2013/10/17 | Henrik Möller

I was always impressed by the postmen, who seemed to live and work by the ‘come rain or sunshine, snow or sleet, we deliver your mail’-motto. Weather, wind, water, dogs, and sour old ladies could not affect their ‘duty’ to deliver the letters and parcels in their bag.
Obviously, these were mainly neatly machine printed bills, a parcel from that store on eBay or a payslip. But sometimes, there was a shaky hand-written postcard from Mykonos that told me the sun was hot and the beer was cold. The address was perhaps not always easy to decipher, but somehow the postcard still ended up on my fridge.

Then there were the friends who could never learn my first name or my PO Box number, but took a guess and wrote:

PO. Box ??
Vinninga Sweden


It may have taken them a few extra days to deliver, but I always received it in the end. The Postal Service solved the task in hand as they were paid to do so by the postage paid for.

It’s the same thing when I send my sister, who lives abroad, Swedish herring and licorice I write her address, attach the stamp and stick it in the box. A few days later, it arrives at her place in spite of her having strange letters in her name, and her mail gets delivered by a postman who doesn’t have a clue of its origins.

Operator, please hold!
It’s the same principle when it comes to phones. You dial a number, (or, admit it, you no longer keep any phone numbers in your head anymore, you bring up the contact in your phone and click ‘dial’.) A few moments later you’ll be speaking to your son in Manchester, your customer in France, a buddy on a trip to Timbuktu, a service desk in Bangalore, your banker in Gran Canaria, your mother on the bus on her way to the shops, or – why not InExchange in beautiful Skövde, Sweden. Wherever you are, regardless of what phone or operator you use, things simply work.

And what do all of the above have in common?
Well, the various service providers are using set standards for which addresses and formats are being used, and the mediating service know which is what. Those using one phone service provider don’t have to swap zeros for threes or turn the handset upside down when calling someone using another one. Those who send letters to Greece don’t have to write the address line reversed in blue or switch the Ns to Vs for it to be delivered.

This principle should be the same for e-invoicing
If you, as a recipient, have special requirements or formats for your electronic documents, make sure that the suppliers don’t have to adapt to fit just you. Forcing someone to have special routines only to bill/e-shop with just you is a bad idea. Instead, let an operator take care of transforming and converting the data, so that you can take advantage of the large base of companies that are already sending e-invoices and e-orders between each other.

I get queries daily from our customers (and other operators’ customers) if we can help with forms that ask for e-invoice address, ID number, format, version, service operator ID, Signage, intermediate ID, Operator, marker, SBDH, SOAP call , VAN ID, stop bit, ASH, X.400, OFTP, EAN, GLN, SWIFT, Giro numbers, department codes, and that’s not even half of it. Mostly they don’t even know what it means or what the information will be used for.

As operators or VAN*, it is our responsibility to perform the task we charge our clients for. We must all make it easier for our customers, and not put the burden or cost on them, as a result of our own incompetence or ill-conceived business model. When it comes to the matter of the plague that is roaming charges, which is basically a penalty from operators wanting to make money from non-customers, I hope these too will disappear. A ’4 corner model’ is the only sane way to do this.

As recent as of May 30th, 2013, EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes said that she was hoping that roaming charges in mobile telephone networks will disappear completely by 2014.

I see no reason why this should not also apply to e-invoices.

Communication and dialogue between the operator and VAN shouldn’t be the worry of the parties involved but rather our cursed task as operators! Let our customers focus on doing what they are good at so that they can e-shop and e-bill even more!

Let there be e-invoicing!