SAN MATEO (05/12/2000) - As more Internet business-to-business trading exchanges come online, there will be a wider selection from which buy-and sell-side participants may choose. Consequently, building and maintaining business relationships will become a major concern for all involved.
In anticipation, WebMethods Inc. and Ironside Technologies Inc. have been taking steps to provide exchanges with services and extensions to entice and secure participants.
For companies that need to check in and out of exchanges quickly, webMethods is unveiling this week its B2B.com site (www.b2b.com), slated to be available later this year. Hosted by webMethods, B2B.com is meant to hasten the integration of trading partners from start to finish by exploiting webMethods' trading exchange integration experience, said Kristin Weller, vice president of product development.
"We've learned through several deployments that b-to-b integration isn't a core competency [of participants]," Weller said. The B2B.com site will offer graphic step-by-step, customized workflows for each trading partner's specific environment as well as tools for acceleration, such as auto-configuration, resource worksheets, customized software downloads, auto-mapping, help desk functions, and training and certification.
B2B.com software gives webMethods customers that serve as the hubs of exchanges a Web-based path for introducing potential users to the benefits of joining, Weller said. webMethods will also offer knowledge management and reporting features that will allow companies to capture information and keep track of the major facets of trading partner integration, Weller said. B2B.com will also provide license management and version control, help desk support, collaboration, and training and certification, Weller said.
Also being unveiled by webMethods is a Rapid Integration Team, a collection of webMethods' best practices; and webMethods for Trading Networks, which is software for large trading exchanges.
Unlike with EDI (electronic data interchange), Internet exchange users will not be locked in to one another and will need an "easy-to-use, consistent way to integrate themselves" when they move from one exchange to another, said Simon Yates, an analyst at Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
For many companies, exchange integration is "a patchwork [and] not the same level of tightness" offered by B2B.com, Yates said. As volumes increase, the patchwork approach "creates a reliability problem," he said. Also, webMethods will be in a position to collect valuable data on how exchange participants operate, Yates said. Although webMethods has the first-mover advantage, competitors Vitria Software Inc., Extricity Inc., Tibco Software Inc., OnDisplay Inc., Mercator Software Inc., and Ironside are likely to offer alternatives, Yates said.
Ironside's new agreement with Commerce One Inc. is expected to result in the tight integration of the Ironworks' sell-side product suite and the Ironside Network to Commerce One's e-procurement links -- a gateway to multiple exchange access. The Ironside approach attacks the problem from the participants' side, allowing them to fan out among exchanges and find those that they really want to do business with, Yates said.
B2B.com, which enters beta testing this summer, will be available in the fall.
Pricing has yet to be set.
Based in Fairfax, Virginia, webMethods Inc. is at www.webmethods.com. Ironside Technologies Inc. and Commerce One Inc., in Pleasanton, California, are at www.ironside.com and www.commerceone.com, respectively.