The 2010/09/02 at 11:12
To make a place in the sun for themselves in the sales revolution world, vendors need to rely on “agile” IT infrastructures. The aim: to be highly reactive and to automate a maximum of collaborative processes with their partners: suppliers, transporters, logisticians, central purchasing systems, brands…
According to a Forrester Consulting survey, the reality lags far behind: two-thirds of vendors exchange electronic documents (orders, invoices, product descriptions, reports…) with around 60% of their partners via EDI (electronic data interchange) or B2B procedures such as electronic marketplaces. Even worse, 42% of businesses continue to exchange their electronic documents in the form of spreadsheet or word files with 40 to 100% of their partners.
And nevertheless, no shortage of technological solutions exists. First of all, the ERP (enterprise resource planning) solutions such as those by Infor, Lawson Software, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP or TioLive, offering to take care of essential functions such as the management of orders, purchases, logistics and transport, invoicing, finance and accounting… Certain, such as SAP, also succeed in managing electronic marketplaces. However, the sales management of vendors requires more specific functions.
And it is in this domain that the US editor Sterling Commerce scores points. Its Integrator software manages the translation of files and incoming and outgoing messages, and controls the flow of EDI exchanges or other types of data. Nothing very original up to this point. These are services also offered by the software of EAI (enterprise application integration) specialists such as Tibco. As well as ERP editors which, for several years now, have placed EAI or its modern pendant ESB (enterprise service bus) at the heart of service-oriented architecture (SOA) making ERP infrastructures more agile.
On the other hand, the position of Sterling Commerce is unique in the world for two reasons: Integrator provides inter-party communication verification, follow-up and control procedures, and manages the exchange of very large volumes of data. As well as this, the SOA of Integrator orchestrates data exchanges with different applications not only between the different entities of the one group, but also with outside partners. This is how it distinguishes itself.
“The advantage is that a mass distribution group can play the role of an orchestra conductor by offering these services to its partners. Like the shift to EDI, Web EDI or B2B exchanges,” comments Dave Carmichael, Head of Product Marketing at Sterling Commerce. “This is particularly interesting for small suppliers who have neither the means nor the expertise to launch themselves in such projects. In this case, large distributors become the sponsors of this modernisation.”
A modernisation facilitated by cloud computing: all these integrated functionalities are accessible remotely by Internet on the editor’s data warehouse. This is a development that significantly simplifies and accelerates deployment. “Small actors thus have access to high-quality functionalities, such as the transfer of very large files to their databank when they need them, for example, once a month,” explains Joel Reed, Senior Vice-President Product Management and Marketing of Sterling Commerce.
It is thus from this base that large brand names including Best-Buy and Auchan, have built their transformational programmes. “Essentially on two axes: the integration of partner communities and the management of orders,” continues Joel Reed. Another advantage of the SOA is that Integrator is accessible on iPhone! “With this application, available from the Apple AppStore, we are kept up to date on alerts, we dig into the details of an incident, we initiate calls to IT staff or launch the re-initialisation
of a procedure,” explains William McKinney, International Product Marketing Manager. In the long term, all large applications in sales IT are expected to develop their mobility – thus guaranteeing vendors instantaneous reactivity. It comes as no surprise that IBM has decided to take over Sterling Commerce for 1.5 billion dollars
(1.13 billion euros).