Digital extends electronic commerce to partners

Digital extends electronic commerce to partners

Digital Equipment Corporation is implementing an electronic commerce solution that will see the bulk of its dealings with business partners and resellers transacted over the Internet.

Digital's manager of Internet business, Hugh Macfarlane, says although Digital already has a system in place, it doesn't handle all of Digital's partners' needs. "What partners typically do at the moment if they want to find information out is go to our web site, whereas if they want to look up the status of orders or place orders they use a different system. What we're doing is creating a new system that combines that functionality and develops on it."

A local initiative of Digital's Australian operation, the project utilises Oasis software from electronic commerce solution developer InterWorld, and will ser- vice the company's mid-range and networking partners.

Phase one will allow partners to track the status of orders and place orders for items the company doesn't account for, such as marketing collateral and product literature. The second phase will actually allow partners to place orders over the Internet. "The things that we account for require a little bit more integration with our legacy systems. Therefore that's stage two," said Macfarlane.

Phase one is expected to be up and running by March, with partners requiring only a PC, modem and browser to access it.

Macfarlane says while the potential for payment over the Internet does exist, he sees little need for its introduction in the short term. "Payments are such a small part of the energy that we and our resellers expend together that solving it with technology isn't necessarily the answer," he said. "Because we have a small number of very high value transactions the payment system doesn't have a big role to play, unlike consumer commerce, where each transaction needs to be paid for at the time of transaction."

With 70 per cent of Digital's business transacted through partners, Macfarlane says finding the best solution to their needs was essential. "They need to be able to find the status of orders, place orders, find out what products are available, and access technical support and information about current marketing initiatives. So we really needed to combine what would typically be called an electronic commerce application with an informational site."

While the technology being implemented is new, Macfarlane says the choice of the InterWorld system was not a difficult one. "Electronic commerce is not new, but electronic commerce over the Internet is. And when we looked for solutions, what we found mostly were enabling technologies. So they were parts of the puzzle - what we actually wanted was a full solution.

"And there really are only a couple in the world, and InterWorld is one of them. It runs on Windows NT, which is our strategic computing platform, and the functionality of the application pretty closely matched what we were looking to do."

Fast track

A remarkable aspect of the project is the short amount of time in which it will be completed. The decision to proceed with the project was taken in December last year; implementation begins in February and roll-out will finish in early March. Macfarlane says while this may seem short, it is because the project could be completed in this timeframe, rather than because it needed to be.

Added impetus for the project came through the cost savings Macfarlane says it will deliver. "We're spending a lot of money on supporting our current systems. The cost of acquiring a new system is actually less than the annual cost of supporting the old system, and so we see a payback easily within a year. The reason for moving quickly therefore is the longer we put it off the less the payback we'll get."

Macfarlane added that, as Digital is doing much of the implementation itself, the company will be able to resell that experience as a service in implementing other InterWorld solutions.

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