- Not all EC processes are created equal.
- Consider both the operating system or software as
well as the proposed business process.
- Involve other departments, the supplier and anyone
else you can find to make sue you have a comprehensive understanding
of what you want to do, your choices and the impacts on all
organizations before you start.
- Consider how the proposed process will affect the
company as a whole. Will the proposed process affect cash flow,
impact accounting practices, require changes in receiving, change
freight agreements, influence skill requirements for new employees,
overload older computer systems or demand new training
- Make sure that your proposed EC Trading Partner
Agreement (TPA) agreement reflects a clear understanding of what you
get with the service, what else you need to purchase and the support
you will receive. Nobody falls for the old used-car-salesman trick
of having to pay extra for the spare tire anymore and nobody should
buy into EC without making sure they are getting the whole package.
- Ask each prospective EC supplier to help address
all of these potential issues. Get good, well-explained answers. The
best suppliers are happy to help you understand. E-Commerce is a
competitive business and there is no need to put up with garbled
information, suppliers with an attitude or half baked assurances. If
you don't feel comfortable with what you hear or who you are dealing
with, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!
- Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) should be a
good source of assistance and advice. Your ISP deals with the
technical issues of connecting thousands of business to the
Internet. They are your first line of defense in making sure your
visit to the Internet is a safe, private and productive one. Enlist
the support and involvement of your ISP in the planning and
acquisition of the EC service. This might also be a good time to
review the contract with your ISP and see what you should/could be
getting in the way of service.
|Here are a few questions and issues
to consider in your planning and implementation.
- Is this a common business practice for the supplier
or are they just learning?
- Does the supplier have the technical expertise in
house or are they dependant upon consultants?
- Does the supplier already have a reputation on
the web? What can you find in chatrooms and search engines about
the supplier or process?
- Are there any concerns relative to the financial
or legal health of the supplier?
- Does the supplier have a publicly posted
- Who owns it?
- Who is liable if copyright or patent problems
- What is the cost? Is it a transaction basis,
annual fee or one-time purchase?
- Is there an annual use or licensing fee? Can you
get an enterprise (site-wide) license or must you pay for each
user? Is it per desktop or by concurrent users?
- Are you entitled to upgrades or will you have to
buy them? Will you get free bug fixes and technical support?
- Are there upgrades to other operating systems and
user applications required before you can install or use the software? If so,
what will the effect be when upgrades are incorporated to one or
more of the systems?
- Who is responsible for software compatibility?
- What is the "footprint" of the software?
Where does the operating system reside? What network traffic will
- Will it work with my existing or planned desktop
- What impacts are there to the user PCs in terms of
space needed, operating software, processing speed, etc.?
- What effect will the process have on your network
when multiple users log in?
- Is the source code available to you in the event
the supplier fails? Will the supplier consider a "software
- Who owns the rights to any specific implementation
software used or developed?
- Can I use this software/process with several
- Is it going to cost me extra to connect to other
suppliers and/or to add additional users?
- Can my supplier use this software/process with
- If I change E-Commerce suppliers or processes can I
keep my existing software, user interface and process or do I have
- Is it "Amazon.com" simple to learn and
- What training and training materials are available?
- Will the supplier provide training to users when
upgrade or change the software?
- Is there clear documentation for technical
operation, process administration, and user guides?
- Do I have the right to copy and distribute copies
of the documentation or will I have to pay for each copy?
- Can I administer the process in house or will I
need to contact the supplier to add users and maintain user
- What special training will process administrators
- Are there annual operating expenses associated with
administration, user groups, conferences, product enhancement
- How well does the supplier help line work? Are
responses timely and informative?
- What is the process to report potential bugs or
- How is the catalog maintained or updated?
- Can catalog items be added, deleted or locked?
- Does the application support individual user
profile information (delivery location, charge codes, etc.)
- Where/how is the product info and catalog data is
- Is the catalog(s) searchable.
- Can requisitions be prepared and submitted
- Does the system maintain an order history to make
repetitive requirement easier to process?
- Can I track order status easily?
- Can I determine material availability?
- Can I route requests for review and approval?
- What will it cost? Include: software, startup, installation,
operation, maintenance, transaction costs, upgrades and
required business process changes.
- Who owns the transaction records and where are they
stored? How long? How securely? Will they meet evidence
- Does the process meet my "legal" record
- Is there a plan for legal notifications as
opposed to day-to day administration?
- What does each party stand to gain in the
relationship? Who is making money on the deal? Is there a potential
for a conflict of interest among the participants?
- Can everyone involved afford to continue the
process or will they try to get out of the deal at the first chance?
- Is the EC process scalable? Can I expand usage to
other commodities/suppliers without a major re-design?
- Can I get delivery information?
- Can the process be used for more than one
- Are the control and administrative functions
- Does the system allow verification to contract
- What is the process for contract problem resolution?
- Are there usage and performance reports available?
- Can I track trends?
- Can I easily check the status of open releases?
- Does the data have to be re-keyed at any point?
- Can I use the process with more than one supplier?
- Can I restrict items by commodity and/or user?
- Are standard catalog descriptions being used?
- Does the system use standard product identification
codes and NAICS codes?
- Does the process support stock replenishment and/or
- Is there a complete and current emergency
response plan in place and are all key personnel participants in
- Can I expand to international vendors and
RECEIVING & SHIPPING
- Will the deliveries include a customized shipping
- What carrier will be used? Is the transportation
chain part of the arrangement?
- Does the process supports negotiated transportation
- Will the system support Electronic Bills of Lading?
- Are records available to support tariff or rate
- Can we use bar code identification and labels?
- Will the system create a manifest for delivery to
- Does the system support Hazardous material labeling
- Are special receiving or delivery instructions are
captured and provided with the shipment?
- Is there a process to support overages, shortages,
damage and returns?
FINANCE & ACCOUNTS PAYABLE
- Will the proposed process affect our cash flow?
- Will the proposed process require an increase in
invoicing or payment activity?
- Will the proposed system support tax information
- Is an electronic invoice available?
- Can we use some form of "evaluated receipt
- Does the supplier and system support electronic
- Does the software support cost allocation to user
- Are records adequate and available for audit?
- How are security concerns regarding access to
computer systems and information addressed?
- Does my supplier have controls in place to protect
sensitive data and a policy about selling information about me to
- Who owns the rights to the catalog data? (can I
keep using it even if the agreement lapses?)
- Is the EC system or process "state of the
art" or out of date?
- What changes in EC software ownership are
- Is the system already installed and working
somewhere or is it "vaporware"?
- Can I talk to some references?
- Who is responsible in the event that there is a
security problem; loss; data corruption...?
- If there are incompatibilities with you current PC
or Network applications, who is responsible to find a solution?