Delegates from 15 European countries met in Brussels recently to discuss ways in which eProcurement can be used to help small to medium sized businesses (SME’s) gain new sales and operate more profitably. A pan-European ICT and eBusiness network has been formed to identify and spread successful eBusiness techniques in all the 33 countries of Europe. The new network will be open to all European SMEs and their representatives.
Small firms are at the heart of economic activity throughout the European Union. In total European firms in this category number around 12 million, and form the vast majority of all European businesses. Whilst large multinational enterprises are likely to have a specialist ICT department and to have gained considerable expertise in trading online, there is significant danger that SME’s will be left behind. This is especially true as more and more public sector bodies move to buying online (i.e. using eProcurement) in all member countries. The public sector is an important area of business for SMEs, which tend to be biased towards service industries. It is also true that confidence gained in selling online to the public sector- termed “B2P” can also be used in B2C (business to consumer) and B2B (business to business) sales. Cutting out errors and unnecessary paperwork and having payments processed on time is also just as beneficial to SME’s as it is to public bodies and larger businesses.
Freek Posthumus, ICT and e-Business leader of the European SME Association has been appointed as the administrator of the new ICT and eBusiness network. He is determined that small European firms will not fall by the wayside. He said “There is much good practice we can learn from. In some countries such as Denmark it is e-invoicing which has been given most emphasis. The Danish government has succeeded in converting around 80% of its SMEs to the Internet as a result. In other countries such as the UK, it is the ability to offer SMEs a trading website which has been the starting point. Organisations such as @UK PLC –represented at the meeting by its Chief Executive Lyn Duncan, can offer up examples of UK local authorities making thousands of their orders this way. One aspect of our work will hence be to make everyone aware of what is going on in other countries” An important catalyst to spreading eBusiness techniques throughout all member states, and hence also stimulate cross-border trading will be to seek common standards for e-trading. Looking at the structure of e-order and e-invoicing messages and promoting harmonization will hence also be a priority for the SME network”.
The two leading European SME organisations UEAPME and NORMAPME hosted the first meeting. Hans-Werner Muller, President of NORMAPME and Secretary General of UEAPME told delegates that “Our slogan, ‘Think Small First’, has been adopted by European Politicians. The role of our new network will be to get SMEs using eBusiness to buy and sell, and that will bring immediate growth to Europe” The meeting agreed on an action plan to be completed by two task forces in time for the next meeting in September. All participants in the meeting will also review what implementation projects they wish to see to promote greater SME participation in eBusiness in their own country and Europe-wide.
For more information contact;Lyn Duncan, CE of @UK PLCFreek Posthumus, ICT and e-Business leader of the European SME Association