Sites such as Epylon, a supplier-neutral marketplace, allow buyers to shop for all school products and supplies at a single online location, says Kim McNair, the company's senior director of marketing and communications.
Co-founded in April 1999 by Stephen J. George, a former Goldman, Sachs & Co. vice president, Epylon continues to beta test its tailor-made offering with 55 school districts and 1,200 suppliers. Another 1,000 school districts and government agencies have signed on for its national rollout this summer. Newcomer Simplexis, which launched in February 2000, currently facilitates online transactions between 24 school districts and 1,200 suppliers, though 200 additional school districts are expected to come aboard shortly. At both companies, the numbers of involved districts and suppliers are growing substantially each month, as are their employee bases, which as of June totaled 150 at Epylon and 85 at Simplexis.
End-to-End in Mind
While the companies approach e-procurement from distinct platforms Epylon's original, Simplexis' borrowedboth profess long-term goals of end-to-end automation, from purchase order creation to supplier payment. Currently, however, their electronic linkages short-circuit at the back end.
Complete e-procurement solutions for the public sector will not materialize overnight, tempers Amar Singh, Simplexis co-founder and CEO. The adoption rate will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, Alexander concurs.
School procurement professionals, however, can still realize improvements from current and front-end capabilities, the steps that precede purchase order transmittal to the supplier.
Simplexis Up Close
From the purchaser's perspective, the Simplexis product is a zero-cost, third party-hosted online purchasing system. Specifically, it's a customized version of Commerce One's BuySite software, with installation, setup and maintenance handled by application service provider Corio.