What is PEPPOL?

Steve Martin
March 6, 2023
eCommerce marketplace

PEPPOL and its purpose

Hello, and welcome to the fascinating world of PEPPOL! If you've stumbled upon this blog post, chances are you're interested in learning more about PEPPOL and how it can benefit your business. In this guide, we will delve into the definition and purpose of PEPPOL, giving you a comprehensive understanding of this interoperable framework.

What is PEPPOL?

PEPPOL, for Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line, is a comprehensive business network that simplifies and standardises procurement processes for companies and governments across Europe and beyond. Initially launched by the European Union, PEPPOL has become a widely recognised framework enabling effortless communication and document sharing between organisations, promoting cross-border interoperability.

PEPPOL's Purpose

The main objective of PEPPOL is to simplify international trade by eliminating obstacles created by various systems and formats. Through consistent regulations, standards, and specifications, PEPPOL streamlines the process of sending and receiving invoices, purchase orders, and other procurement-related documents for companies, regardless of location or the systems they utilise.

Here's a brief overview of PEPPOL's key objectives:

  1. Interoperability: PEPPOL enables businesses to connect with their trading partners through a single, unified network, reducing the need for multiple EDI connections and simplifying the overall process.
  2. Efficiency: By standardising business document formats and communication protocols, PEPPOL eliminates the need for manual data entry and reduces the risk of errors, leading to more efficient procurement processes.
  3. Cost Savings: With streamlined communication and standardised processes, businesses can save time and resources, which translates to cost savings.
  4. Compliance: PEPPOL ensures that all business documents exchanged within the network comply with regional and international regulations, ensuring a hassle-free and compliant trading experience.

Now that you have a basic understanding of PEPPOL and its purpose, stay tuned for the next chapter, where we'll explore the critical components of the PEPPOL network and how they work together to make your procurement experience seamless and efficient.

The PEPPOL network

In this chapter, we will explore the details of the PEPPOL network, specifically how it enables the exchange of business documents between various organisations. To fully comprehend the capabilities of PEPPOL, it is crucial to grasp its distinctive four-corner model, which enables smooth communication between parties.

The Four-Corner Model

The PEPPOL network uses a communication structure called the four-corner model, which helps businesses exchange documents with their trading partners. This model reduces the need for multiple connections and format adjustments. The four-corner model involves the following key players:

  1. Sender: The sender or the organisation that initiates the exchange of business documents, such as invoices or purchase orders, with its trading partners.
  2. Sender's Access Point (AP): An authorised service provider that connects the sender to the PEPPOL network and ensures the documents comply with the PEPPOL standard.
  3. Receiver's Access Point (AP): An authorised service provider that receives the documents from the sender's AP and delivers them to the receiver.
  4. Receiver: The organisation that ultimately receives the business documents sent by the sender.

How It Works

Now that you're familiar with the four-corner model let's take a closer look at how these components work together to provide a seamless and efficient procurement experience:

  1. Sending: The sender creates a business document (e.g., an invoice) and sends it to their AP. This document is then converted into a PEPPOL-compliant format before being sent to the PEPPOL network.
  2. Identification: Within the PEPPOL network, each organisation is assigned a unique PEPPOL ID identifier. This ID is used to route documents to the correct receiver's AP.
  3. Delivery: The sender's AP forwards the document to the receiver's AP, which is identified using the PEPPOL ID. This ensures that the document reaches its intended destination securely and accurately.
  4. Receiving: The receiver's AP converts the PEPPOL-compliant document back into its preferred format, making it easier for the receiver to process and integrate the document into their existing systems.
  5. Successful Use: By leveraging the four-corner model, organisations can exchange business documents with their trading partners quickly and efficiently, ultimately improving procurement processes and reducing costs.

The PEPPOL network's four-corner model simplifies communication and document exchange among organisations, leading to increased efficiency, cost savings, and improved trading experiences. The next chapter will discuss the benefits of adopting PEPPOL and how it can transform your procurement processes.

Benefits of Using the PEPPOL Network

As we've explored in the previous chapters, the PEPPOL network is a game-changer in streamlining procurement processes and facilitating cross-border trade. But what exactly are the benefits of using PEPPOL? In this chapter, we'll discuss the advantages of adopting the PEPPOL network for your organisation.

  1. Reduced Complexity: The four-corner model simplifies exchanging business documents by allowing organisations to communicate with multiple trading partners through a single connection. This reduces the complexity of managing multiple formats and protocols, enabling smoother communication between parties.
  2. Increased Efficiency: By standardising document formats and automating the exchange of procurement-related documents, PEPPOL eliminates the need for manual data entry and minimises the risk of errors. This leads to more efficient processes and reduced processing times, allowing organisations to focus on their core business operations.
  3. Cost Savings: Adopting the PEPPOL network can lead to significant cost savings for organisations. By streamlining communication and reducing the need for multiple EDI connections, businesses can save time and resources, lowering operational costs.
  4. Enhanced Compliance: The PEPPOL network ensures that all business documents exchanged within the system comply with regional and international regulations. This ensures a compliant trading experience, reducing the risk of penalties and legal issues arising from non-compliance.
  5. Expanded Business Opportunities: With its standardised framework and international reach, PEPPOL enables organisations to tap into new markets and forge relationships with trading partners across borders. By breaking down trade barriers, PEPPOL can help businesses expand their operations and grow their customer base.
  6. Eco-Friendly: Transitioning to the PEPPOL network and electronic document exchange can contribute to a greener, more sustainable business environment. Organisations can decrease their carbon footprint and promote sustainability by reducing paper usage and minimising the need for physical storage.
  7. Improved Supplier Management: The PEPPOL network simplifies the process of onboarding and managing suppliers, leading to stronger relationships and improved supply chain efficiency. With PEPPOL, businesses can easily connect with their suppliers, speeding up the procurement process and reducing the likelihood of communication breakdowns.

In conclusion, adopting the PEPPOL network offers a range of benefits that can transform your organisation's procurement processes and lead to increased efficiency, cost savings, and enhanced business opportunities. By embracing PEPPOL, your organisation can stay ahead of the curve and enjoy the advantages of seamless, standardised, and efficient cross-border trade.

PEPPOL Identifiers and Their Importance

As we've explored the PEPPOL network and its benefits, it's crucial to understand the role of PEPPOL identifiers in the system. In this chapter, we'll define PEPPOL identifiers, explain their importance, and discuss their impact on the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the PEPPOL network.

What are PEPPOL Identifiers?

PEPPOL identifiers are unique codes assigned to each organisation participating in the PEPPOL network. These identifiers enable the accurate routing and delivery of business documents between trading partners. Essentially, PEPPOL identifiers serve as the "addresses" within the network, ensuring that documents reach their intended recipients securely and accurately.

PEPPOL identifiers are based on the international standard ISO/IEC 6523, which ensures their uniformity and compatibility across different countries and systems. The identifiers comprise two components:

  1. International Code Designator (ICD): This component signifies the registration authority responsible for maintaining the unique identifiers for the organisations within a specific country or region.
  2. Organisation Identifier: This component is the unique code assigned to a specific organisation by the registration authority.

Combined, these two components create a globally unique identifier that can be used for document exchange within the PEPPOL network.

Importance of PEPPOL Identifiers

PEPPOL identifiers play a critical role in the overall functioning of the PEPPOL network. Their importance lies in the following aspects:

  1. Accurate Document Routing: PEPPOL identifiers ensure that business documents are accurately routed to their intended recipients, preventing miscommunication or lost documents. This accuracy contributes to the overall efficiency of the PEPPOL network.
  2. Simplified Communication: By assigning a unique identifier to each organisation, PEPPOL enables seamless communication between trading partners, regardless of their location or the systems they use. This simplifies the procurement process and reduces the complexity of cross-border trade.
  3. Improved Security: PEPPOL identifiers contribute to the network's security by verifying the sender and receiver's identities. This reduces the risk of fraud and unauthorised access to sensitive information.
  4. Enhanced Interoperability: Using standardised PEPPOL identifiers promotes interoperability between different systems and countries, ensuring a smooth and consistent user experience within the network.
  5. Streamlined Onboarding: PEPPOL identifiers make it easy to onboard new trading partners, as organisations can quickly locate and connect with their suppliers and customers using their unique codes.

In summary, PEPPOL identifiers are a critical component of the PEPPOL network, ensuring accurate document routing, simplified communication, and enhanced security. By understanding the importance of PEPPOL identifiers, organisations can fully appreciate the capabilities and advantages of the PEPPOL network in streamlining procurement processes and facilitating cross-border trade.

Typical Documents Used in PEPPOL, BIS and the UBL Standard

This chapter will explore the standard documents used within the PEPPOL network, delving into the Business Interoperability Specifications (BIS) and Universal Business Language (UBL) standards. Understanding these document types and their associated standards is essential for businesses looking to leverage the full potential of the PEPPOL network.

PEPPOL BIS (Business Interoperability Specifications)

PEPPOL BIS is a set of specifications designed to facilitate seamless and interoperable document exchange within the PEPPOL network. They define the structure, format, and validation rules for various business documents, ensuring consistency and compliance across the network.

Some common BIS message types include:

  1. Billing: The BIS Billing specification covers electronic invoices and credit notes, outlining the required data elements and format for these documents. This ensures that invoices and credit notes are accurately transmitted and processed within the PEPPOL network
  2. Orders: The BIS Orders specification governs the structure and format of purchase order documents used to request goods or services from suppliers. By adhering to this specification, businesses can ensure smooth communication with their trading partners and efficient processing of purchase orders.
  3. Order Responses: The BIS Order Response specification deals with the documents used by suppliers to confirm or reject a purchase order. It defines the required data elements and format, facilitating streamlined communication between buyers and suppliers
  4. Catalogues: The BIS Catalogue specification provides guidelines for exchanging product and service catalogues between suppliers and buyers. This standardisation enables businesses to quickly and easily share their product information, reducing errors and misunderstandings.
  5. Despatch Advice: The BIS Despatch Advice specification outlines the structure and format of documents used to provide information about the shipment of goods. This helps businesses keep track of their shipments and ensures accurate communication of shipping details.

UBL (Universal Business Language) Standard

UBL is an XML-based markup language developed by OASIS (Organisation for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) to standardise the electronic exchange of business documents. The UBL standard is used with PEPPOL BIS to ensure consistent and interoperable communication within the PEPPOL network.

UBL provides standard XML schemas for various business documents, such as invoices, purchase orders, and despatch advice. By adopting the UBL standard, organisations can seamlessly exchange documents with their trading partners, regardless of their location or the systems they use.

In conclusion, understanding the typical documents used within the PEPPOL network and the BIS and UBL standards is crucial for businesses looking to take advantage of the PEPPOL network's capabilities. These standards and specifications enable efficient and accurate communication, ensuring a smooth and seamless procurement process for organisations participating in the network.

What is a PEPPOL Access Point

In exploring the PEPPOL network, it's essential to understand the role of PEPPOL Access Points (APs) in facilitating seamless communication between trading partners. In this chapter, we'll dive into a PEPPOL Access Point concept, explaining its role, functions, and significance within the PEPPOL network.

PEPPOL Access Point: Definition and Role

A PEPPOL Access Point (AP) is an authorised service provider that connects organisations to the PEPPOL network, enabling the secure exchange of electronic business documents with their trading partners. Access Points act as intermediaries in the four-corner model, crucial in transmitting and receiving documents between senders and receivers within the network.

Organisations typically choose a PEPPOL Access Point as their gateway to the PEPPOL network. These APs are responsible for ensuring the documents exchanged comply with PEPPOL standards and facilitating communication between parties, regardless of their location or the systems they use.

Functions of a PEPPOL Access Point

PEPPOL Access Points perform several vital functions within the PEPPOL network:

  1. Document Conversion: APs convert business documents to and from PEPPOL-compliant formats, such as UBL, ensuring that the documents can be transmitted and processed efficiently within the network.
  2. Validation: Access Points validate the exchanged documents against the PEPPOL BIS to ensure they adhere to the required structure, format, and data elements. This guarantees that documents comply with PEPPOL standards and can be processed smoothly by the receiver.
  3. Secure Transmission: APs securely transmit and receive documents within the PEPPOL network, ensuring that sensitive business information is protected and remains confidential during the exchange process.
  4. Routing: Access Points utilise the PEPPOL identifiers to route documents accurately to their intended recipients. This ensures that documents reach the correct destination and minimises the risk of miscommunication or lost documents.
  5. Interoperability: APs ensure that organisations can communicate seamlessly with their trading partners, regardless of their location or the systems they use. This promotes interoperability and streamlines the procurement process for businesses within the PEPPOL network.

Significance of PEPPOL Access Points

PEPPOL Access Points play a critical role in the overall functioning of the PEPPOL network. They enable organisations to:

  • Simplify and streamline their procurement processes.
  • Communicate efficiently and securely with their trading partners.
  • Ensure compliance with regional and international regulations.
  • Participate in cross-border trade with ease.

In summary, PEPPOL Access Points are essential components of the PEPPOL network, providing organisations with a reliable and efficient gateway for exchanging business documents with their trading partners. By understanding the role and functions of a PEPPOL Access Point, organisations can make informed decisions when selecting a service provider and fully leverage the benefits of the PEPPOL network.

The Role of the SMP and the Use of the SML

In this chapter, we'll explore the role of the Service Metadata Publisher (SMP) and the Service Metadata Locator (SML) within the PEPPOL network. These components are essential in ensuring smooth and accurate communication between trading partners.

Service Metadata Publisher (SMP)

A Service Metadata Publisher (SMP) is a specialised server containing information about the PEPPOL network participants, such as their unique PEPPOL identifiers, Access Point details, and supported document types. The SMP acts as a directory, providing essential information for routing and delivering documents within the PEPPOL network.

Role of the SMP

The primary role of the SMP is to facilitate accurate document routing and enable seamless communication between trading partners in the PEPPOL network. The SMP performs the following functions:

  1. Participant Lookup: The SMP allows Access Points to look up recipient organisations using their PEPPOL identifiers, providing information about their Access Point and supported document types.
  2. Document Routing: The SMP helps ensure that documents are accurately routed to their intended destination by providing information about the recipient's Access Point
  3. Interoperability: The SMP supports interoperability by maintaining up-to-date information about each participant's supported document types and formats, allowing senders to generate PEPPOL-compliant documents.

Service Metadata Locator (SML)

The Service Metadata Locator (SML) is a central directory that connects Access Points to the relevant SMPs within the PEPPOL network. When an Access Point needs to send a document to a specific recipient, it first queries the SML to locate the appropriate SMP associated with the recipient's PEPPOL identifier.

Use of the SML

The SML ensures accurate and efficient document exchange within the PEPPOL network. Its primary function is to:

  1. SMP Discovery: The SML enables Access Points to quickly and accurately locate the SMP containing the necessary information for a specific recipient, streamlining the document routing process.
  2. Improved Efficiency: By maintaining a central directory of SMPs, the SML helps reduce the time and effort required for Access Points to locate the correct SMP, resulting in more efficient document exchange within the PEPPOL network.

In conclusion, the SMP and SML are essential components of the PEPPOL network that facilitate seamless communication between trading partners. By understanding the role of the SMP and the use of the SML, organisations can better appreciate the intricacies of the PEPPOL network and fully leverage its capabilities for streamlined procurement and document exchange.


Throughout this guide, we've explored various aspects of the PEPPOL network, including its purpose, structure, benefits, and critical components. As we conclude, it's essential to reiterate the transformative potential of PEPPOL in streamlining procurement processes and facilitating cross-border trade for organisations around the globe.

Key Takeaways

  1. The PEPPOL network simplifies the exchange of electronic business documents, eliminating the need for multiple formats and protocols while promoting interoperability and efficiency.
  2. PEPPOL's four-corner model enables seamless communication between trading partners, reducing complexity and fostering stronger business relationships.
  3. The PEPPOL network offers numerous benefits, including reduced complexity, increased efficiency, cost savings, enhanced compliance, expanded business opportunities, eco-friendliness, and improved supplier management.
  4. PEPPOL identifiers and the UBL standard ensure that documents are accurately routed and adhere to international standards, promoting seamless communication within the network.
  5. PEPPOL Access Points and the SMP-SML duo are critical in connecting organisations to the PEPPOL network and facilitating secure, accurate, and efficient document exchange.

Final Thoughts

Embracing the PEPPOL network can significantly impact your organisation's procurement processes, increasing efficiency cost savings, and enhancing business opportunities. By understanding the intricacies of the PEPPOL network, from its structure to its essential components, your organisation can stay ahead of the curve and fully leverage the advantages of seamless, standardised, and efficient cross-border trade.

As more businesses and governments adopt the PEPPOL network, its potential for transforming procurement on a global scale becomes even more evident. By joining the PEPPOL network, your organisation can become a part of this digital revolution, shaping the future of global trade and reaping the benefits of streamlined communication and collaboration with trading partners worldwide.

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