Sending an electronic invoice across borders should be simpler than sending it by post. However, this is often not the case. Exchanging electronic business documents is subject to several barriers which may impede the data to flow between organisations. The challenge is not only to interconnect information systems but also to enable the sharing of business processes and meaningful information within a legal context across borders.
During the last years, public administrations have been working together to eliminate these barriers through common organisational and semantic agreements. The Business Interoperability Interfaces for Public procurement in Europe organised by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN/BII) have created specifications for interoperable public procurement in several areas, such as electronic Invoicing. Public Administrations compliant to these profiles should not need to adapt their information systems to, for example, exchange electronic invoices, it all should happen seamlessly.
This is not only theory, as it has been demonstrated by the PEPPOL project and more recently by the Directorate-General for Informatics (DIGIT) of the European Commission and the Norwegian Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi). DIGIT and Difi have developed their information systems independently and have never bilaterally discussed the format, business rules, etc. of their electronic invoices.
Nevertheless, both have adopted eInvoicing systems compliant to CEN/BII:
- Norway has adopted Elektronisk handeslformat (Elechronic Handle Format – EHF) as its standard format for electronic invoice and credit notes. The EHF is maintained by Difi and is based on the CEN/BII specifications.
- The European Commission has developed e-PRIOR, an eProcurement document exchange platform allowing the European Commission, the European Union Agencies and Institutions and their Suppliers to exchange electronic documents. e-PRIOR implements the CEN/BII specifications.