COOs and CCOs take note
Selling to large businesses in Europe is getting harder. The ever-shifting compliance landscape, driven by the EU’s eInvoicing Directive 2014/55/EU is causing more fragmentation than harmonisation as it takes effect. April 2020 was the deadline by which EU member states were obliged to transition eInvoicing as per the directive into their national law. Once a law is created, there can be up to three years for it to be fully implemented. If you want to sell to any public sector body in the EU today or big businesses, beware of the compliance landmines that could disrupt your plans. In more than one country, einvoicing is now mandatory for selling to corporates, and while the PEPPOL framework is common, the precise format of eInvoices can differ in each country.
If you want to sell, buy EDI
EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) has been around since the 1960s as a reliable method of businesses exchanging structured data. The wrong way to go about using EDI to send invoices to buyers in the EU is to implement it in-house with your own IT team, through a connection to a PEPPOL Network Access Point (see diagram) and use this just for the customers in question. This is wrong because any changes to mandates, formats, or protocols introduced in the next three years will cause your IT team to undertake a sizable project. It is also wrong because it carves off a handful of invoices to the EDI channel such that they require separate monitoring and a different process for query management and dispute resolution. The right way to do it is to implement eInvoicing for all your invoices and outsource the management of your EDI channels to specialists who deal with EDI every day and have spent a good part of their professional lives doing just that. With all invoices created digitally and efficiently on one platform, management of all invoices can be done uniformly. For smaller customers and those that do not require electronic invoices sent by EDI, there are other options – all through the one platform, including emailed links to a secure, self-service online portal and the less attractive PDF attachment by email route.
EDI is not just for the few
The must-have system for selling into Europe is not EDI but an eInvoicing platform that all invoices can be created and managed. One that comes with features to create, send and monitor invoices via EDI to any number of channels. Managing EDI in-house is like cutting your own hair: it can be extremely difficult with unsatisfying results. That’s why most people go to hairdressers – who are skilled, experienced and equipped for the job. Likewise, outsourcing your EDI channel management to experts is well worth it and, in the long run, costs you far less than doing the work in-house or through consultants.
Not the consultants
The cost of hiring a company or a freelance consultant to come in and set up an EDI connection can be high. Each time something goes wrong or needs to be changed, the consultants need to come back at a rate of several thousand pounds a day. When you use Data Interconnect, you pay a fraction of that because to us, EDI is a fundamental part of the service, and our expert team can set up a new EDI connection in as little as half a day, compared to weeks in some cases for consultants. Consultants may have the expertise, but they cannot offer the economies of scale that we can.