PEPPOL, Portals and Poor Supplier Service
The Pan European Public Procurement Online (PEPPOL) enables suppliers to connect seamlessly with buyers. But many suppliers are missing out on some of the benefits of PEPPOL by using third party portals.The bad news is that these portals are inefficient and introduce unnecessary risk into the invoicing process. The good news is that there’s another, better option available to suppliers.
Since the beginning of 2019, a movement has been in progress. Dozens of NHS organisations in the UK have adopted the Pan European Public Procurement Online (PEPPOL), with the number set to increase to 250 by the autumn.
This is part of the Department Of Health’s “Scan For Safety” initiative. It’s a methodology that uses standardised naming conventions to identify and monitor patients, products and places. To put it simply, PEPPOL makes it easy for NHS organisations to order supplies, and for suppliers to deliver them quickly and accurately.
PEPPOL relies on the 4 corner model adopted by the Department Of Health. The traditional 3 corner model meant service providers inter-mediating between suppliers and buyers. Service providers owned all corners of the process and there was accountability. But it did not enable interoperability, making buyers and suppliers reliant on multiple service providers.
The 4 corner model operates like a telecoms network. A supplier quotes a unique identification number on its invoice and sends the invoice to an access point, which works out who the end recipient should be. So, PEPPOL is designed to help organisations communicate seamlessly with any other organisation on PEPPOL.
PEPPOL is a powerful network that’s designed for efficiency. But the problem is that many suppliers are being asked to connect to PEPPOL in an inefficient way.
If you are a supplier to the NHS, your business will be expected to manage the sale of products and services to NHS Trusts using the PEPPOL network.
Why not download our guide that describes how PEPPOL works and what it will mean to an organisation that supplies goods or services to the NHS?
The problem with portals
Rapid adoption of PEPPOL from buyers is driving traction with suppliers.
Of course, there are many third party portals offering suppliers access to PEPPOL. But using portals comes with distinct disadvantages:
- Portals require users to duplicate documentation – not only do suppliers have to issue invoices using their finance system, they also have to raise them using the portal.
- Duplication of effort and resource – working on multiple systems soaks up valuable manpower that could be deployed more effectively elsewhere.
- PO flips are another weakness of portals – many service providers require that suppliers receive a purchase order before they can raise an invoice.
- Portals are very labour and time intensive for the supplier.
But the most striking drawback of using portals is the challenge they pose to data integrity. Creating multiple invoices for the same job adds complexity and raises serious questions about which document is the master.
Unleash the power of PEPPOL
EDI is expensive to integrate. Portals create friction, add additional overheads and increase complexity. So how can suppliers unleash the power of PEPPOL and connect seamlessly with buyers?
A supplier needs to be able to rely on its own finance system as a single source of truth. That means being able to send invoices to buyers from their own system in the form of an application-generated PDF. CloudTrade can facilitate this by receiving the PDF into a dedicated inbox and mapping and validating the data carried in the PDF invoice (without OCR), before sending it to the relevant buyer via PEPPOL.
Suppliers and buyers connect to our platform and can send invoices and orders to others on the PEPPOL network. As the access point, CloudTrade converts the order into the format required by the supplier (typically XML), which we upload directly to the supplier’s order processing application, or render the order data as a PDF and send via email to the supplier’s order processing team.
Setup takes under 24 hours and requires no changes to processes or infrastructure. By making it easy to access PEPPOL, we’re removing barriers to adoption in the supplier community.