PEPPOL is short for “Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line”. PEPPOL is a large-scale pilot project that was initiated by the European Commission and which is now sustained and governed by the organisation OpenPEPPOL. PEPPOL is designed to facilitate electronic procurement (including e-invoicing) in Europe, not only within, but especially between member states.
PEPPOL makes e-procurement easy. It provides solid infrastructure for the exchange of e-business information, based on standards for electronic messaging. The result: less time spent on administration, technical issues and unproductive red tape; more time spent on actual procurement, both pre- and post-award.
The vision of PEPPOL is for all companies and organizations (large or small) to have the ability to communicate electronically with their trading partners. As a large-scale pilot project, PEPPOL has encouraged many organizations to start using e-procurement and has grown and expanded the use of the PEPPOL specifications. The primary focus of PEPPOL is public e-procurement, but there is nothing to prevent the infrastructure being used in other contexts as well.
PEPPOL and Sweden
The Swedish National Financial Management Authority’s (ESV) participation in this project has primarily been focused on the introduction of e-invoicing and the establishment of common infrastructure designed to facilitate cross-border trade.
ESV has the role of a PEPPOL Authority, which means that the ESV is responsible for the registration of companies that wish to become an Access Point (AP) or a Service Metadata Publisher (SMP). The ESV is also responsible for reporting, securing Sweden’s national interests, aligning overarching interests in the e-business space with other agencies (e.g. SFTI, SALAR and Kammarkollegiet), quality assurance of the operators’ services and ensuring the long-term adoption of e-procurement using the PEPPOL network as the platform.
The long-term goal of Swedish involvement in PEPPOL and OpenPEPPOL is to:
- Facilitate cross-border electronic trade – for both the public and private sectors.
- Increase public sector utilisation of e-invoicing and e-procurement through the use of open standards.
- Provide technical infrastructure to overcome the barriers that often prevent connectivity today.
The long-term governance and life-cycle management of PEPPOL – OpenPEPPOL
PEPPOL as a large scale pilot project ended in 2012. Since then it has been permanently sustained and governed by the organization OpenPEPPOL. OpenPEPPOL is a non-profit organization run by the PEPPOL stakeholders who provide support, governance and life-cycle management for the elements developed in the PEPPOL project. The ESV is as a member of OpenPEPPOL and also a PEPPOL Authority in Sweden.
How the transport infrastructure works
PEPPOL’s specifications provide mechanisms such as the message exchange, mailing lists and address lookup. The infrastructure primarily functions as the “bridge” across which e-procurement information moves between countries, but it can also be used within one specific country.
PEPPOL is based on a decentralized database of registry information. This means that service providers can have their own registry containing information about their receivers. Several service providers can also share common registries. The lookup of information, such as finding a specific Access Point for a particular supplier, is done using a domain name system (DNS).
The DNS provides information about a particular PEPPOL entity’s identity and capabilities (i.e. the profiles used and capability in terms of receiving and sending information). The sender can look up the necessary information using the DNS without having to know exactly where it is located.
Following the DNS lookup, messages can then be transferred. Access Points are the elements of the PEPPOL network that ensure messages are transferred between suppliers and contracting authorities in a safe and reliable way. Access Points deliver information to the so-called end points; typically an ERP system.
A major barrier, which in the past often has prevented cross-border e-commerce, is the lack of bilateral agreements between operators in different countries. Without bilateral agreements, messages cannot be exchanged. Furthermore, roaming charges might be applied in some cases. In PEPPOL, this problem is overcome thanks to a signed contract between the operators and a PEPPOL Authority, thus eliminating the need for bilateral agreements. In PEPPOL, an Access Point may not refuse to receive messages from another Access Point.