Simple B2B Connectivity Using Punchout
Now, let's focus on two of the B2B connectivity problems previously mentioned, and illustrated in Figure 1.5. First, let's discuss the supplier connectivity problem and present a solution based on IBM's WCBE for connectivity of suppliers to diverse procurement systems. Second, a discussion of marketplace connectivity takes place, as well as a presentation of a solution based on IBM's Web Sphere Commerce Suite and Marketplace Edition (WCS MPE) for connectivity of marketplaces to diverse procurement systems and diverse supplier systems.
Most procurement systems and private marketplaces support the notion of punch-out (albeit sometimes using a different term, such as Roundtrip, used by Commerce One). A buyer at a procurement system or marketplace selects a remote supplier, and the buyer is automatically logged on to the supplier catalog server and presented with a catalog customized for his organization, with renegotiated prices. The buyer shops at the site, as the items selected for purchase are being stored in a shopping cart. On checkout, the shopping cart contents are sent back to the buyer's procurement system for agreement. The procurement system provides workflow for approvals and, on approval, a purchase order is sent from the procurement system to the supplier. Further messages may be exchanged between the supplier and the procurement system, such as shipping notices and invoices. By having punch-out ability, marketplaces and suppliers can interoperate with procurement systems or marketplaces, with significant profit to both buyers and suppliers.
For instance, IBM's WCBE is a key for the business-to-consumer trade, while WCS MPE supports the private trading exchange customers. Customers can hook up to the WCBE Web site, browse via the catalog, and place orders. In the case of WCS MPE, customers have the advantage of working with a variety of trading mechanisms, such as ask for reverse auctions, quotations (RFQs), auctions, and exchanges. It is particularly useful, given the rising trends in the industry, that the Web Sphere Commerce products have punch-out ability and can interoperate with buyers' procurement marketplaces and systems.
Though WCS MPE supports aggregation of suppliers' catalogs, certain suppliers may have huge catalogs and their systems may consist of complex configuration tools. Frequently, it is not sufficient to offload supplier catalogs into outside marketplaces. Thus, suppliers often have their supply-side Web sites enabled for punch-out, and expect WCS MPE to start punch-out to the supplier Web site.
Catalog aggregation in the current WCS MPE product is completed using the Web Sphere Catalog Manager (WCM) product. WCM supports the loading of catalog data into an electronic marketplace (EMP) database, transforming catalog data fromASCII, spreadsheet, and XML formats into a canonical XML format, and extracting catalog data from any relational database. Additional enhancements to carry industrial catalogs are designed for future versions of WCM.
Many huge corporations have comparatively independent subsidiaries and are standard examples of customers that need support for both receiving punch-out requests and initiating punch-out requests. Such corporations often have aggregated supplier catalogs across their subsidiaries, so their customers observe a unified company-wide catalog and necessitate support for receiving punch-out requests from the buyers' procurement systems to the aggregated catalog. They also necessitate punch-out initiation functionality to connect from their aggregated- catalog server to individual catalogs supported by their subsidiaries.