An Open Business Network
PEPPOL enables government organisations and private companies to exchange electronic trading documents over an interoperable, European-wide network. In simple terms it offers a standardised network connection for electronic ordering, invoicing and shipping.
Specifically, PEPPOL is a set of open and interoperable technical specifications across purchase-to-pay (P2P) business processes. It is not an eProcurement system– it only connects organisations together so that they can do business electronically. These organisations can be large government departments, private companies or their representative service providers.
PEPPOL enables access to its network through accredited ‘Access Points’. Any organisation on the network can become a PEPPOL Access Point themselves by meeting the published specifications. Connections between Access Points are multi-lateral therefore only one connection to PEPPOL is ever required.
All Access Points must agree that there will be no roaming fees between PEPPOL Access Points. This means that while you will pay for a service from your existing service provider, when connecting to a customer who uses a different service provider, neither your or their service provider can charge you extra fees for the interoperable connection.
It does not matter that other organisations are using different service providers because all Access Points have agreed to interoperate, meaning existing eProcurement and eInvoicing solutions become interconnected. Therefore, if your organisation already uses an existing P2P solution your service provider is able to connect you to any of the other organisations within the PEPPOL network.
A Common eBusiness Structure
PEPPOL consists of three parts; The network, known as the ‘PEPPOL Transport Infrastructure’, the legal framework that defines the network governance, known as the ‘PEPPOL Transport Infrastructure Agreements’ and the document specifications, known as the ‘PEPPOL Business Interoperability Specifications’ (BIS).
The PEPPOL network is based on the classic 4-corner model. It offers the freedom for suppliers to engage with any ‘Access Point provider’ of their choice, to send and receive electronic documents with any customer within the PEPPOL network. The network is governed by the PEPPOL Transport Infrastructure Agreements establishing a many-to-many legal framework.
PEPPOL developed the BIS for eProcurement processes (eCatalogue, eOrders, eDespatch Advices and eInvoices) to standardise electronic document exchange and validation. All document exchange is across an open and secure network via the sending and receiving Access Points.
To support the pre-award (tendering) phase PEPPOL offers three steps along the P2P process. First, the validation of eSignatures based on electronic certificates issued by authorities. eSignatures offer identity security within the network when applied to companies or single persons.
Second, the Virtual Company Dossier (VCD) supports suppliers by collating evidence such as standard company information, certificates, attestations and other evidence and presenting it to the contracting authority.
Third, an eCatalogue allows suppliers to submit data about goods and services in a standardised format. It describes goods or services offered and may be used by contracting authorities to source or to obtain product or pricing details.
To support the post-award (purchasing) phase PEPPOL offers a further three steps along the P2P process. First, the eCatalogue allows buyers to select goods and services that have been described by suppliers in the pre-award phase.
Second, eOrdering and eInvoicing allow the purchasing of these goods and services using secure procedures. The process may include an order change or cancellation from the buyer or a shipping advice from the supplier. Transactions between the Access Points are encrypted and secure, eSignatures allow the receiver of a document to confirm the identification of the sender (authenticity) and provide assurance that the document has not been modified in transit (integrity).
Third, the Transport Infrastructure (PEPPOL network) itself as the foundation of all PEPPOL post-award service. It is based on common IT compatible standards and is governed by a clear set of rules under the PEPPOL Transport Infrastructure Agreement. The Service Metadata Locator (SML) and Service Metadata Publisher (SMP) combined, publish metadata about a PEPPOL receiver and which Access Point is used. The SML is the only component of PEPPOL located in Brussels and is managed by OpenPEPPOL and Directorate-General for Informatics (European Commission DG DIGIT).
Maintaining the Structure - OpenPEPPOL
The PEPPOL BIS are maintained by OpenPEPPOL and build on the work of the CEN Workshop on Business Interoperability Interfaces for Public Procurement in Europe (CEN BII). PEPPOL BIS are formal requirements to ensure pan-European interoperability of eBusiness documents, they address the choreography of document exchange and a semantic data model.
The PEPPOL BIS model ensures that if a sender issues a document according to the rules, they can be certain that all receivers will able to process it in the same way. When organisations exchange business documents there are complex processes. PEPPOL BIS choreography helps handle varied capabilities by stating your own, and detailing what you can expect from your trading partners. The PEPPOL BIS semantic data model identifies the content that receivers can be expected to process without any setup.
OpenPEPPOL is a non-profit international association under Belgian law and consists of both public and private sector members. The association assumed full responsibility for the development and maintenance of the PEPPOL specifications, building blocks and services, ensuring its implementation across Europe.