The CEN Workshop on Business Interoperability Interfaces for public procurement in Europe (CEN WS/BII) was established in May 2007 with the objective to “to provide a basic framework for technical interoperability in pan-European electronic transactions, expressed as a set of technical specifications that cross-refer to relevant activities, and in particular are compatible with UN/CEFACT in order to ensure global interoperability.”
At the closing meeting of CEN WS/BII (phase 1) CWA 2010-16073, Business Interoperability Interfaces for Public procurement in Europe was approved (see www.cen.eu/cwa/bii/specs), split in five parts:
- Part 0: Introduction
- Part 1: Profile overview
- Part 2: Convergence and gap analyses
- Part 3: Toolbox for technical interoperability
- Part 4: Evaluation guidelines for testing and piloting
Even though CEN WS/BII has made significant achievements to address and support the above mentioned goals it should be recognized that few of its deliverables have yet been implemented and tested in real life. Large scale implementation and testing is happening within the ePrior project and the PEPPOL project. Thus to provide sustainable value to the market, continued development and proper governance of the BII deliverables are required.
The purpose of the second phase of the workshop on Business Interoperability Interfaces for public procurement in Europe is to provide a forum for development and governance by:
- Providing technical support for adopters and implementers of the BII deliverables.
- Providing a forum for governance, life cycle management and further refinements of the CWA published by CEN WS/BII. Due to the focus in CEN WS/BII to provide implementable specifications several topics and issues had to be noted for further development, without finding their proper answer. These topics and issues need to be developed within BII2.
- Contributing to coordination and harmonization amongst European initiatives addressing various aspects of e-procurement. During the work of CEN WS/BII several ongoing European initiatives were identified working on issues closely related to the topics addressed in BII. It was also noted that the effectiveness of these initiatives could probably be greatly improved by a closer coordination amongst the initiatives.
- Actively cooperating with the relevant organisations to ensure that European requirements are catered for in international standards and initiatives. CEN WS/BII has established close corporation with the most relevant organisations developing standards for international use in respect of electronic messaging in e-procurement. As more topics and issues are addressed, and thus expressed as European requirements, all such requirements needs to be brought forward for inclusion in the relevant standards.
The CWA as published by CEN WS/BII, and thus also its continuation in the proposed phase 2, was developed to support interoperable public electronic procurement and business (e-Procurement and e-Business) solutions. Such solutions are essential in order to facilitate the European internal market and to achieve the Lisbon Objective of making Europe the most knowledge competitive society by 2010.
This was highlighted by the fact that the European Commission made the development of e-Procurement an objective in both the 2002 and the 2005 eEurope Action Plans (eEurope 2005: An information society for all). The eEurope Action Plans not only targeted public sector procurement by electronic means, but encourage small and medium size enterprises (SME’s) to “Go Digital”. The importance of convergence and interoperability were furthermore stressed as one of the key aspects of a European eGovernment strategy in the 2005 Manchester Declaration, and has subsequently been supported by the i2010 programme, the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), and the Action Plan for eProcurement.
The requirement for standardized and thus interoperable public electronic procurement and business (e-Procurement and e-Business) solutions are also recognized as a key policy objective by the 2010-2013 ICT Standardization Work Program.
Furthermore the deliverables of the proposed CEN WS/BII2 is a critical component of several strategic initiatives initiated by several of the stakeholders, e.g.:
- The PEPPOL project
The objective of the PEPPOL (Pan-European Public eProcurement On-Line, see www.peppol.eu) project is to set up a pan-European pilot solution that, conjointly with existing national solutions, facilitates EU-wide interoperable public eProcurement. The vision of the PEPPOL project is that any company and in particular SMEs in the EU can communicate electronically with any European governmental institution for the entire procurement process.
The final outcome of PEPPOL will be an interoperable environment built upon national systems and infrastructures supporting the full cycle of eProcurement activities.
The pilots that will be developed in PEPPOL will support any economic operator in the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA) to respond to any published public tender notice electronically and to govern the entire procurement process from their own national infrastructure to any another national infrastructure. Thereby PEPPOL will focus on the engagement and participation of SME companies to public eProcurement.
For post-award the solutions and tools developed within the PEPPOL project will be based on the deliverables from CEN WS/BII and for the pre-award the PEPPOL project will make use of the deliverables brought forward by the CEN BII2 Workshop.
- The ePrior and Open ePrior projects
ePrior is a pilot project to setup an e-Invoicing and e-Ordering infrastructure between the DIGIT and a number of suppliers. The acronym of this infrastructure is e-PRIOR: electronic PRocurement, Invoicing and ORdering; the aim is to give full priority to electronic documents.
An open-source version – open_PRIOR – is currently being developed. This open-source version will be shared with EU Member States to set up their own e-Invoicing infrastructure. One important element of Open e-PRIOR is a connector with PEPPOL.
Open e-PRIOR is the first e-Procurement implementation which enables the exchange of electronic business documents using the data models of CEN/ISSS WS/BII
On a national level electronic procurement has for many years required considerable investment in infrastructure, payments to WAN operators and fees to use document standards. Therefore eProcurement today is mainly reserved for larger enterprises and based on bilateral agreements. With the internet, technologies like ebXML, open sourced and IPR-free procurement standards like UBL, the door is now open for SMEs to benefit from electronic procurement.
Experiences in countries like Denmark and Sweden have so far proved that it is possible to replace paper documents in the procurement process on a national scale. They have also illustrated that by letting the public sector lead the way in the development of procurement standards the benefits also accrue to the private sector. As addressed in the eProcurement Action Plan – which takes into account the results of IDA eProcurement activities and considers the continuation of these activities under the IDABC programme – it does not promote a “one-size-fits-all” approach but supports Member States in designing eProcurement solutions adapted to their needs. Nevertheless, national standards (or standards-like arrangements) can increasingly constitute de facto technical trade barriers, as international eCommerce grows, if some degree of interoperability and common standardisation is not implemented. The European Community must therefore strive, not only for common legislation, but for a mutually agreed set of technical specifications describing content and transfer of electronic documents, thus easing the flow of goods and services on the internal market through interoperability.
 European Commission, COM(2002)263, eEurope 2005: An information society for all,
 European Commission, SMEs Europe’s future – eEurope SMEs GoDigital Conference Report,
 See http://archive.Cabinetoffice.gov.uk/egov2005conference/ documents/proceedings/pdf/051124declaration.pdf
 i2010: http://europa.eu.int/information_society/eeurope/i2010/index_en.htm
 European Commission, COM(2005) 121 Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme
 European Commission, COM(2005)229, i2010 – A European Information Society for growth and employment, http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/eeurope/i2010/docs/communications/com_229_i2010_310505_fv_en.doc