E-document exchangeE-invoicingPeppol

Here’s everything you need to know about Peppol – and more!

2 min read | 12.5.2024

In Europe, there’s about as many ways to do business as there are countries or languages. While we have similar ways to sell and buy, differences in culture, language, and habits mean that we present ourselves and our offerings differently depending on where we operate.

Peppol was created in the pursuit of establishing one universal standard for trade, allowing organisations and people to interact with a common “language” for business. Businesses of all sizes can benefit from streamlined processes and reduced costs when their systems share a common language.

We asked our experts; Risto Collanus, who serves as the Service Owner of Maventa, and Heikki Malkamäki, the Product Director of Maventa, to provide insights to all the most frequently asked questions we get about Peppol under one page. Here’s what you can find answers for in this blog post!

  1. What is Peppol?
  2. How does Peppol work?
  3. Why Peppol, why not something else?
  4. Is Peppol invoicing compliant with regulations?
  5. Is Peppol only for e-invoicing or can I handle trade documents as well?
  6. Who benefits the most from Peppol?
  7. Does company size, or specific industry, matter?
  8. How much does Peppol cost?
  9. How much time and effort does Peppol take if I want to start using it or integrate it into my system?
  10. Do businesses need adjusting? What should be taken into account?
  11. How does Maventa work with Peppol?
  12. How to get started with Peppol? (SMEs and Software providers)

    So, without further ado, let’s dive right into it.

      1. What is Peppol?

      Peppol is a global framework for exchanging electronic business documents. You can think of it as being a set of standards that define the structure and content of different types of trade documents, such as invoices, order documents or catalogues. Peppol also provides a transparent, simple and secure network to reach your business partners, regardless of which country or address they operate from. 

      2. How does Peppol work?

      Sending and receiving business documents through Peppol is safe, seamless and effortless. Let’s use an invoice’s journey from the sender to the recipient in an example below.

      Peppol operates on a four-corner model, which includes:

      • Sender of the invoice
      • Service provider acting as the sender’s access point
      • Service provider acting as the receiver’s access point
      • Receiver of the invoice

      Service providers, such as Maventa, act as access points to the Peppol network. They are certified entities that handle the invoice exchange on behalf of senders and receivers. Imagine sending an invoice from your system onwards to the Peppol network. It’s first received by the sender access point, from where it travels through the network all the way to the receiver access point. From there the receiver access point makes sure that it is delivered to the receiver in the format they receive.

      3. Why Peppol, why not something else?

      There are competing options to the Peppol network out there but so far none has really come close to achieving the same level of universality. Peppol is the most likely winner in the race for standardisation and building a functional business network that facilitates business document traffic end-to-end.

      Peppol is one of the easiest ways to futureproof your business processes. By standardising and automating processes between different business critical systems, connecting to Peppol frees up time and effort from the bureaucratic nightmares related to order and invoice processing. It also opens the doors for international trade, supporting transition from paper and PDF to structured universally compatible format which makes the invoice quality better. On the whole, it’s an infrastructure for not only just e-invoicing but everything you need for a fully compliant and automated procurement process. 

      4. Is Peppol invoicing compliant with regulations?

      Yes. Because: the main part of the European standard on e-invoicing is the semantic data model (EN 16931-1) and its business rules. The invoice content going through the Peppol network is verified by the access points to comply with this standard.

      By adopting Peppol invoicing and its streamlined processes, you can minimise the need for manual clarifications and ensure that the data exchange is secure and operationally efficient between trading parties. This adoption is not only a forward-thinking step but also a strategic move to comply with evolving EU regulations and laws. Simply put, you can’t go wrong with Peppol as your invoicing and e-document exchange infrastructure!

      5. Is Peppol only for e-invoicing or can I handle trade documents as well?

      Peppol is much more than just for invoicing. There are many other reasons to take the Peppol infrastructure into use. Beyond invoicing, Peppol’s procurement messaging capabilities bring automation and standardisation to the order-delivery and procurement processes. Let’s dive into this more practically:

      Using Peppol makes running your business smoother and helps you start working with new suppliers or customers much more easily. In practice, it’s making sure everyone speaks the same language throughout the whole procurement process, even if they’re using different computer systems. This way, all the important trade information flows freely and directly where it needs to go, without confusion or hold-ups by non-compliant systems.

      In addition, Peppol allows you to collect structured data, setting a solid foundation for your business’s future growth. Think of it like assembling a fascinating “business puzzle”. Each piece of data is both a clue and a crucial part of the big picture. As you put the puzzle together, the image becomes clear. Everything is in order, helping you understand the complete scene. 

      What’s exciting is that this “business puzzle” can also be viewed by smart computer programs (like AI), which can find patterns or opportunities hidden within. 

      These discoveries can guide your business towards new, unexpected advantages and insights that benefit your business a lot more than you bargained for. In a nutshell, you get the whole trade document lifecycle through Peppol, and more.

      6. Who benefits the most from Peppol?

      Simply put: everyone willing to thrive in their business.

      Peppol is becoming a game-changer for all kinds of businesses, no matter their size or what they do. This is partly due to the EU’s directive 2014/55/EU, which mandates the adoption of handling all public purchases in the EU digitally. While the directive doesn’t specifically call out Peppol, it’s gently pushing a lot of businesses to start using it for sending and receiving invoices and other procurement related messages.

      Now, as governments are putting this digital shift into action, it’s creating a domino effect in the B2B world as well. Peppol isn’t just for dealing with government contracts anymore; businesses are using it to communicate with each other too. So, getting on board with Peppol now is the smart and winning thing to do. It means you’re ahead of the curve in meeting new digital standards and making dealing with both government and other businesses smoother.

      Plus, it’s a solid move to make sure you can keep up and stay competitive when it comes to winning public contracts.

      7. Does company size, or specific industry, matter?

      Businesses of all sizes and in all fields will benefit from Peppol. 

      Larger “sweet spot” enterprises can harness the full potential of automation, as they deal with a high volume of procurement documents, making a great difference in efficiency compared to manual handling. On the other hand, smaller businesses gain the ability to digitally present their services and prices to large buyers through catalogues. Given the benefits of automation and company-specific perks, Peppol ultimately offers streamlined and digital order-processing automation, which makes ditching manual paperwork possible. Whether you’re a large or small company, you’ll save on resources and money.

      This wave of digitalisation also affects other companies, such as accounting firms and software companies that provide ERP systems for their customers. Accounting firms need to stay updated on developments with Peppol to further guide ERP system providers in integrating Peppol procurement messaging capabilities to keep their offering and business up to date and competitive in the market, for example.

      On the other side, we have the software houses—those who develop ERP systems. These systems are the backbone of many companies, helping them manage various parts of their daily operations. These software developers are tasked with implementing Peppol’s messaging capabilities into ERP systems. The idea is to ensure that businesses can easily send and receive procurement documents through Peppol. 

      It’s important for businesses to push their ERP providers to prioritise easy-to-use, effective solutions that help simplify day-to-day operations. Peppol’s role in this is significant—it’s all about making sure businesses can communicate electronically with ease, and helping them to get rid of manual and tedious tasks.

      In a nutshell, to fully unlock the potential of Peppol, businesses and accountancy firms need to join their forces in demanding Peppol capabilities from their ERP systems. And by doing so, the entire ecosystem—from financial operations to daily business transactions—becomes more streamlined and efficient. Whether it be for the accounting firms, businesses or ERP providers selling their solutions.

      8. How much does Peppol cost?

      The cost of implementing Peppol comes down to the service provider and their costs. As there are  many providers with different pricing models – from initial setup costs, integration costs to transaction based fees and monthly subscriptions, the best is to compare these service providers to find the one that fits your needs best. 

      The selection of the pricing model would hence depend on the complexity of the integration and the extent of customization needed. Businesses should carefully consider which model best aligns with their operational needs and transaction volumes to optimise their Peppol adoption investment.

      We at Maventa offer a transaction based pricing model. That way you don’t pay for integration or setup costs, and only pay for what you use. 

      9. How much time and effort does Peppol take if I want to start using it or integrate it into my system?

      To use Peppol, you might just need to push a button in your invoicing system – but that’s if your invoices already have the detailed information that the EN standard requires. If your invoices usually only meet the basic requirements, you might have to add more details to them first.

      In some instances, this may not even be necessary as Peppol is directly included in your operator’s service offering. This approach is the simplest, where your operator manages the flow of invoices in and out of your billing system in the preferred format with minimal effort required on your part. In these cases, you can simply start using it from the get-go and expect the invoices to be EN standardised as well.

      If you’re looking into a full-scale Peppol integration, you’re in for a lot more work. This includes developing systems for the reception of messages, automation of processing, and custom approval workflows tailored to the company’s existing ERP system – from inventory accounting and order logistics to billing and general ledger systems.

      Between these two – basic Peppol activation and full-scale ERP integration – are the haven of opportunities for different service providers to offer various types of services, which require a different set of time and effort, based on the distinct needs of their end customers. Given that these needs can vary significantly from one business to another, it’s expected that the solutions offered will be diverse as well. However, the critical element for all these services is the use of a standardised communication method. Without following the standard protocols, the benefits of Peppol’s standardisation might not be fully realised. 

      That said, as each company’s situation is unique, making a one-size-fits-all solution is proven to be challenging, even though software houses are developing standardised solutions to ease the implementation across companies. Starting small and evaluating benefits at various development stages is advisable and leads to the best outcome of what is important for your business and needs.

      How would Peppol streamlining look in practice? Examples:

      1. The processing of purchase invoices, where each invoice undergoes verification and approval. Imagine rethinking this process for the future: If individual X has the authority to place an order, then the approval process for the purchase invoice could be automated based on matching the content of Peppol order messages with the invoice. There would be no need for additional checks. In simpler terms: if the order is placed and a matching order response is received, then the content of the invoice can be automatically compared to the order response. If everything matches up, the invoice can be automatically paid. This process streamlines the flow of orders and invoices through Peppol. And you can say bye bye to manual verifications.
      2. Production planning, where it’s important to know when more materials will arrive. The use of Peppol’s procurement messages (specifically the “Despatch Advice”)  enables the timing and automation of receipts. This means that businesses can plan more efficiently, ensuring materials are received just when needed, streamlining production schedules and reducing delays.
      3. Inventory management in scenarios with high volumes of goods. The goal is to place orders efficiently and precisely according to needs, avoiding unnecessary allocation of funds into inventory. This approach ensures that ordering is targeted and well planned resourcefully, ultimately minimising excess stock and optimising the use of capital.

      10. Do businesses need adjusting? What should be taken into account?

      While Peppol is accessible through well-equipped systems and operators, it comes with a few new learning curves for businesses – but worry not, they’re worth it.

      The main thing users might notice is that your invoicing system may require additional information for the invoice than before, such as an order number or some other reference number. Your invoices might also fail to send if the information on the invoice is significantly lacking – these are tiny updates to your current processes, basically.

      With Peppol order messages, you’ll likely need to learn to use, or update, a software handling Peppol order documents since standard messaging requires specific information to be included in the message. If your order system is outdated, it might not be compatible with these new types of order messages with Peppol.

      The technical knowledge needed for Peppol integration can differ greatly. It ranges from minor updates to invoices to the more complex task of integrating Peppol with your entire ERP system. Specifically for Peppol invoices, the need to input more detailed information is crucial. Even though it may appear as a small adjustment, adding more detailed information to invoices greatly improves their quality and makes processing smoother.

      As software adapts to include Peppol’s features, businesses will need to learn new ways of working. This change will likely affect how current processes are run. To fully benefit from Peppol, businesses must think creatively and be willing to try new methods. Adopting Peppol might seem simple but it actually requires dedication and flexibility from the businesses. However, all’s well that ends well – Peppol streamlines the daily businesses and is definitely worth it even with the learning curve.

      11. How does Maventa work with Peppol?

      We’ve been part of Peppol right from when it first hit the market, and Visma’s been involved even before that, back in its early development stage. In 2012, we sent out the very first Peppol production invoice and are one of the most established Peppol operators in Norway. We’ve played an active role in shaping Peppol, participating in many development work groups and management boards, watching it grow over the years.

      Maventa has paved the way in e-invoicing and Peppol since 2007. With our long history with Peppol and active role in developing it, we’re committed to continuing our work in making Peppol an accessible and successful network for all. 

      12. How to get started with Peppol? (SMEs and Software providers)

      Peppol for SMEs

      It’s definitely worth it. Registering as a recipient has no downside, and on the send side, if you’re already sending invoices electronically, it’s likely that your invoice has already been sent in Peppol format to the recipient. Above all, the quality of incoming invoice content is improved, and outgoing invoices are less likely to get stuck in the receiving systems due to lack of information if the sending system can generate invoices according to the EN16931 standard.

      As said, it is worth it, and you should absolutely get started. An open attitude towards change is a great opportunity to seek business benefits, such as automating business operations. Registering as a recipient of a Peppol invoice is the first step! And after that, it’s worth considering how your operations would change if the whole order-delivery process were no longer managed just through emails, phone calls and papers, but also partly through systems.

      Steps for SMEs: How to get started with Peppol?

      We have built clear step-by-step instructions for you to get started with Peppol messaging. Follow these through, and you’ll surely be on the right path of streamlining your business flow.

      1. Check your invoicing software compatibility: First and foremost, you need to ensure that your current invoicing software can produce and manage data of sufficient quality. This includes compatibility with the EN16931 standard, or ideally, the ability to handle Peppol BIS format.
      2. Verify that your e-invoicing operator is a Peppol service provider: Confirm that your e-invoicing service provider is a Peppol service provider. For example, in Finland, all providers are expected to be part of this network, but it’s always good to check that your local operators also do so. Maventa is also a certified Peppol service provider under the name Visma Software International AS. You can get the full list of certified Peppol providers here.
      3. Consult your accounting firm: If you utilise an accounting firm for your business, inquire whether they support both receiving and sending invoices via Peppol. This will ensure all financial processes are streamlined and Peppol-ready. If they are not, ask them to ask the ERP provider to incorporate Peppol as a part of their system.

      Peppol for software companies

      Adopting Peppol isn’t just about enhancing your software’s capabilities. It’s a customer-centric approach positioning your company as a forward-thinking and modern provider in the ERP and invoicing software market.

      The benefits are not exclusively for your customers. Your software business will also gain from offering Peppol as a part of your service offering:

      Stand out: it makes your software stand out because it can easily handle invoices and documents the same way according to standards, all over the world.

      Happy customers: your customers save time and money, making them happier and more likely to stick with your software.

      Grow your market: it helps you sell your software to more businesses, in your country and others, because they want to work globally without extra hassle. Note, that some countries have special extra requirements regarding invoice content for domestic traffic: Italy, Poland, Denmark, France and the Netherlands to name a few. Worry not, we will help you with that.

      Be a leader: Adopting Peppol keeps your software up-to-date with the latest rules and tech, showing you’re ahead of the game.

      Steps for software providers: How to get started with Peppol?

      Starting with Peppol integration can seem daunting, but it’s a straightforward process that can significantly make your software’s capabilities better. Here are the steps for software providers to get going with Peppol:

      1. Understand Peppol: Begin with a deep dive into what Peppol is and how it works. Knowing its framework helps you see how integrating Peppol into your software can benefit your customers.
      2. Assess your needs: Evaluate your software – consider how Peppol integration aligns with your goals and what your customers need for seamless document exchange globally.
      3. Get to know the special requirements in your target market: if you’re planning on selling your software abroad, get to know your customer countries’ domestic special requirements from your service provider.
      4. Get the right tools: To integrate Peppol, you’ll need the right tools and access points. This is where choosing the right partner becomes crucial. The right operator partner simplifies Peppol integration, ensuring the process enhances your software’s service offering in an effective manner. They provide the support and tools necessary for a seamless transition, enabling your software to connect globally with ease.
      5. Plan integration: Outline how Peppol will fit into your existing software architecture. Planning helps ensure a smooth integration process by minimising disruptions and making setting milestones easier.
      6. Test and test again: Before fully implementing Peppol, conduct thorough testing to ensure everything works as expected and meets your and customers’ standards for user experience. Work with your partner operator and conduct an end-to-end testing.
      7. Roll out: Once testing is complete, roll out the Peppol integration to your users. Provide them with support and guides on using the new features to handle their documents.
      8. Stay updated: Peppol and its regulations keep evolving. Work with a partner who keeps you on top of these changes, ensuring ongoing compliance and competitiveness.

      Since the very start of it, we at Maventa have been a key provider, offering insightful guidance and support to software companies looking to join the Peppol network. With many years of experience in e-invoicing and partnerships, we’re here to make your integration process as smooth as possible, leveraging our experience to help your software business reach new goals. We’ll be happy to help!

      Eemeli Sepponen

      Eemeli Sepponen is a Product Marketing Specialist at Maventa. With over 7 years of experience in e-invoicing, he leverages his product expertise to simplify and make e-invoicing more approachable for those transitioning from traditional to electronic invoicing.