Breaking the B2B Bottleneck

Edifecs ships trading partner-enablement solution.

Bellevue, WA  Nov. 13, 2000  Edifecs, a provider of B2B technology solutions and services, today announced the availability of CommerceDesk 4.0, the company's solution for alleviating what it says is the No. 1 bottleneck restricting B2B e-commerce today: trading-partner enablement.

Enablement is the process of preparing a company, its internal systems and its trading partners to begin conducting electronic transactions over all the company's trading networks, including both e-marketplaces and traditional hub-and-spoke networks.

A study to be released today by Edifecs confirms that, for companies working on e-commerce initiatives, the task of enabling relationships with their trading partners is complex, time-consuming and expensive. The relationship with each partner involves a variety of processes, and each process takes an average of 103 person-days to e-enable, resulting in costs that can range from $20,000 to $50,000 for each process, according to the Edifecs study. Moreover, most companies use manual processes  phone, fax and e-mail  to accomplish these enablements.

As a result, e-commerce initiatives are moving ahead slowly while companies work to enable their most strategic supply chain relationships, and the biggest challenge currently facing online trading communities is the paucity of trading partners who are conducting transactions online.

Discussing the results of the Edifecs survey, Jennifer Hurshell, the company's vice president for marketing, said: "Most companies engaged in B2B initiatives are doing business with less than one-quarter of their trading partner base. It's taking forever to get companies and their business partners ready and prepared for transaction. True B2B is a fallacy unless we can help enterprises quickly grow their B2B communities."

Edifecs believes that CommerceDesk will help resolve this bottleneck by expediting the enablement process so companies can rapidly extend e-enabled trading-partner relationships across their supply chains.

Based on common technologies and platforms, CommerceDesk consists of both server- and desktop-based components. Trading partner communities running CommerceDesk can be hosted by either a service provider or an enterprise, and the solution is accessible to all trading partners over the Internet through standard Web browsers.

CommerceDesk consists of a server that provides the core Web-based community functionality, including trading-partner management, collaboration, testing and validation, administration and reporting; applications that provide add-on component functionality, such as solutions for deploying Web-based forms for use by non-EDI enabled partners; desktop tools; and an online repository for managing and sharing the latest standards guidelines and specifications. CommerceDesk users can also take advantage of professional services for deployment, customization, training and support.

Edifecs founder and CEO Gurpreet "Sunny" Singh explained that at the start of the enablement process, a company must determine the nature and content of the relationships it wants to have with its partners. CommerceDesk then allows the company to scale its online trading community to encompass increasing numbers of partners, establish a platform for managing the community and analyze the dynamics of the community to optimize the partnerships. "This whole 'ramp, scale, iterate and analyze' is an iterative process," Singh said, adding, "Our intent is to reduce the cost and time of enablement by 55 percent to 65 percent" by taking advantage of the repetitive nature of the enablement process.

Singh set up Edifecs in 1996 after 12 years working in B2B integration at such companies as Microsoft and Expeditors International, where he developed, implemented and managed supply chain and B2B projects and systems for more than 100 organizations in the distribution, transportation, retail, software and logistics arenas. "I have done hundreds of implementations for enabling partners, and I have endured the pain" involved in those implementations, Singh said.

Edifecs is targeting Global 10,000 companies that are looking to establish virtual private networks, or trading communities, as well as B2B integrators, service providers, value-added networks, industry consortia and e-marketplace providers.

For example, General Electric's Global eXchange Services (GXS), an Edifecs partner, is using CommerceDesk to help solve enablement challenges for clients of the 100,000-member GXS value-added network. "This Web-based technology fits very well within GXS's overall portfolio of solutions designed to help companies achieve 100 percent trading-partner participation in their B2B e-commerce communities," said Otto Kumbar, vice president of interchange solutions for GXS.

Singh believes that the market for community-based solutions will rise sharply in the next few years as increasing numbers of companies seek to e-enable their supply chains. "I think we are going to ride the wave when the market explodes next year," he said.

CommerceDesk 4.0 is the first production version of CommerceDesk. The first two versions were a protype and beta version. Edifecs skipped version three because the company wanted to include various additional, existing tools in the production version.

Edifecs is licensing CommerceDesk through a partner network to solutions and service providers who can benefit from incorporating a CommerceDesk community into their offering. Prices start at $100,000 and vary according to partner type, CommerceDesk version and size of the trading community.