December 1, 2016 – Finland and the other Nordic countries are world leaders in the digitalization of invoice traffic between companies. Worldwide, the market penetration of B2B e-invoices is assumed to be around 10%, whereas in the Nordic countries the corresponding figure is already almost 50%.
The e-invoice market is growing rapidly, with the European E-Invoicing Service Providers Association (EESPA) reporting growth of as much as 27% in September this year. They key drivers of this trend are the digitalization and automation of financial management processes, as well as associated software robotics. Despite this growth, however, the regulations and actions of public administration authorities – which are strongly directing companies towards the use of e-invoices – are behind in development.
The sender of an e-invoice must have a reliable digital delivery address for the recipient of the invoice. The more the purchase-to-pay process is digitized and automated, the more important it becomes that the information about the recipient of the invoice behind the digital delivery addresses, as well as about its sender, is reliable and up to date. This requires that the processes associated with the updating and upkeep of the address details of companies have to be completely reliable, and that authorizations and identity management around this information have to work. Globalization and the fragmentation of value chains are bringing their own challenges to the management of these addresses. In Europe, solutions for these challenges are being sought through the aid of EU-level standards such as PEPPOL.
In Finland, the address needs of e-invoicing have long been served by the centralized e- invoice address registry of the Information Society Development Center, TIEKE – a non-profit organization that has carried out important pioneering work in the field of e-invoicing. However, the aforementioned and rapidly accelerating development require that the technology used in the national central e-invoicing address registry or single-operator databases needs to change.
An attempt to build a new kind of organizationally distributed but logically centralized e- invoicing address registry has now been started in Finland. The technology platform utilized for the project will be based on Ethereum Blockchain. The objective is to deliver an early version of a distributed e-invoice address book in December 2016.
A significant group of operators in e-invoicing is involved in the project, including leading European B2B business integrators such as OpusCapita, Tieto, Enfo and Basware; banks such as OP, Nordea, Danske and the s.k. Samlink group of Finnish Savings banks; and the LähiTapiola insurance company.
The consortium also includes government agencies such as The Finnish Tax Authority, the Finnish Business Registry, The Government Services for Finance and HR in Finland Palkeet. The SME side is covered by the Association of Finnish Accounting Firms. The payment processor Nets is also involved, the Federation of Finnish Financial Services is acting as the facilitator of the project, and Nordledger (nordledger.com) Blockchain Design Studio is responsible for design and coding.