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Keywords: procurement, e-procurement, EU, EU Commision, European e-procurement strategy, purchase to pay, procure to pay
Susie West | News | 21 May 2012
New laws surrounding e-procurement in Europe will encourage interoperability between vendors using the same systems.
Analysing the European Commission's recently published strategy for e-procurement, Paul Henty, a Solicitor at Speechly Bircham, explained to Supply Management that it will require close working relationships between vendors.
This, he said, would "address a current divergence in technologies, fragmented along national borders".
It is often considered that when interoperability is implemented, it is a sign of a mature market and could ensure the success of electronic processes such as purchase to pay.
However, issues can arise from interoperability. Large businesses are more likely to oppose the practice and differences in financial regulations and VAT within European countries could also pose a challenge to interoperability.
Proposals in the revised directives include mandatory targets for public organisations to move to electronic processes, with the final deadline of mid-2016.
It claims that e-procurement can save €100bn (£82bn) on total EU procurement spend, equal to 5-20% of costs. In addition, it hopes that it will see greater participation from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and will have environmental benefits from reduced paper use.
Mr Henty noted that where the EU has missed e-procurement targets in the past has been down to unwillingness from buyers to make the switch from paper-based systems, but also from the wide variety of technical systems across Member States.
Both issues are likely to be real challenges in the new target, but the expert observed that there are some complementary measures outlined in the strategy that could assist in the transition.
They include EU programmes that will fund and promote cross-border procurement infrastructure through the Pan-European Procurement Online and Connecting Europe Facility.
A survey will also be carried out to assess current P2P practices in the EU and other e-procurement practices to see where techniques need to be "ironed out" and remove barriers to cross-border and SME input.
The Commission will also monitor the level of take-up and assess any efficiencies gained, as well as implement a strategy to inform stakeholders about the opportunities and benefits offered by e-procurement, Mr Henty wrote.
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