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Peppol for B2B use? VDAB does not rule this out

VDAB has been focusing on e-invoicing since 2001 and in 2018 it launched an e-ordering pilot project with supplier Prosafco. In April of this year, CEBEO joined the project and other suppliers have since responded positively to the development. Why does the VDAB use e-invoicing? “Obviously this automation saves you time and money, but the reduced risk of ‘fake’ invoices is also invaluable.”

Towards 100% incoming invoices through Peppol

It has been using e-invoicing for 20 years and the VDAB can truly be called a front-runner in the field of e-procurement in Flanders. “We have undergone a tremendous evolution in terms of e-invoicing,” says Sarah De Coninck, Provincial Expert on Finance at VDAB. "In 2019, 78% of our incoming invoices came through the Peppol network. In the corona year 2020, VDAB received 35,500 invoices, 86% of which through Peppol. This year we’re at around 90%. Our goal is to develop to 100%.” Peppol enables VDAB to ensure rapid payment of invoices, which happens on average within 48 hours.

With such good figures, it is perhaps not surprising that the VDAB received an e-Fa award from the Government of Flanders, with GS1 Belgilux as judge. Over the years, VDAB has worked to ensure that 65% of its incoming invoices are already being processed automatically, without any manual intervention. In terms of outgoing invoices, the company is also committed to digitisation. “23% of our outgoing invoices are currently sent electronically through Peppol. Add 14% by e-mail with electronic attachments and we arrive at 4 out of 10 invoices being sent electronically. By the end of the year, we hope to be above 50% electronic,” says Dieter Cools, Analyst and Programmer at VDAB

VDAB op de e-Fa awards

Convinced of the benefits

What benefits does switching to e-invoicing offer? “On the one hand, there are of course cost and time savings, but what is also remarkable for us is the reduced chance of falsification in the incoming invoices,” explains Dieter Cools. “On a paper invoice, for example, it is easy to falsify an IBAN account, which meant employees had a full-time job checking whether invoices were correct. Thanks to Peppol that is no longer an issue.” Furthermore, the archiving of invoices is also easier when processed electronically. 


In spite of all these advantages, automation is nevertheless the main reason to engage in e-invoicing. “Within VDAB we use unique purchasing references for our suppliers. If those credentials are filled in correctly, the process is fully automated and we gain all the aforementioned benefits.” 


The organisation also wants to encourage the use of Peppol. “I also foresee the use of Peppol evolving from B2G to B2B in the coming years. It would be useful if every company had some sort of virtual mailbox on the Peppol network thus enabling all communication to run smoothly, automatically and electronically through a unified system.” For example, the professional eBox can offer significant added value.

Trial and error

In 2018, VDAB was the first to get on board of the Government of Flanders’ e-ordering project, with GS1 Belgilux participating in the e-ordering working group. Learning how to use it optimally was a matter of trial and error. “There was initially no Order Response, which made it difficult to find where certain orders were getting stuck. Now this has been resolved and in order to safeguard our ordering procedure during the testing of new business, we were able to quickly switch over to our old procedure until everything was resolved”, explains Simon D’Haeninck, Business Analyst at the VDAB.

“In the meantime, FOD BOSA has also set up a help desk, which makes it easier for us to ask questions if we encounter issues,” adds Krist Dewilde, Analyst and Programmer at VDAB. Thanks to this help desk, everything is now running more smoothly and the VDAB is currently considering a further roll-out. Since then, CEBEO has also joined in and VDAB is currently in the process of setting up e-ordering with Staples. 

Een online helpdesk

In the e-ordering project, VDAB was also able to count on the support and expertise of the Peppol knowledge centre at GS1 Belgilux. “GS1 helped us test various procedures and we also followed a number of training sessions. They also occasionally host sessions at the Government of Flanders' e-invoicing working group, where GS1 suggests formats that we might not immediately consider useful and points out the benefits of e-procurement scenarios.” 

VDAB is ready to continue working on its e-procurement implementation and hopes to maintain and further improve its impressive figures in the future. 

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