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"As new Turkish e-Invoicing regulations come into force in January 2014, two leading service providers have partnered to bring world-class electronic invoicing to Turkey." So says the press release that many of you will have read over the past few days about OB10 and Digital Planet. But how big a deal is this? What is the significance of the Turkish regulation change? If you look into it, it seems only to effect a few corporations - those that trade in alcohol, tabacco and gasoline. Will it have a major impact or is this really just the Turkish Government piloting a concept or seeking to control industries within which tax evasion is common? As an outsider, it's easy to jump to these conclusions so rather than relying on my limited knowledge and intuition on this subject, I spoke to an insider, Adnan Vural, CEO of Digital Planet, who was able to demystify things for me. The new regime in Turkey I learned, is no pilot exercise.

In many organisations, purchase to pay is like a car crash. Like something dreadful – something that despite yourself, you can’t stop watching. Unbelievable. Horrific. Shocking even. Yet compelling. Alright, perhaps not quite that bad - but it can be pretty bad. I also mean it’s like a car crash in the sense that if you ask a few witnesses what they saw, they’ll all tell you something different. It's like they’re describing completely different events. It’s something I’ve written about before – the wide variety of views that people have of the same thing depending on their perspective. Finance people see P2P as an opportunity to account for things more accurately. Purchasing people see it as an opportunity to make savings through compliance and, indirectly, through better spend analysis to get better value for money. Ask a P2P operations person, they’ll tell you it’s about better process and straight through processing. They’re all valid perspectives and they are all correct but I have a question. Which perspective delivers the biggest benefit and more importantly, which is the one that will persuade a board to invest in P2P? In other words, what is the real business case for P2P? It's not what you might think.

The great American commentator and satirist Jim Boren (1925 – 2010) long ago coined the term ‘Dynamic Inactivity’ to describe a form of bureaucratic behaviour which we all recognise. Dynamic Inactivity is defined as the devitalisation of ideas by the promulgation of ‘viable concepts’ and ‘action plans’ which serve to mask the underlying formulation of ‘inaction concepts’. For Boren, Dynamic Inactivity means doing nothing, but doing it with consummate bureaucratic style. Perhaps the greatest disappointment in public sector eCommerce in the last decade and a half has been dynamic inactivity. Lots has happened: millions of Euros have been spent on policy development, technical studies, conferences and analysis, economic analysis, standards setting, monitoring, recommending and blah, blah, blah. In reality, f*** all has actually happened of any significance.

I attended the round table event on e-invoicing in London on the 9th December and I shared some thoughts on the event here. I want to share a few more thoughts, but this time I want to look at the way the debate is framed technically. I have previously criticised PEPPOL for being far too rooted in technology rather than business. I am not alone in making that comment although I seem to have my head above the parapet more often. A similar sense washed over me at the roundtable, partly from the contributions from the European Commission and Open PEPPOL but also from other industry insiders there. My feeling is that there is an industry agenda in play here, an agenda which ignores business realities. The impetus is to seek a ‘solution’ which ticks all the boxes of the industry ivory tower whereas if we really want eInvoicing to gain traction we need to look at what is already working in the market and at what participants actually want.

Recently I had the pleasure of being with both Pete Loughlin and Peter Smith of Spend Matters Europe at an eInvoicing roundtable event in London on 9 December. The event was both enjoyable and frustrating. Before I share some reflections on the event and to avoid any doubt, I say immediately that I support the use of eInvoices - but I am also sceptical about the way in which the debate is being framed. One of the oft-repeated assertions during the roundtable was that the business case for e-invoicing as an activity in its own right is “overwhelming”. One commenter from the floor said at least twice that the government is “sitting on” several £billion in benefits which, I presume we were to infer, would be available if only the UK Government would adopt eInvoicing. I do not believe this to be the case, at least in the terms it was presented.

It’s quite easy to “get” the benefits of e-procurement – electronic catalogues linked to a purchase approval workflow. It’s a no brainer and it was one of the most successful B2B technology of the 1990s as the opportunity was seen to emulate the ease of buying that amazon, Dell and eBay offered. But it was never as straightforward as the B2C equivalent. You don’t need to account for everything you buy on eBay and apply GL codes and cost centres and we don’t need a 3 way match. That’s why Amazon is easy. (How many times have you heard someone in business complain about their ERP purchasing module asking why it can’t be like Amazon?) And what about e-invoicing? That seems like a compelling proposition until you try to automate Accounts Payable in an environment where the purchasing process is out of control.

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