aside, passion for procurement doesn’t seem to be one of them. Why is it that Aussies don't get as passionate as the poms about procurement? Well I'm not sure that the Europeans do get quite as passionate as Claudine Swiatek believes in her captivating article in her blog The Young Sourcerer about passion. But her point is well made that it's a shame that procurement isn't as well respected in some quarters as it should be.