The Potential of Visa's XML Standard

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Event Summary

Visa International has introduced a new specification to automate business-to-business (B2B) purchasing functions and monitor travel and entertainment (T&E) expenses worldwide - both on the Internet and in the physical world.

The new Visa Global Invoice Specification uses Extensible Markup Language (XML) to exchange invoice and payment data across industries and technical processing platforms. Implementation of the specification enables corporations to negotiate prices and control costs, as well as increase productivity by eliminating manual processes. It is being introduced as an open standard in the global commercial marketplace.

The new Visa Global XML Invoice Specification was developed with Visa technology partners Commerce One, IBM, Sun Microsystems, Inc. and ValiCert, Inc. These partners provided Visa with an extensive review, validating Visa's efforts to use XML technology and supporting Visa's contribution to the buyer/supplier value chain of enhanced data.

Visa is promoting the specification to software and system developers. With its use, corporate clients will have a standard way to process detailed information on procurement transactions, as well as T&E spending on airline travel, hotels and car rental. Visa plans to expand the specification to support other merchant sectors including healthcare, maintenance, repair & operations (MRO), and fleet services.

The specification may also be used by any system developer seeking a standard and interoperable definition for processing invoice data using XML. It provides a cross-industry, interoperable message format that enables processing of enhanced data across regions and industry sectors.

Market Impact

As the growth of e-commerce has exploded, Visa has been involved with both the consumer and commercial B2B markets to establish common standards and platforms. Examples of these efforts include: Open Platform; Common Electronic Purse Specification (CEPS); EMV (Europay, Mastercard, Visa) standard for chip, credit and debit cards; SET (Secure Electronic Transaction), and the new Visa Global Invoice Specification based on XML.

Visa used the Commerce One Common Business Library (xCBL) as the foundation for the Visa Global XML Invoice Specification and is working with several international XML governing bodies, including ebXML, for its official adoption as a standard. Other international standards organizations include Oasis/, and Microsoft BizTalk.

Visa's announcement has significant potential. Today, nomenclature, languages, and the terminology used to "describe" goods and services inhibit computers from openly sharing information.

Organizations such as Commerce One, Ariba, Oracle and SAP are creating partnerships with industry leaders. The consortia listed above are working to develop e-business standards. Should Visa, or any of industry leaders, require their business partners and supply chain to embrace a particular standard the "acceptance" would be exponential.

As these industry leaders and consortia continue their efforts, we expect to see multiple standards serving a breadth of industries. If accepted, Visa's standard could represent a piece of a larger whole; serving multiple markets and companies.

User Recommendations

Organizations developing their own e-commerce solutions:

Standards affect how business transactions occur today and the form they will take tomorrow. Endorsing the right standard today might save development dollars tomorrow. Without a crystal ball it's difficult to pin point the right one. To learn more, there is a plethora of information available on our site and from the various consortia. Aligning your business in the "right" general direction may help reduce costs later.

Organizations considering an e-commerce application:

Ask your solution provider what standards they are endorsing and what costs are involved if a new or different standard emerges. Be sure to understand who is responsible for updating and maintaining the application now and in the future.


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