The following article was prepared by Mike Taylor, C.P.M. for distribution to NAPM affiliate newsletters. 

Electronic Commerce Basics
December 1998

Feel overwhelmed by the Electronic Commerce Juggernaut? If so, you're probably not alone. The latest reports on Internet usage show consumers acceptance of Internet ordering growing rapidly. The same is true of corporate purchasing. As we heard at the ATC conference in Phoenix; in the next few years most large corporations will be using some form of Electronic Commerce (EC). That's all well and good if you have a large Information Systems (IS) budget and plenty of computer nerds (Nerds) to help you implement.

But what if you don't have a large IS budget and you're the only Nerd in the office?

There are many purchasing people who have learned how to use to order cook books, but find a conversation about implementing EC at the office over their heads. Issues like security, catalog management, database connectivity, user interface, etc. are subjects that someone will have to discuss as part of setting an EC strategy and obtaining competitive proposals. Even if your company hires a few experts, as we learned in Purchasing Basics; "You can do a better job of buying it, if you know something about it."

So how do we start to learn about this subject so we can be ready to jump into the latest trend and keep ourselves and our companies competitive? Unlike the latest news in automotive design and safety features, we aren't going to get EC shoved at us during TV commercials. We'll have to go out and look for the information ourselves. Here are a few suggestions:

1- Talk to purchasing people who have started using EC systems. Spend some time at association meetings, conferences, and workshops asking questions and sharing thoughts.

2- Subscribe to a computer magazine and take a few minutes to read through the articles and the ads. Make a list of terms and keep your own dictionary as you find new ones.

3- Subscribe to an Email news or computer tip service. There are hundreds of free ones. Here is one place to look .

4- Use the Internet at the office and at home so you are familiar with how it operates, and are exposed to Internet concepts.

5- Learn to use Internet search engines and search for information about at least one commodity you buy each week.

5- Spend a few minutes surfing the web pages of EC companies and doing some information gathering. There is a pretty good list of EC sources at

6- Talk to suppliers who have implemented EC programs. Ask each supplier you talk to if they have an EC process set up with any customers. Get the salesman to demonstrate and explain.

7- Plan now to attend the next NAPM ATC conference (or some other conference on the subject).

So what are we looking for? Expertise? I think not. However, we should be striving for some familiarity and comfort with the concepts. You don't have to know how fuel injection works to make the comparison when shopping for a car. You do want to get as much information from as many different sources before talking to the salesman. There are a LOT of salespeople, companies and options in Electronic Commerce. Start now to get up to speed. Do this now before you have to issue the RFP.



MLTWEB is assembled and maintained by Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M. 
Materials and articles prepared by Mike may be shared for purchasing education provided that this source is cited and no fee is charged. The rights for any other use are withheld.
Copyright;  Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M.
Last Updated: 11/26/2016