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Finally all European Stakeholders stepped on board of the European train launching the new e-Invoicing awareness journey

With the launch of the European Multi-Stakeholder Forum during the first meeting on 13 September 2011 in Brussels the European e-Invoicing train moves again. Personally I really hope that the people on board are going to heat up the discussion and force a breakthrough on the adoption and diffusion of e-Invoicing. It is time for a positive sound from people who are not making money of e-Invoicing but care about economical and environmental sustainability of Europe.

The European Commission made the development of e-Invoicing an objective in the eEurope Actions plans of 2002 and 2005, as well as in the i2010 strategy and in the Competitive and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP). To realize these goals the European Commission, at the end of 2006, formed an informal Task Force of industry experts with the objective to pave the way for future work on a European e-Invoicing Framework (E.E.I.F.).

In July 2007 the Informal Task Force reported that Electronic Invoicing could significantly reduce supply chain costs across Europe, help streamline business processes and drive innovation. The Task Force recommended the creation of a European e-Invoicing Framework that encourages/fosters the development of interoperable e-Invoicing solutions/services and forms the basis for realizing legislative and procedural change. They concluded with recommending the formation of a European e-Invoicing Steering Committee that should take overall responsibility for designing the European e-Invoicing Framework by the end of 2009 and should act as the focal point for consolidating European business practices.

In a follow-up to the recommendations of the Task Force the European Commission in October 2007 decided to set up an Expert Group on e-Invoicing with the goal to deliver the E.E.I.F. The Expert Group started their work in February 2008 with identifying the scope and nature of the E.E.I.F. After due considerations of all viewpoints – positions and opinions – the Expert Group concluded that the E.E.I.F. should take the form of a set of coherent recommendations – actionable recommendations and proposals – designed to promote the uptake of e-Invoicing. Moreover the Expert Group stated that these recommendations required immediate action from all interested parties.

On 30 November 2009 the Expert Group presented their Final Report wherein they included their recommendations and proposed the establishment of an EU-level Multi-Stakeholder Forum. In the opinion of the Expert Group recommendations opposed to regulations and directives are not binding for Member States. The EU-level Multi Stakeholder Forum should promote the implementation of the recommendations, guide standardization efforts and champion the further development of e-invoicing into a Single Market practice.

After the decision of the European Commission to set up a European Multi Stakeholder Forum on e-Invoicing at the end of 2010 (see IP/10/1645) it became a bit quiet. But finally after a long period of silence the establishment of the European e-Invoicing Multi Stakeholder Forum is a fact.

The first meeting of the Forum members took place on 13 September 2011 in Brussels. The Forum brings together key actors from the private and public sector of all Member States. It provides a unique platform to exchange experiences and best practices which can pave the way to the broad-scale adoption of e-invoicing at both national and EU level. The Forum is going to monitor the uptake of e-invoicing in all Member States and should help the Commission in identifying further measures to facilitate the mass adoption of e-invoicing across borders.

It is time to make some progress towards realizing the previously expressed recommendations, instead of issuing new recommendations. Apart from encouraging the Member States to implement the Council Directive 2010/45/EU the focus should be on intensifying the word-of-mouth communication to key decision makers of companies and enterprises in Europe. During the past years most organizations have become numb and overwhelmed by the numerous promotional campaigns of solution and service providers. These types of promotion and advertisement reached such a level of repetition and saturation that decision-makers have lost focus - the wear-out of e-Invoicing has started.

To boost e-Invoicing there is a need for more interpersonal word-of-mouth communication and face-to-face interaction with early adopters of e-Invoicing demonstrating the real results and benefits they achieved.

Looking at the list of participants I feel confident this new Stakeholder Forum is going to succeed in getting e-Invoicing on the right track in Europe. The majority of participants stems from national and European organizations not focused at selling e-Invoicing solutions or services.

Tags: e-Invoicing

Last update: 26-11-2011


Using the power of OOXML for bringing electronic invoicing to SME’s

During the past years Albalia Interactiva, a Spanish consulting firm, has developed solutions for managing XML-based invoices using Microsoft Office. Albalia Interactiva is a company specialized in systems that provide legal certainty for electronic transactions.

In 2009 Albalia has developed an add-in for Microsoft Word 2007, called FactOffice, that enables the management (issuing, receiving and visualizing) of electronic invoices based on the Spanish XML format Facturae.

In 2010 Albalia upgraded the functionality to Microsoft Office 2010 (Word and Excel), rebranded the name to OffInvoice and extended the supported XML formats. Now the solution supports Facturae V3.1 and V3.2, UBL (Universal Business Language) and the UN/CEFACT Cross Industry Invoice, commonly known as CII.

Both solutions are developed as an extension to the Ribbon User Interface, the task-oriented Graphical User Interface (GUI) introduced in Office 2007, and the solutions are available as open source projects on CodePlex (the Open Source Project Community site hosted by Microsoft).

There are three licenses involved:

- For the Add-in there is a Dual licensing approach:
Microsoft Public License (Ms - PL)
European Union Public Licence (EU-PL)

- For the bouncycastle library: The Legion of Bouncycastle

- For the Backtrust signature library developed by Albalia Interactiva S.L.:

The solutions use Word or Excel as a template for capturing data in the case of issuing and visualizing in the case of receiving. Additionally they enable the validation of and signing with electronic signatures in XAdES-EPES (Explicit Policy Electronic Signatures) and XAdES-X-L (Extended Long-term Signatures) formats (XAdES).

For installing the add-in download the installer for FactOffice or OffInvoice from the CodePlex site, choose or But first check the requirements to find out what software is required to run the solution.

The approach taken by Albalia uses the power of the Microsoft Office Open XML (OOXML) format and complies with the multi-purpose exchange format I described in a bloart of October 2009. In this weblog article I present the multi-purpose exchange standard as a solution for opening Electronic Invoicing on a larger scale to all companies.

Tags: Adobe XML Data Package (XDP), Open Document Format (ODF), Office Open XML (OOXML), UBL, e-Invoicing, UN/CEFACT

Last update: 24-11-2011