NEW ORLEANS, April 24, 2001 — Thin margins brought on by high operating expenses have long been a fundamental business problem. Businesses with expensive raw materials, high labor costs or inexpensive end products rely on volume and are forced to monitor every penny spent on design, production and delivery. But with the emergence of electronic marketplaces, industries mired in traditional, paper-based procurement processes can experience a revolutionary change.
Recognizing the power of e-marketplaces to transform the way that businesses relate to one another, Microsoft last September joined forces with Commerce One Inc., the worlds leading provider of global e-commerce solutions for businesses. The Commerce One architecture, combined with robust, accessible, scalable solutions from Microsoft, has already proven a favorite among builders of electronic trading portals, according to Rebecca Kaske, director of B2B and supply chain at Microsoft.
This week the two companies took their alliance a step further. At Commerce Ones eLink conference in New Orleans, Microsoft President and CEO Steve Ballmer and Commerce One Chairman and CEO Mark Hoffman announced the Commerce One MarketSite Gateway for BizTalk Framework, the Commerce One MarketSite Connectivity Kit for Microsoft BizTalk Server and Microsoft Visual Studio, and Microsoft solutions for supplier enablement — technology tools aimed at making it easier for organizations of all sizes to buy, sell and collaborate on the Web. They are the first deliverables in the cooperation announced last September, and proof that the alliance is working for the benefit of companies across the globe.
“Microsoft has been very focused on taking a lot of our underlying technologies and really integrating them as a solution to help suppliers that need easy access to upload catalog, pricing and order information,”
“Were helping suppliers both large and small integrate their environment into Commerce Ones trading environment so they can experience those benefits.”
Connecting via XML
The gateway capitalizes on Microsofts heavy investment in Extensible Markup Language (XML) to let companies connect to Commerce One marketplaces using the BizTalk framework, while the Connectivity Kit allows companies to integrate their own enterprise solutions into the marketplace. The Microsoft supplier-enablement solutions, which are already available, are intended to provide tools, guidance and a user-friendly interface to help businesses implement marketplace connections.
“The gateway provides the dial tone for the developer to communicate with the marketplace,”
says Lou Ann Trojcak, senior director of strategic alliances at Commerce One.
“Its there, its open, it understands when someone is sending it a BizTalk message and what to do with that message. So that opens up the door for a lot of companies that use BizTalk.”
“Microsofts supplier-enablement solutions, combined with the new Connectivity Kit, round out these integration offerings to run across the gamut, from the application level to people who are doing custom integration through RoundTrip to small suppliers using bCentral,”
“The idea is that, whatever the size or shape of the supplier enablement solution chosen by the end user, they will be able to build a connection to the Commerce One marketplace.”
Officials of both companies say this weeks announcement translates to millions of developers all over the world having the tools in their hands to seamlessly build applications that communicate with Commerce One market sites — without having to write any code. As such, Microsoft and Commerce One have lowered the barriers for many businesses to enter electronic marketplaces and bring an online element to what theyre already doing. The more businesses come on board these marketplaces, the more they will benefit.
“The value of these electronic marketplaces has always been liquidity,”
“And liquidity is defined by how many buyers and suppliers are participating in the global trading Web. The more choices there are for buyers, the more information there is for sellers, the greater the benefits for everyone.”
Transforming an Industry
Asite, a United Kingdom-based construction-industry portal, is one company that has already benefited from the Microsoft-Commerce One alliance.
“In an industry as large as ours, the potential returns from even a small savings in procurement costs can be dramatic,”
says Alastair Mellon, senior director of strategy and business development at Asite. Founded in early 2000 by key players in the U.K. construction industry, Asites goal is to become the leading information and transaction hub for the European construction industry.
“We wanted to build a toolkit that would transform the construction industry by driving collaboration and information-sharing to substantially reduce the inefficiency across the construction supply chain,”
“Were trying to integrate the industry here in Europe by deploying a range of applications that address the requirements of everyone involved, whether theyre a client, a designer, general contractor, trade contractor, manufacturer or distributor.”
Like any major Internet portal, the company had to make some difficult technology choices early on in their development.
“Were talking about an industry that invests something like 0.1 percent of revenues back into technology,”
So we needed something that could help bring in the broadest range of buyers and suppliers in an industry that is not terribly savvy with regard to technology.
“Microsoft was an obvious choice as far as applications and database technologies, and we were looking at all our options for a marketplace infrastructure upon which to build everything. So when Microsoft and Commerce One announced their partnership, we knew that the combination would give us best-in-class functionality. Plus, our rollout is a five-to-seven year program. We wanted to be sure that what we were investing in on day one would be there in year three, year five.”
Once the decision was made to move forward with a technology foundation based on Microsoft and Commerce One, Asite was able to get off the ground quickly. In the six months it has been in operation, the Asite portal has developed functionality that substantially surpasses its competitors, who have been developing a custom solution for nearly three years.
“Weve absolutely murdered them,”
“Were selling a coherent set of technologies based on a consistent Microsoft platform with robust, widely applied Commerce One technologies on the procurement side, in just four months. The combination of Microsoft and Commerce One has enabled us to develop a complete solution very quickly.”
As far and fast as Asite has come, the functionality it has planned goes further.
“Were working on a solution now that will enable wireless functionality for Asite,”
“Using these same technologies and the Microsoft Windows CE platform, were going to enable our marketplace functionality to become accessible by workers in the field, so they can order supplies, arrange payment and transportation, and confirm receipt, without having the leave the job site.”
Such a customized application is a large undertaking. But Asite plans to launch the functionality early in June.
“Thats the real power of the Microsoft and Commerce One alliance,”
“That we can do these kinds of amazing things in so little time.”
Bringing B2B to the Masses
But not all businesses have the technological capabilities of an Internet hub like Asite. Another focus of the Microsoft-Commerce One alliance is to enable operations of any size to get on board with e-commerce. With much of the worlds business running on Microsoft technology, the use of Microsoft products on the marketplace side makes it that much easier for those businesses to get started with electronic trade. Breaking down these barriers is one of the main forces driving the partnership.
“Were bringing B2B to the masses,”
“Putting connectivity in the hands of enterprise developers, independent software vendors, onramp partners and suppliers was the crux behind the decision to join forces with Microsoft.”