I had the privilege of chatting this week with Mikkel Hippe Brun, Technical Director of PEPPOL (Pan European Public Procurement) and chief consultant at the Danish National IT and Telecom Agency. Brun is playing a key role in the PEPPOL initiative – which has a goal to drive purchase transaction document exchange online for public sector organizations in the European Union. The key proposition is to create a single standard for purchase-related documents, leveraging UBL (universal business language) and UN/CEFACT and OASIS standards. The underlying belief is that collaboration can be support in large part by the exchange of business documents.
From my perspective, the PEPPOL project is a monumental undertaking, facing many barriers/issues, including:
- the established and widespread use of multiple e-procurement data formats in the markets (such as cXML and OCI);
- the increasing use of portal technology to support purchase interactions,
- and the adoption of multienterprise software applications such as reverse auctions and strategic sourcing solutions.
To sum it up — seems like the market today is more about “any data format” and translation as a service and multienterprise applications then about pushing collaboration into nice neat electronic boxes. This does not bode well for Brun’s idea.
However Brun really got me thinking. Why couldn’t we replace “logging into a customer’s portal and inquiring whether an invoice has been accepted” or “logging into a customers’ portal and viewing a request for quote (tender)” TO sending a standard electronic message requesting invoice status or downloading an RFP? One of the value propositions, according to Brun, would be breaking down the tower of babel that the North American portal and “have it your way” any data format is creating. Its definitely food for thought . . . .