Procurement messages speed up the automation of business processes and make them more efficient

Procurement messages contain trade information in structured and machine-processable format. Procurement messages are used by organisations to share information in order and delivery processes and they concern product catalogues, orders, order confirmations and deliveries. Procurement messages used in the Peppol network are practical examples of standardised messages.

Companies have traditionally used procurement messages in industry-specific and company-specific solutions. For example, groceries conglomerates use procurement messages in information exchanges with their suppliers.

One aim of the Real-Time Economy project is to introduce standardised procurement messages in central government procurement. The aim is also to create a solution that is as open as possible and that companies of different sizes can use in their mutual business relationships in all sectors. The project will create the basis for using product catalogue, order, order confirmation and shipping notifications specified by the Peppol network.

Digitalisation of procurement messages is essential if Finnish companies are to compete successfully with other Nordic and European actors.  Digitalisation is a key component in the implementation of the EU-wide single market. It is of critical national importance for Finland that Finnish companies of all sizes can offer their services and products across the single market as flexibly and cost-effectively as possible.

Central government will start using Peppol-format order and order confirmation messages from 1 April 2024.

Central government procurement will serve as a pioneer demonstrating the benefits of standardised procurement messages. The aim is to create an open solution that companies can use in their mutual business relationships, irrespective of their size and sector.

You can follow the progress of the procurement message work in the webinar series ‘Sähköistä hankintasi!’

(Digitalise your procurement process!) The webinar series is only available in Finnish.

The webinar series is part of the Real-Time Economy project and its purpose is to promote digitalisation of procurement in Finland. In the webinars, which are open to everyone, participants are also able to influence the contents of the development work. You are warmly welcome! If you would like to have your contact details on the  webinar mailing list, send your request to rte@valtiokonttori.fi.

  • Development of Peppol infrastructure, processes and data models

    Continuous development is a sign of dynamic operations in the active stage of their life cycle. This also applies to the development of the Peppol infrastructure, processes and data models.

    The communication protocol, a key part of the Peppol infrastructure, has now been updated from AS2 to AS4, enabling more secure data transfers and serving as a step towards WebServices in B2B connections. However, the standardisation of e-invoicing in the EU has been a more significant driver of change than updating of the protocol. The changes in the standardisation of e-invoicing at EU level do not only concern the invoicing process and messages, but they also cover the entire data model used in Peppol. These changes have been necessary to ensure consistency between the common data elements and structures contained in the data models, such as the data on the parties involved, and code sets.

    Peppol – Organisation of the development work and projects under way

    Peppol members can choose between a variety of different work groups.  At the moment, all active work groups are in the post-award area (in the order-to-invoice functions).

    Apart from the work groups, perhaps the most significant development work is taking  place in separately established and designated projects. One example of these projects is the CTC (Continuous Transaction Control) project, in which work is being carried out on a new domain with the aim of creating a mechanism for the use of Peppol in transaction-based VAT reporting.

    The Advance Ordering project, to be launched on 24 November 2021, is interesting from the perspective of the procurement message work. The purpose of this project is to develop a more comprehensive description of the order process and message traffic. Support for cancelling and changing orders in the Peppol order process will be the practical result of this project.  The aim in the project is to finalise the required descriptions and specifications by 1 March 2022.

    A number of Finnish actors are also participating in the EUPLe logistics project, which is under way with EU support. One aim in the project is to incorporate logistics processes and messages into the Peppol network applications.

    Results of the development work

    The following results have been achieved in the development of new Peppol domains and processes (such as Advance Ordering):

    • process documentation (BIS Business Interoperability Specification)
    • messages used in the process
    • validation tools.

    The results of the development work will be submitted to the member communities for review and comments before final approval and publication.

    Peppol development work and Finland

    The Peppol Authority proposed for Finland would focus on organising participation in the development work.

    If there is a need in Finland to add a completely new domain to Peppol, we can propose that the development of this domain should be launched and offer to serve as the coordinators of such development work.

    At practical level, it might make sense to create a hierarchical model in which we would send fewer representatives to Peppols work group meetings, while at national level, we would organise larger groups of interested parties based on open participation. However, no decisions on these matters have been made yet and best practices will probably be discussed with parties showing interest in these issues.

  • Peppol process and data models in a nutshell

    Overview of Peppol process models

    PEPPOL process models (BIS=Business Interoperability Specification) are based on the decisions made by CEN (European Committee for Standardization) working groups Standard messages based on the UBL 2.1 and UBL 2.2 message specifications are used as the data model in the Peppol processes  and the Peppol messages are a subset of the data model of the corresponding UBL messages. Peppol has also specified business and other rules related to the messages and processes. To validate these rules, Schematron validation specifications have been prepared for the messages.

    Peppol divides the processes into two main sets ( pre-award and post-award specifications). Pre-award specifications are applied to information exchanges taking place during the pre-contract tendering stage, whereas post-award specifications are applied to the sharing of information during the order-to-invoice stage.  The same UBL-based messages are often used in different business processes and partially in both pre-award and post-award phases.

    The process specification contained in the messages indicates the context in which the message is used in each individual situation. For example, the UBL message product catalogue is used in both pre-award and post-award phases. In the pre-award phase, the product catalogue is used to present the product information contained in the tender so that the customer can make comparisons between the tenders. The product catalogue used the post-award phase is usually more comprehensive than the one used in the pre-award phase and the information is used to facilitate ordering.

    A uniform data model is a prerequisite for the consistent use of multiple datasets and code sets in different messages and processes. Examples of such applications include message routing addresses, information of the participants, and measurement units.  Considerable progress has been achieved in the standardisation of these datasets as a result of the e-invoice standardisation carried out in the EU.

    Process models

    The purpose of the process models is to describe concrete use cases. Not all processes are obligatory, or even necessary for all actors.  There may also be sector-specific and national differences in the application of the processes even though the basic processes themselves are uniform.  For example, procurement by Finnish government agencies is regulated and steered by legislation on public contracts and the State Budget Decree. This means that there are number of special requirements concerning the order process that do not apply to all organisations.

    Pre-award process models and the messages used in them

    Process Subprocesses UBL message used
    Procurement procedure subscription 1.0 Subscribe to Procedure 1.0 Expression Of Interest Request
    Subscribe to Procedure Confirmation 1.0 Expression Of Interest Response
    Procurement document access 1.0 Tender Status Inquiry 1.0 Tender Status Request
    Call for Tenders 1.0 Call for Tenders
    Tender Submission 1.0 Tender 1.0 Tender
    Tender Reception Notification 1.0 Tender Receipt
    Call for Tenders Questions and Answers 1.0 Tendering Questions 1.0 Tendering Questions
    Tendering Answers 1.0 Tendering Answers
    Tender Clarification 1.0 Tender Clarification Request 1.0 Tender Clarification Request
    Tender Clarification 1.0 Tender Clarification

    The PEPPOL pre-award content also includes the data models, XML schemas, and validation programs developed by DG GROW of the European Union such as the European Single Procurement Document (ESPD) in the public procurement sector. ESPD comprises the transmission of two documents:  ESPDRequest and ESPDResponse. ESPDRequest contains preliminary requirements for the tenderer in public contracts, and ESPDResponse contains the tenderer’s response to these requirements.

    Post-award process models and the messages used in them

    Process Subprocesses UBL message used
    Order only 3.2 Order Order 2.1
    Ordering 3.2 Order Order 2.1
    Order Response OrderResponse 2.1
    Catalogue with Response 3.1 Catalogue Catalogue 2.1
    Catalogue response ApplicationResponse 2.1
    Catalogue without Response 3.1 Catalogue Catalogue 2.1
    Despatch Advice 3.1 Despatch Advice Despatch Advice 2.1
    Punch Out 3.1 Punch Out Catalogue 2.1
    Order Agreement 3.0 Order Agreement OrderResponse 2.1
    Tender Clarification 1.0 Tender Clarification

    PEPPOL post-award process models and messages also include an invoice message, which is not discussed in more detail in this context. The PEPPOL invoice message is based on a similar UBL message and it is content-compatible with the EU e-invoice standard (which has been standardised by CEN).

    The general Message Level Response 3.0 notification and the Invoice Response 3.0 notification have also been implemented in the post-award specifications.  Both notification messages are based on the UBL ApplicationResponse 2.1 message.

    Observations on post-award models

    Peppol has implemented a subset of the UBL expression power in its processes.  For example, OrderCancel and OrderChange are not included in the models. Similarly, Peppol models do not include ReceiptAdvice. In some countries, such as Norway, non-Peppol messages and processes are included in the national EHF implementation. Peppol Authorities can also suggest necessary extensions to process and data models.

    Benefits of the Peppol process and data models

    It can be said that Peppol has implemented the basic processes and data models of the procurement process. The specifications are a subset of the full expression power of the UBL data models but are likely to provide an adequate general basis that meets most of the organisations’ needs. All specifications are subject to technical and business rules and their validation tools. It facilitates the quality assurance of the transmitted data, which is necessary in automated processing.

    The general business and technical validation rules included in the models are an undeniable advantage of Peppol process and data models compared to the traditional EDIFACT integrations.  Common validation rules harmonise the application process and facilitate the implementation of well-functioning services.

    Overall, Peppol brings the same benefits as standardisation in general.  Standardisation enhances understanding of the concepts and terms of the parties involved and provides a solid basis for system and software development.

  • Peppol in a nutshell

    Originally, Peppol (Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line) was the name of an EU-funded project between 2008 and 2012. After the end of the project, the participants set up the OpenPeppol association to manage the project results.

    Peppol is not a physical network, but rather a framework specifying

    • administrative models
    • contracts
    • guidelines
    • technical specifications

    The use of the Peppol network has expanded rapidly in recent years as a result of the EU directive on electronic invoicing (EU 2014/55/EU) and the CEN e-invoicing standard related to the implementation of the directive (FprEN 16931-1:2017).  As Peppol has attracted more users, it has become one of the most important solutions for an electronic document transmission platform in trade between organisations. Peppol is particularly widely used in the EU and the Nordic countries.

    In addition to the standard electronic invoice, a number of procurement-related messages have also been specified in the Peppol network. These specifications are based on the ISO/IEC 19845: 2015 standard, which is better known as UBL (Universal Business Language).

    The following chart illustrates the basic structure of the Peppol infrastructure and its key actors:

    PEPPOL

    Access Point:  the role of the service provider that connects end users to the infrastructure so that they can share documents.

    SML (Service Metadata Locator):  a central address directory of the infrastructure containing information on whether a requested address is registered in the Peppol network and which decentralised SMP contains details for that end-user.

    SMP (Service Metadata Provider): a decentralised directory containing end-user rights, describing what messages the end user can process, and details of the physical communication link.

, Updated 23.9.2022 at 14:26