Electronic invoicing in Europe – the countdown has begun

Electronic invoicing in Europe – the countdown has begun

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.

Purchasing Insight logoBehind the scenes for a few years now, there has been a great deal of virtually silent activity. In the backrooms and basements of government offices around Europe, some of the most expert and experienced minds in electronic invoicing have been developing strategies to encourage the adoption of electronic invoicing across the European Union. What little output there has been has, to be fair, been a little dry and not a little uninspiring. You wouldn’t describe the “Interim report on activity 2 of the European Multi Stakeholder Forum on Electronic Invoicing” as a page turner. But don’t be misled. The teams across Europe have concluded their deliberations and have published their recommendations. Uncharacteristically they make interesting reading.

It’s very timely. While the Scandinavians have already adopted e-invoicing widely across their public sector, the biggest economies, Germany, France the UK have been hesitant. In the UK there is a couple of months of high profile activity coming up. The leaders in the e-invoicing industry have been called by the UK Government to have their heads banged together and come up with an approach to interoperability and there’s a parliamentary inquiry scheduled to get to develop an understanding of why public sector adoption has been slow.

Why the sudden flurry of activity? Like the sudden blossoming of SCF – there’s nothing sudden about it but we can expect to see dramatic change happen in a short period of time over the coming months. The countdown has begun.

Anyone with an interest in electronic invoicing in Europe whether as a supplier to public sector, as a public sector organisation or a solution or service provider should pay attention. The output of the various e-invoicing fora around Europe is available here. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be reviewing some of these documents and sharing some conclusions and insights. We’ll also be attending the interoperability head-banging session and we’ll be reporting, from the inside, on the UK Parliamentary committee proceedings.

Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin