Province of North Brabant receives over 90% e-invoices via Peppol within 3 months
Province of North Brabant receives over 90% e-invoices via Peppol within 3 months
** A pioneer, that's what you can describe the Province of North Brabant as. From February 1st 2021, e-invoicing was made compulsory for incoming invoices. In 2020, only a handful of incoming invoices were still e-invoices, this year the number is already above 90%. An unprecedented result within a public institution, never before achieved within the Netherlands! How did they achieve it? Eelke Blonk, Manager of Steering Information & Administration and Dirk Booltink, Coordinator of Administrations at the Province of North Brabant explain.**
When the ability to receive e-invoices becomes mandatory for governments in 2019, the Province of Noord-Brabant will make this a spearhead. The province will look for a solution that enables e-invoicing with SAP. Through a tendering process, they ended up with eConnect.
Incoming invoices via SAP
Together with partner Avelon, eConnect arranges for e-invoices to reach the right place within the province. E-invoices are sent via the secure e-invoicing network Peppol and are also visible in eConnect's platform. A workflow automatically verifies the content of these invoices and approves or rejects them. If the invoices are approved, they are sent to SAP via Avelon.
A successful trial period
The obligation from the government offered the province of North Brabant a great opportunity to see how e-invoicing would work in reality. "When the central government obliged all government bodies to be able to receive e-invoices from April 2019, the province saw this as a great opportunity. We took that moment to see how the process of e-invoicing works. So at that time, we were still handling invoices by regular mail and e-mail," says Dirk Booltink. The trial period was a success. Not only were the benefits great internally, suppliers also saw their invoices paid faster. Dirk explains: "The biggest advantage is that invoices come in at a central location and we can deal with them quickly because some are already in the system. Another big advantage is the extra security. A supplier has to go through several steps to prove he is who he says he is. We don't have to doubt the authenticity of the sender. Thefore, no more ghost invoices come in."
From trial period to commitment
The benefits were noticeable everywhere and the management was also enthusiastic. So the decision to make e-invoicing mandatory for all suppliers from February 1st, 2021, was quickly made. Whereas pdf invoices and paper invoices were still accepted during the trial period, this was no longer the case as of the first of February last year. No other government institution had yet done it this way, so you can genuinely call Province of Noord-Brabant a pioneer. This also brought uncertainties in the beginning. "I did expect that we would encounter some obstacles and not every supplier would immediately agree. But regardless, we went all in!", Eelke says. Dirk adds: "In the beginning, I really did wonder whether we should do this or not. But I was also convinced of the many advantages, also for the supplier."
"Not only are we in touch with the supplier, other departments also deal with the same party. It was therefore also important for us to involve and instruct them in this transition, for example by organising sessions with colleagues," Dirk says. "And fortunately, the internal acceptance grew," he adds.
Eelke Blonk - Manager of Steering Information & Administration
Dirk Booltink - Administrations coordinator
In collaboration with eConnect, an onboarding process was launched to inform, motivate and eventually activate as many suppliers as possible to send an e-invoice. "All suppliers who had sent us an invoice in the previous six months, were informed by e-mail that we only wanted to receive e-invoices from the first of February in 2021," Dirk says. "We also included this in the general terms and conditions and in our invoice regulations. Not every supplier accepted that right away. It was something new and was made mandatory. Especially in the corona period that didn't always land well," Eelke adds. "But we absolutely did not want an escape option and so we really only wanted to receive e-invoices. We didn't literally say: your pdf invoice will not be processed, though that's what it came down to, with a few exceptions," says Eelke. "If we do it, we want to do it right!", Dirk says confidently . The province not only included an obligation in its general terms and conditions, but in collaboration with eConnect, also created a web page with clear explanations for suppliers on how to switch to e-invoicing. "This page was really incredibly important in the process. It explained step-by-step how suppliers could send an e-invoice to us," Eelke says.
Patient and careful
eConnect played an important role throughout the process. Dirk explains: "Simple questions were answered immediately by phone or e-mail. Simple questions were answered immediately by phone or email. For more complex questions, a 1-to-1 meeting was scheduled. Everything was carefully and patiently explained and guided by eConnect." The suppliers were informed and instructed in various ways. For instance, a manual was written and several instruction videos were made, clearly explaining how to send an e-invoice. If the supplier was already working with a software package, we looked at how they could arrange this in their own software. If they did not have that software or only sent a few invoices a year, they could sign up to the eConnect platform. A FAQ was created for administration staff so that they could answer supplier questions about e-invoicing directly.
"We never expected over 90%"
All these efforts yielded insane results. "We never expcected that within a year of our obligation, more than 90% of our suppliers would send e-invoices! We thought 70-80% would be realistic," Dirk says enthusiastically. "eConnect has been a crucial part of this success!", Eelke adds immediately. "Where our payment period previously was 22 days, it now is only 8!" Eelke and Dirk also see that things are sometimes different in reality: "We have several projects, of which e-invoicing is one. We achieved the success of e-invoicing with a small team and with the assistance of someone from eConnect one day a week. We also know stories of organisations with 20 people working on e-invoicing full-time, where the percentage is much lower."
The pioneering role of Province of North Brabant
The province of Noord-Brabant is a pioneer in the field of e-invoicing. This is also evident from the questions they increasingly receive from other decentralised authorities. "More and more provinces and municipalities know how to find us. They want to know what steps we have taken," says Dirk. "For example, there are governments that are not yet engaged with e-invoicing at all and do not include it as a requirement when tendering for a new accounting package. They think: that will be something for later. Whereas we think: include it right away. In five years time, we won't know any better and everyone will be e-invoicing."
How to proceed?
The province is not finished onboarding suppliers. There still is a group of suppliers that need help sending e-invoices. These are often the local entrepreneurs, such as the baker or butcher in the street around the corner. "In hindsight, we should have given them a bit more attention. For large companies, it is often a matter of ticking a box in their accounting package, but for a small baker or catering entrepreneur, for example, it can be trickier. These small businesses need more help and guidance," Dirk says. eConnect will again play an important role here to onboard these suppliers. "We would like to make further steps in this. How can we help these small suppliers better? My ambition is to make sure it becomes easier for them and that they see the benefits. But that, on the other hand, it also meets the requirements for us." Dirk looks back on the transition to e-invoicing with satisfaction: "We are not at 100% yet, but we also know that it is not equally easy for all suppliers. I am proud that we as a province are operating this way."
"We have recently invested a lot on the creditor side by asking creditors to send an e-invoice. Currently, we send an e-invoice when requested. Our desire is to also proactively send e-invoices to our customers in the near future," Dirk explains.
"E-invoicing, just go and do it!"
Do Eelke and Dirk have any advice for other organisations looking to successfully e-invoice? Eelke;s message is short and sweet: "E-invoicing, just go and do it!". Dirk: "And if you do it, do it well! And don't forget your small suppliers!"