Oracle looks to boost b-to-b

Oracle Corp. executives promoted the company's business-to-business exchange and highlighted some of the pitfalls of these sites on Wednesday at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

"In a lot of ways, b-to-b has hit a speed bump," said Jeremy Burton, Oracle's senior vice president for product and services marketing during a keynote speech on Thursday.

The problem, he said, is that companies don't effectively use the technology. Businesses too often entrust employees with buying supplies from an exchange but don't give them enough information to make purchasing decisions, Burton said. Consequently, employees may get good prices from suppliers, but they may also end up buying more or less than the company needs, or incur hidden costs from shipment delays, thus eliminating the advantages of buying at a discount.

A solution to this problem is to link a company's supply chain system with an exchange, so the buyer has concrete and updated information about his or her company's inventory and needs, Burton said.

Unsurprisingly, he pitched Oracle's b-to-b exchange portal, https://www.oracleexchange.com, as a Web site that can cut costs and protect companies from the pitfalls of buying at exchanges. The Oracle site -- essentially an exchange of exchanges -- allows subscribers to build a custom portal with views of each b-to-b marketplace, allowing for a single sign-on to the exchanges. It also allows subscribers to track production and transport of supplies, and links purchase orders to sales forecasts and marketing campaigns.

OracleExchange is currently a free service, requiring no software beyond a standard Web browser. Oracle hopes to encourage customers to use the site, because the more companies use it, the more valuable it becomes for each subscriber, said Peter Heller, marketing senior director, in an interview.

Burton was optimistic in an interview before his presentation about his company's outlook. Oracle pitches its software as a cost-saving mechanism, and companies are looking to save money more now than usual, because of the economic turmoil in the U.S., he said.

"Ford's supply chain is US$80 billion," he said in estimation. "If you can save just one percent of the costs in that supply chain, that's $800 million."

Companies will tend to be more conservative about their capital expenditures given the horror of the current market conditions, but adopting effective e-business practices is a necessity in today's business climate, he said. "You have to do this anyway because your competitors will," he said. "The people who can justify the return will get the money. The people who can't will have to wait."

Oracle AppsWorld continues through Friday at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Information about the conference can be found at http://www.oracle.com/appsworld/us/.

Oracle, in Redwood Shores, California, can be reached at +1-650-506-7000 or at http://www.oracle.com/.

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