B2B Bottlenecks - getting e-docs flowing
With many of New Zealand’s leading companies developing electronic document exchange “communities” with trading partners it won’t be long before you’ll be expected to send and receive things like purchase orders and invoices electronically too...
While all roads ultimately lead to an electronic utopia where data flows seamlessly within and beyond organisations, there are still roadworks underway and important bridges being built between New Zealand's leading organisations.
In the ideal business world, orders are keyed in once, setting in motion an electronic chain of events generating the correct instructions for suppliers, distributors and customers so goods are delivered in a timely fashion and shelves and warehouses are restocked accordingly.
Two models maturing
The business models have matured in the past two years and fall into two camps: in-house installed systems and third-party message broking services.
Brokers sorting B2B crossfire
For those without the budget or the internal resources to run in-house systems, there are a number of 3rd party message broking gateways that will take your system outputs, send them to your trading partners in the format they require and visa versa.
Local providers of this service include Electronic Commerce Network (ECN), BNZ EDIS, Tranzsoft, Decode and InfoXchange (see the chart that follows this article). ECN and BNZ EDIS are two of the pioneers in this area with ECN handling between 20,000 and 30,000 messages most days. Each has more than 150 organisations engaged and using their services. Just like the telephone network in the early days, these type of networks become increasingly attractive to join as they grow and more of your trading partners become engaged.
3M is a good example of a company benefiting from a third party message gateway. It uses ECN's third party hub to efficiently process sales orders and invoices electronically for its eight divisions across the 8,000 products it stocks. In this case, ECN interfaces directly with the company's AS/400-based ERP system. The move to a third party message broker improved customer service and freed up staff who were once involved in re-keying incoming data.
The ECN type of service appeals to companies that have trouble integrating their orders into an ERP or back-end system, or don't have either. Users simply log on and pick up orders, send an invoice or receive a purchase order acknowledgement.
Conduit Decode is also built on Microsoft's BizTalk and XML, with an optional web interface for clients and trading partners who want translation and support without full internal automated file management. It's used by SellAgence as a service for now but could easily be brought in-house if they wish.
With its new Oracle ERP system, SellAgence is adding shipping notices and invoicing to the forms being translated, and is now encouraging other customers into e-commerce relationships. SellAgence simply points its customers to Conduit or Conduit points its systems to them and away they go.
Comparative Table - Services
The following table outlines some of New Zealands leading providers. It indicates the solution offered by the provider, the type of organisation who should consider their solution and the pricing structure available.