For many years, in dealing with e-Invoicing, Peppol has always been a recurring subject and de facto “Best Practice” when it comes to finding proper business formats and exchange channels to integrate suppliers and buyers electronically. Especially in Cross Border trade Peppol has been a strong force, but now more than ever the Peppol network is also becoming the standard for Domestically trading in Europe.
But what is Peppol then?
Peppol is very simply explained as follows: A business document exchange network with pre-defined business formats and a deep rooted governance, which make sure the Peppol Network is run fairly, openly and in compliance to the rules laid out by OpenPeppol (the organization owning the Peppol Network).
The business document exchange network or what is often referred to as the Peppol Infrastructure or even the four-corner model, is an open network where central components ensure that buyers and suppliers have the ability to send and receive electronic business documents through Certified Peppol Service Providers also referred to as Peppol Access Points. These service providers make sure that the Peppol specifications are respected and implemented, and they answer directly to their Peppol Authority with whom they have signed a contract to deliver document exchange services to buyers and suppliers.
The business format in Peppol is called Peppol BIS (Business Interoperability Specifications). In essence, this is an XML format based on the UBL (Universal Business Language) standard. These BIS documents need to adhere to the Peppol guidelines and rules. Every BIS document must always be validated before being sent out to a receiver in the Peppol Network. OpenPeppol supplies the validation artefacts for ensuring compliance to the BIS specification and it is the responsibility of the Certified Peppol Service Provider to make sure that that every BIS document is compliant.
What is Peppol then not?
Often Peppol is mistaken for a central document portal where senders can deliver BIS documents. In fact, Peppol is the opposite. There are no central systems handling the exchange of documents in the Peppol Network. The certified Peppol Service Providers / Access Points handle this exclusively. Buyers and suppliers engage these Peppol providers, who then take care of all the technical aspects required to operate in the Peppol eDelivery Network. There are however suppliers or buyers who choose to implement an Access Point for handling their own exchanges, however these companies would need to have the necessary expertise and technical environment to run a compliant Peppol Access Point. See a list of all certified Peppol Providers here:
Why the hype then?
What makes Peppol better than other document exchange alternatives? Simply put, Peppol utilizes what is called Dynamic Discovery. This lookup mechanism ensures that senders can deliver their business documents to their receivers by basically only needing to know the Peppol ID of the receiver. Through a series of lookups on the internet, the Access Point of the sender can find the Access Point of the receiver dynamically. This Peppol ID can be anything from a GLN number, VAT Number etc., depending on what jurisdiction and country the receiver is located in. The dynamic lookup ensures that senders, receivers, and their Access Points do not need to have pre-established connections or testing with each other. This takes away the need for pre-testing and bilateral exchange agreements. You simply plug and play from day one because the standards are well defined, all outgoing documents must be validated ensuring high data quality, and the Network is open for everyone, ensuring full access for all participants.
Stay tuned for the next blog on where Peppol can be used where I will try to break down the different country approaches to Peppol.
Take care and stay safe!