CEN BII in Brussels: Another step towards end-to-end Electronic Public Procurement

Brussels 10 – 12 Dec 2013.

Opening Plenary

Stuart Feder, CEN BII Chairman used his little hotel reception bell to start the 4th Plenary CEN BII meeting. He made his introduction and welcomed the new participants to this standardization effort. The work done within CEN BII is gaining more and more momentum and awareness as Jostein Fromyr, the vice-chair of the WorkShop, explained when detailing the presentation he made on the CEN BII to the Council of European Municipalities and Regions. I was quite impressed by him summarizing his full presentation into a single phrase someone told him: CEN BII is the only show in town.

The meeting continued with Jaap van der Marel administrative tasks. He went through and approved previous meeting minutes. He explained that the Workshop is waiting for a formal approval of the grant application already submitted to the European Commission. The next step is to select 6 editors to speed-up the work on the different work teams. Jaap explained that the call for experts has been already issued and he envisaged editors being contracted before the February meeting.

After the administrative part, Martin Forsberg from SFTI did a short report on the architecture meeting done on Tuesday. The main topics discussed during that meeting were:

  • Customization identifier – How to build customization identifiers, and whether CEN BII should define the syntax to be used for communities further extending or customizing the CEN BII deliverables.
  • Core concept – The core concept discussion was long and to be continued in the post-award work sessions.
  • Requirements gathering – The presentation of Martin on the requirements gathering and key examples was accepted as the best way to identify the goals and provide examples that could support the requirements and the work downstream (see figure below).
  • Modularity – As an important step for the pre-award team, the need for “gluing” together different profiles to conform a “pre-award procedure” was also discussed. The old concepts of profile-level business rules as the “glue” get importance again. This topic was also addressed in the working sessions.

Afterwards, Didier Hardy from the Publications Office announced that he has changed his position and he has to say goodbye due to these new and different responsibilities. I have to say that it has been a pleasure working with Didier. He is very passionate and, as someone said, a visionary that has been able to spread the world and move the electronic world into the public administration. I really enjoyed working with Didier and I am sure we will miss his work and contributions a lot.

He introduced Natalie Muric to the group. She has been the nominee to take Didier’s position as Team Lead for the Notification Team. This proposal was approved in the Plenary unanimously.

Then the group started an Open space session. If you want to learn more about Open Space, you can look here: It is basically a method on how to setup workshops inspired on what happens near the coffee machine. You are allowed to leave discussions when you cannot bring anything new or you are no longer interested on what’s being discussed.

First of all, ideas are collected and voted, and then there are three rooms where people can join to discuss these topics. It was a good session where the hottest topics on CEN BII were touched. From low-level technical details such as profile linking to more high-level topics such as reaching awareness, up to six different topics were discussed. Task Team leaders were taking notes on these topics, and the outcome will be fed into the CEN BII deliverables.

Closing Plenary

On Thursday 12th, after the working sessions in the morning, the CEN BII Workshop finalized with the Closing Plenary.

We had an e-SENS session where Kornelis Drijfhout and Martin Forsberg explained the pilots they are developing in the pre-award and post-award area respectively. Lefteris Leonartidis the e-SENS pilot project coordinator explained the phased approach on these pilots that go beyond public procurement as there are other important areas covered by e-SENS.

After that we had Work Team presentations from the Task Team leaders describing the work and discussions for the last two days.

In my opinion, the most interesting part of the Closing Plenary was the one with the presentations from the European Commission.

Bartosz Dworak from DG MARKT explained the Proposal for a Directive on e-Invoicing in public procurement.  He highlighted the key elements of the proposal:

  • Regarding the scope, the Directive will cover
    • Only invoices covered by Public Procurement
    • Only to public sectors
  • New European Norm to be developed by CEN
  • Buyers obliged to accept e-invoices compliant with the new standard (Technical requirements)

Regarding the new standard he explained that a semantic data model for a core electronic invoice will be created based on existing specifications developed within CEN, CEFACT and ISO. He said that the experience and best practices will be taken into account and that the idea is not to replace already existing standards.

The transposition period will be four years and the main objectives are to:

  • Eliminate market barriers
  • Facilitate use of e-invoicing and create new business opportunities
  • Generate savings for administrations and businesses

He said that “It will be the predominant mode of invoicing in the EU by 2020”

After that, Bartosz explained the current situation, with negotiations with the Council and the Parliament taking place. He also explained the main modifications suggested by the Council and the Parliament, such as the limitation of the list of syntaxes to be supported by all the public administrations in Europe, the need for a test/validation of the standard and the possibility to use the standard in the B2B private sector.

But there are also challenges ahead, the timeline is really tight and the testing of the correct implementation of a semantic model seems difficult to address for the Commission. Next steps end up with adoption of the directive in April 14 and implementation mid 2018 the earliest.

Last presentation was the one from Antonio Conte from DG ENTR. He explained the provisions of the regulation when requesting a ESO to standardize on an specific topic. He detailed the process and the list of deliverables:

  • European Norm for the semantic data model of the core section of an electronic invoice
  • Identify a limited number of syntaxes
  • Mapping to the listed syntaxes
  • Guidelines on the use of these syntaxes
  • Guidelines on interoperability of electronic invoices at the transmission level
  • Guidelines on the interoperable use of electronic signatures and electronic seals in conjunction with the EN

The goal is not start from scratch but start form different works already developed:

  • BII2
  • MUG
  • CIIv2
  • UBL 2.1
  • Financial Invoice
  • LSP – (PEPPOL)

Regarding the syntaxes, the idea that will be a limited set is gaining support, and Antonio explained the list of requirements that such syntaxes would be required to comply. Some of these requirements are:

  • International, open and free to use
  • Widely used
  • Used in production environments
  • Comply with the core invoice semantic model
  • Be part of a coherent set of standards to support end to end public procurement
  • Reflect the latest technical achievements and be widely considered as being state of the art
  • Have guidelines, code lists validation tools freely available
  • Have an official freely available mapping
  • Have an official updating and versioning strategy

Before closing his speech, Antonio provided good news for the CEN BII Workshop as he announced that the grant agreement was signed so the work in CEN BII can continue.

After that good new from Antonio and some questions and answers about the process, the meeting went to its end reminding the scheduled face-to-face meetings and the work and priorities to be addressed next weeks.

The sound of the hotel reception bell from Stuart was the end of a productive 3-days meeting in Brussels.

One Comment

  1. Adrià Jiménez
    Posted 20/12/2013 at 11:04 PM | Permalink

    Very, very interesting!

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