Seven Steps for Your eCommerce Program Success
By Susan Stecklair
Are you in charge of the new EDI program? Did your biggest customer just
dictate that you must be on RosettaNet before April of next year? What is
AS2? X12? OAGIS? How can you get started?
To reduce costs and maintain a competitive edge,
But these are challenging programs, impacting a
companies are mandating that their suppliers receive
number of organizations and processes.
their purchase orders and send back invoices
electronically. The beauty of a B2B (Business to
Business) initiative can be seen in the following
Here are seven steps for success:
A Purchase Order (PO) can be automatically
generated from your customer’s system
Step #1: Contact your Strategic Customers
It is transmitted via the internet within minutes to
An internal sales order is automatically created
Your system generates a pick-list and it is
Your customers or suppliers may be a great source of
printed on the manufacturing floor
knowledge and can help you understand of the
The product is picked, boxed and shipped
rewards and pitfalls of initiating an eCommerce
Your account receivable system automatically
program in your industry. Develop a simple
generates an invoice.
questionnaire with contacts, targeted transactions
This invoice is transmitted back to your
such as Purchase Orders, Invoices, and Advanced
customer where it automatically updates their
Shipment Notices. Ask them which transactions
accounts payable system.
they use or would like to implement (There are
hundreds with numerous business models). What
Humans only need to pick and pack the product from
standards and version? If they have implementation
inventory -- and, in some cases, even this is
guides, ask for them now.
performed by robots. The cost savings from an
eCommerce implementation can be quite impressive.
If you have quarterly reviews with your customers or
Transaction intense programs such as Just-in-Time
suppliers, this is often an ideal time for this
(JIT) are augmented by and often necessitate B2B
discussion. Your partner may be very excited about
programs. AMD's Vice-President of Distributor
the prospect of initiating an eCommerce program
Operations, Al Frugaletti, credited AMD's program
with you, so ensure that they understand you are in
the Investigative Phase of the project. Do not over
commit at this phase
Developing stronger ties with their distributors
Improving business processes
Shrinking their cycle-time from 8 weeks to 5
When cycle-times are reduced by 7 weeks in a
manufacturing operation, there is an impressive
project ROI due to lessening inventory requirements,
reduced scrap, and increased customer satisfaction.
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Step #2: Determine what your industry is
You should plan on integration to reap the benefits of
eCommerce such as the reduction of errors.
However, if you your budget or the amount of
transactions are small, you may look at solutions that
Your trading partners may be participating in
allow you to view, print the transactions and
industry focused groups. Find out how to join and
manually enter them into your system.
participate in the organization. Often you gather the
best information informally speaking to your peers
Use a VAN for your communication process if
over lunch or at the networking events. The “peer-to-
possible. They have received bad press for being
peer” sessions are often informative. Beware of
expensive and not “real time”. However, there are
veiled sales pitches from software providers’ that
low-cost VAN’s, it is a secure process, and the
may oversell their solution and over simplify the
implementation is generally much easier than
implementing AS2 or an internet solution. You can
move to an AS2 or alternate solution at a later phase.
Step #3: Evaluate and Purchase the
Step #5: Create a Project Team
Avoid the pitfall of developing a translator or parser
Perform a Staffing Analysis and create a
process in house. There are a variety of controls
Communications Plan. In the case of the
required that are not obvious to the uninitiated. Any
implementation of your inbound PO process, for
decent translator or parser should have these
example, you may have the following team members:
capabilities. Prepare a list of requirements for your
evaluation, and interview a series of providers. There
are many low cost solutions on the market. However,
Director of Order Management who is
ensure scalability if your company dramatically
championing the project. He/she needs to ensure
increases in size or the number of transactions.
the business requirements are documented, help
define error procedures and audit processes once
the project is implemented.
You may consider outsourcing for the 1st Phase.
Keep in mind there are trade-offs with this solution
Order Management Analyst who is the focal
and you may loose visibility and control. If you
point for explaining the current process flow and
choose this route, prepare a clear Service Level
helps to define the new exception processes.
Agreement (SLA) on timing, issue resolution,
communication, visibility of trouble-tickets, and
Ecommerce consultant or resource responsible
for suggesting best business practices; and
conversion of business requirements into
Avoid boxing yourself into a proprietary solution that
eCommerce technical business objects or flat
will be costly to migrate to in-house translation at a
files. The consultant should also assist in the
configuration and integration into the ERP
Step #4: Start simple
An ERP programmer who is responsible for
Prioritize the transactions you wish to implement. In
changes to your ERP system if you require some
most order management projects the Purchase Order
proprietary processes. Most do.
must be the first implementation in order to capture
information required for the outbound transactions.
Once you have completed your internal unit testing,
your first trading partner will join the team for the
Evaluate your ERP system and research their
completion of integration testing. If possible, it is
recommended method of integration of eCommerce
optimal to begin with an experienced and friendly
into their applications. Do not reinvent the wheel.
customer or supplier. Communicate early with your
Minimize customization. Send several of your key
test partner to ensure they have resources available
plays for training.
when you are ready for testing.
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Tip #6: Document your requirements
©2005. Electronic Commerce, Inc., All rights reserved.
Ecommerce tools exist for the development of
specifications to give to your trading partners.
Intelligent, well developed specifications or
guidelines can dramatically reduce testing times and
avoid misunderstandings. It give the appearance to
your partners that your have a professional
eCommerce program. If the tools are not within your
budget, still prepare a document to give to your
customers or suppliers. With each partner, you might
perform a GAP analysis and specifically discuss and
document what you can or cannot do in relationship
to their requirements.
Tip #7: Hire a consultant
To jumpstart your process and avoid the common
pitfalls of a new implementation, hire a consultant
that specializes in this area. Even if you are
implementing a complete ERP system with a large
consulting company, ensure you can interview and –
if necessary reject -- the consultant assigned to the
eCommerce implementation. Hire your own
resources if the firm is offering you someone with
limited successful experience in eCommerce. A four
week internal training course does not make a
successful eCommerce expert.
Once the first few implementations have been
completed of your various business models, you
should be able to perform incremental
implementations with an internal resource. Your
infrastructure should be in place by this time.
Maintenance agreements with your consulting
company are also an option to ensure a resource in
case of new development or a technical issue.
Your eCommerce Program is an essential strategic
tool for reaching your customers, suppliers, banks,
carriers, distribution centers, and contract
manufacturers. The proper blend of technology and
best business practices ensures better returns for your
growing business by stream-lining operations and
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About the Author: Susan Stecklair founder of
Electronic Commerce, Inc., has nearly 20 years
experience integrating and managing complex
ERP projects. She has successfully managed
projects for Cisco, Juniper Networks, Electronic
Arts, Hewlett Packard, Sun Microsystems,
National Semiconductor and a number other
smaller companies. Prior to founding
Electronic Commerce, Inc. in 1993; Susan was
in IT, financial and operational management at
Philips Semiconductor and Applied Materials.
She has a B.S. and an M.B.A. in finance from the
University of Michigan. Susan can be reached at
408-996-7492 or Stecklair@ecommerce-
About Electronic Commerce, Inc.: ECI has
proven methodologies for process assessment,
solutions, planning and design; and specializes
in ERP integrations with SAP and Oracle. ECI
has a team of consultants available for business
process analysis, programming, mapping,
technical specifications, ERP configuration, and
project management skills.
Electronic Commerce, Inc. has a partnership
with SoftshareTM, a provider of low-cost, easy-
to-use eCommerce Solutions for small-to-
medium enterprises. Softshare’s products can
be integrated with bar coding and RFID
products. ECI has also managed successful
implementations with Gentran TM, Inovis’ TLE
TM, and other eCommerce solutions.
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For More information email: info@eCommerce-inc.com
Phone: (408) 996-7492
5869 Castano Dr.
San Jose, CA 95129
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