Why TrustWeaver decided to offer ‘regulatory mapping’
When the B2B automation world was mostly ‘horizontal’
At TrustWeaver we have long kept to a strict principle of never involving ourselves in transaction management functionality of typical business-to-business flows. Managing data and processes between trading partners is the stronghold of our highly specialised partners. TrustWeaver is a group of lawyers and technicians focused on compliance change management: even if we tried, we would be pretty mediocre at managing automation for business-to-business processes.
Business-to-business transaction automation processes are often graphically represented as part of a horizontal supplier-to-buyer or buyer-to-supplier document flow – below is a random sample of such services:
Mapping and conversion of business data in the flow between trading partners is probably the most commonly used B2B transaction automation service. This is understandable in a world where ERP systems are often highly customized and even two different enterprise systems of the same make and version are not automatically interoperable.
All of this has remained true even in the past couple of years as the EU and other countries have introduced compulsory or optional e-invoicing by private companies that sell to the public sector. In such cases, the buyer is a public administration entity instead of a commercial enterprise. The fact that governments often use legislation to frame or impose such business-to-government e-invoicing does not change the fact that the resulting flow remains horizontal between a supplier and a buyer of goods or services.
Real-time VAT controls add a counterintuitive ‘vertical’ element
Enter ‘clearance’ as a VAT control methodology. When one or both trading partners are required by law to send invoice and other transaction data to a tax administration control platform in real-time or near-real time, an additional process layer is superimposed on top of the horizontal data flows between suppliers and buyers. Logically, such flows are often represented as vertical arrows out of, and often back into, the business process diagram.
To manage these control-focused vertical data flows, enterprise systems often have to adjust to data formats and process types that are specified and imposed by the tax administration. It’s very rare that the specifications used in these flows back and forth to the B2B transaction platform are identical or even close to any existing specification of similar data-sets or processes in the business world. Since these vertical specifications are anchored in law, they are also subject to evolution cycles that are driven by politics and public policy behind closed doors, rather than the inclusive and voluntary change management processes that determine most private sector standards.
Since the impetus to specification changes in the vertical channel is so different from the world of business, managing the mapping and conversion into and out of vertical data standards is not intuitive to businesses and their solution providers. Business tools for mapping and conversion to and from different data formats are widely available at very reasonable cost levels, however implementing and monitoring frequent changes to mapping rules that find their source in regulation create a considerable burden for businesses and their solution providers alike.
TrustWeaver’s approach to break the clearance rollout deadlock
TrustWeaver’s mission is to make it very easy for companies and solution providers to focus on B2B transaction automation while relying on our simple API and cloud service to maintain e-invoicing and e-archiving VAT compliance in almost 60 countries. As mentioned earlier, until recently we considered that data mapping and conversion weren’t functions that contributed to that goal.
Our experience with helping many enterprises and solution providers to exchange data ‘vertically’ in order to ensure VAT compliance in countries with real-time control systems has forced us to change our minds. Therefore, we are adding a vertical mapping service to the range of services that can be accessed from our single, simple cloud compliance API. On a high level, this looks as follows:
With this new service to help B2B transaction automation platforms transform data into and out of regulated ‘vertical’ formats, we are helping our partners and customers to significantly speed up their rollout to countries with real-time VAT control systems. It’s another sign that these types of control systems are challenging many existing assumptions and practices in the old, exclusively ‘horizontal’ business world. With our services, however, businesses can forget about those vertical challenges and keep focused on adding value between each other, while we at TrustWeaver do what we’re do best – change management. With TrustWeaver, the business world remains horizontal.
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Christiaan van der Valk, Company President, TrustWeaver