Businesses across Europe – large and small – will be impacted in some way by the European Union’s (EU’s) Digital Agenda aimed at generating economic growth through better use of technology. They will need to comply with new EU rules and regulations related to how they store information, process business documents, or do business across borders.
At the core of the Digital Agenda are 100 planned actions on topics including the EU’s digital single market, trust and security, and the development of e-skills. Among the 100 are activities aimed at increasing the take up of electronic invoicing across Europe, and initiatives to support small and medium sized businesses to use technology to gain competitive advantage.
According to the European Commission, the ICT sector is directly responsible for 5 per cent of European GDP, with a market value of €660 billion annually. As such, it is important businesses are fully prepared and able to take advantage of the opportunities that the digital agenda will create through the adoption of technology.
Neelie Kroes, the European Union Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, has specifically emphasised that ‘digital transformation’ is essential for the economic future of Europe. Meanwhile, the European Commission’s Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan has gone further, stating that SMEs grow two to three times faster when they adopt ICT.
Europe's SMEs have been swift to implement the latest innovations to achieve better process optimisation and positioning in the competitive marketplace. In some areas of digital transformation they are leading the race: with 64 per cent expecting to digitise their remaining physical documents within the next three years, compared to less than half (46 per cent) of large businesses. However, with even more technology-led change on the way, it is vital that SMEs remain agile and ready to embrace new business opportunities.
The European Commission predicts that the adoption of e-invoicing in public procurement alone will help save up to €2.3 billion across the EU.
In July 2013, the European Commission announced its intention to publish a Directive on e-invoicing in public procurement. The Directive aims to promote the use of e-invoicing in the public sector and enhance interoperability of national e-invoicing systems. The establishment of a European e-invoicing standard is a crucial milestone towards enhancing an effective digital single market. However, if the goals of this Directive are to be achieved, urgent action is required at a European and national level to remove existing obstacles which are hindering the implementation of end-to-end e-procurement across the continent. It’s also important to recognise that the Directive should not be considered exclusive to the public sector. Instead, it needs to be approached as a universally beneficial initiative that should be addressed by organisations in both private and commercial sectors.
Navigating the new world of EU data protection regulation
Why do businesses need to review the way they manage documents ahead of proposed EU data protection reform?
The new data protection regulation sets out to create standardisation and present growth opportunities for European businesses by making it less complex to manage the differing regulations across borders. However, the proposed reform will require businesses to be more responsible and accountable in the way they handle customer and client data, presenting challenges for the way they manage their documents – and the security of the data within them.
Regulatory maze: Rolling out a pan-European cloud
Cloud Computing is considered one of the biggest enablers of business growth in Europe today, with the power to change the way IT delivers economic value to countries, cities, industries and businesses.
But there are a number of challenges for businesses that wish to embrace the cloud, especially for businesses that span multiple EU countries. A number of laws exist across member states regarding what data can be stored or shared with other areas of a business, both locally within the national operation, as well as in other European countries. This means companies often find it challenging to set up a single cloud service for all of their EU operations since many countries do not permit certain data to be housed outside national borders.
Ricoh Europe has successfully navigated this regulatory maze to deploy a unified cloud environment across its European operations.
Energising the European Economy One Step at a Time through Electronic Invoicing
January 2013 marks a significant milestone for one key action of the European Union’s Digital Agenda as the deadline for member states to legislate so electronic and paper invoices are treated equally – removing one of the barriers to European-wide implementation of electronic invoicing (e-invoicing).
Today however, most European businesses are far from prepared. For many businesses looking to switch from paper to electronic invoicing, there are still a number of obstacles to adopting a fully digitised process. The main barriers appear to be the lack of technological expertise or capacity, limited trust in the security of digitised data, and the lack of acceptance by suppliers and customers who are not quite ready to let go of paper systems.