Dell and WebMethods Devise B-to-B Starter Kit

Dell Computer Corp. last week unwrapped a joint product offering with webMethods Inc. designed to allow companies to take a relatively easy first step toward integrating external procurement systems with internal ERP (enterprise resource planning) processes.

The offer will initially benefit companies that buy equipment directly from Dell using its Premier Pages -- customized intranet sites that give ongoing buyers the ability to track and manage their company's system purchases from Dell. The legwork involved in installing a single XML-based procurement system does lay the foundation for quickly connecting to multiple business partners online, officials from both companies said.

The webMethods software uses XML to create an electronic "pipeline" that links companies' internal procurement systems directly to Dell's Premier Pages. Users working within the SAP program, for example, will be able to "punch out" to their Dell Premier Page site, place an order, and create a purchase order in one step.

The integration will reduce the costs related to processing purchase orders as well as speed order-to-delivery times,Chip designer LSI Logic Corp. piloted the integrated system from Dell for several months. The company was able to cut the cost of a purchase order with Dell from US$25 apiece to $5 and cut the time it takes to order a new computer from two weeks to two days, said John Flebut, director of LSI Logic's e-business solutions group, in Austin, Texas.

"It's difficult to do the ERP integration, but if you have the infrastructure, it really isn't as hard as you might think. It is possible," Flebut said.

From design to launch can take as little as three months, according to Terry Klein, vice president of Dell's advanced systems group in Austin.

Round Rock, Texas-based Dell will offer its PowerEdge servers bundled with webMethods' business-to-business application integration software, a move that will allow businesses to link their ERP or procurement systems directly not only with those of Dell but potentially with those of other trading partners as well.

As part of the offer, dubbed the Rapid Trading Partner Enablement bundle, Dell will also sell online procurement applications, PowerApp Web servers, and consulting services, officials said. Prices will start at about $50,000.

For an additional fee, webMethods will work with Dell customers to extend its b-to-b product so that companies can communicate directly with other suppliers for MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) or office supply purchases, for example, said Debbie Rosen, vice president of business development at webMethods.

The Dell offering allows them to "put their toes in the water" and see if such an investment pays off, said Tom Fountain, director of b-to-b integration with the Dell Relationship Group. The effort will help Dell sell more of its servers as well as aid Dell in improving its customer "stickiness" by providing a better buying experience, officials said.

James Niccolai is a San Francisco-based senior correspondent for the IDG News Service, an InfoWorld affiliate.

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