The EU directives on public procurement, which mandate the adoption of e-Tendering platforms, are the most enticing driver for promoting the digitalization of companies across the EU and the development of e-commerce networks. Public procurement, besides its relevance for each member state’s GDP, impacts a wide range of categories of spending, meaning that its impact on individual companies is far greater than just the top 1000 private corporations.

Governments and policymakers in general should have a framework for the implementation of Public eProcurement that goes beyond the procurement procedure itself to promote the development of services that improve the efficiency of the companies, their visibility over the market’s growth drivers, their benchmarking against competition and the stimulation of new commercial relationships.

The new EU procurement directives can be seen either as a new ruling to comply with or as a strategic opportunity to create digital networks able to compete against the most well-known B2B e-commerce networks in the world, none of which are European.

In order to be used as a strategic opportunity, the implementation of Public eProcurement has to be holistic, involving professional technology providers able to deliver innovative services and provide a quality service, a regulatory entity able to define the technology requirements and business model to prevail in the country, universities able to promote the dissemination of best practices of Public eProcurement and the required political sponsorship.

By 18 April 2016, the deadline enforced by the directives, only nine member states had transposed the EU directives into national legislation. Several other member states are currently working on their transposition but a very few of them are showing signs of having a strategic framework for the implementation of Public eProcurement technologies.

The context varies across the member states, but it is possible to identify two major groups: a) the ones with an established marketplace of several qualified Public eProcurement solutions providers and b) the ones where there are no established providers, or where there is no relevant practical experience in the implementation and operation of Public eProcurement platforms.

The challenges are different for these two groups, but the opportunity is the same: to create a momentum that will boost the digitalization of SMEs and promote e-commerce networks across Europe.

Mistakes to avoid should be the development of software applications from scratch that, besides the excessive budget and large implementation time required, fail to address the most relevant parts of the equation, which is to provide a quality service, explore new services, bring innovation over time, promote commercial activity between companies and to include SMEs in the public procurement.

There is a large number of platform providers of Public eProcurement in the EU with more than five years of experience in the field, all of them ready to operate and offer their solutions in every country in the European Union, as long as there is a transparent framework to define the business model and operation requirements in each country. This should be the role of governments in the Public eProcurement arena: to manage the legislation and define a comprehensive framework for the operation of platform providers, the tax payers, the contracting authorities and the economic operators being the ones most likely to benefit from such a role.