Structure in the Quagmire

New consortium offers standards for services

Cupertino, CA November 1, 2000  The Open Buying on The Internet Consortium (OBI) is developing new Internet standard. Allowing buyers and sellers of services to exchange procurement data, businesses will be able to conduct transactions for non-SKU items such as temporary labor and consulting using typical protocols under the new standard.

This marks the first attempt at Internet based standard for complex transactions. Until now, the major standards organizations have focused on requirements for purchasing relatively simple cataloged items that can be easily described by part number. However, complex services are often customized to the needs of a particular user and need to have a standard applied. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, services are the most rapidly growing segment of the U.S. economy and account for more than half of all B2B spending today.

The development of standards for services will significantly empower the future progress of electronic commerce by enabling buyers and sellers to conduct all of their transactions over the Internet, says Monica Luechtefeld, OBIs Board President and Executive Vice President, Electronic Commerce for Office Depot

In October 1996, several Fortune 500 buying and selling organizations formed a roundtable to create an open, vendor-neutral, scalable and secure interoperable standard for business-to-business electronic commerce. The OBI Consortium emerged from that roundtable discussion. The first OBI members included industry giants such as American Express, BASF Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Electric, Hoffmann - La Roche Inc., Lexmark International, National Semiconductor, Office Depot, Pratt & Whitney, United Technologies Research Center, VWR Scientific Products and W.W. Grainger.

Andrew Dent, CTO for Hubspan, of Kirkland, WA, a provider of B2B Internet technology, chairs the Services Track and leads OBIs development effort. OBI members from a broad cross section of industries and organizations representing both U.S. and multi-national corporations join Mr. Dent in developing these standards.

The Consortium expects the full standard to be available by the first quarter of 2001.