Accenture teams up for b-to-b online offerings

Accenture, formerly known as Andersen Consulting, on Monday announced two separate initiatives in the business-to-business (B2B) online exchange market.

The consulting and services firm announced a software and services offering designed to help companies interested in selling goods on exchanges connect with buyers more easily. Called the eMarketplace Integration Solution and available now, the offering combines software from Microsoft, webMethods, Peregrine Systems, Click Commerce, and Intershop Communications AG.

Accenture integrates the different software pieces, adding customiSed features tailored for the utilities, metals and mining, forest products, and energy industries. Accenture will release versions designed for additional industries in the future, said Stephen Wylie, an Accenture partner, but he declined to specify when.

Accenture's new offering targets the "sell side" of online exchanges by giving companies that want to sell their goods two options: To facilitate single and multiple marketplace connections or to establish a "private" exchange, drawing selected buyers to it, Wylie said..

"Last year, there was a lot of lack of knowledge (about online exchanges); everyone was connecting to exchanges separately," he said. "We said 'Look at it from the sell side point of view, they want one connection to many exchanges.'" He added that smaller companies might find it more efficient to set up private exchanges, where access is granted only to buyers chosen by the seller.

Most customers of the eMarketplace Integration Solution will need to configure the software to their needs, although others "will literally be install and go," Wylie said. The cost of the package will vary for customers, starting somewhere in the "tens of thousands" of dollars.

An online exchange for mining, minerals and metals industries called Quadrem is the first marketplace to use the new offering, Accenture officials said.

Also on Monday Accenture and SAPMarkets, SAP AG's exchange company, announced an agreement to develop and deliver private trading exchanges based around MarketSet, a product developed jointly by SAPMarkets and Commerce One.

Accenture will dedicate a business-to-business development team to deliver a range of exchange solutions. The company also plans to open client showcases in Europe and North America that will demonstrate its ability to integrate MarketSet across a range of hardware and software platforms.

"What we are after here is to create a best-of-breed solution that is open and standards-based, so clients can reduce order-to-delivery times, lessen their cost of inventory and cut the time needed to develop and deliver new products to market," said Lance Grether, who is in charge of enterprise solutions at Accenture.

MarketSet helps virtual communities be more efficient by offering a collaboration platform that helps drive business processes across a range of different platforms as well as value-added services.

(Ed Scannell is an editor at large at InfoWorld, an IDG News Service affiliate.)

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