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...IDC and Forrester reports call for reduction in complexity to be priority...


Ironside Technologies – a leading supplier of sell-side B2B e-Commerce solutions – today welcomed recent analyst reports from IDC and Forrester that demonstrated the growth potential of the European B2B market but highlighted the issue of existing IT systems being unable to cope with e-procurement. Ironside’s Ironworks software is used by over 190 customers worldwide, including leading UK distribution and manufacturing organisations such as chemical distributor Vopak and food service supplier Brake Bros.


Ironworks is designed to be as easy to use as traditional ordering methods such as phone or fax, with an ordering process that is faster to use than consumer web sites and an architecture that adapts to work adequately on even the slowest modem connection. It integrates directly with existing legacy ERP systems, such as SAP, JD Edwards and Baan, in real time to provide seamless e-business functionality.


Forrester believes that UK online business trade will reach £300 billion in 2005, up from £13 billion in 2001. However, the research, which was carried out amongst the FTSE 100, also claims that many firms do not have the systems in place to gain return on investment from their B2B investments. Forrester analyst David Metcalfe comments that “UK firms lack the capabilities to capture the benefits (of B2B) because they are mired with siloed ERP systems, clunky processes and outdated connections."


IDC’s research, carried out across Europe, found that only 38% of companies surveyed had purchased goods or services over the Internet. Inhibitors to purchasing online included the lack of suppliers available and the inability to link internal back end systems to the outside world.


Neil Brownlie, vice president, EMEA, Ironside, commented: “This research has reinforced our own experience in the B2B marketplace – the opportunity is out there, but is being held back by software complexity. Companies are struggling both with the difficulty of linking existing software, such as closed ERP packages, to the outside world and to install new B2B software that will meet their business needs. It is important to get quick wins in B2B – most systems don’t achieve this.


As this research shows claims that the advent of the Internet will radically change business have been used as an excuse for foisting complex and difficult to use software on customers who don’t have the technical knowledge to benefit from it.”


Brownlie added: “First and foremost, systems must be easy to use, fast and deliver additional benefits while complementing existing infrastructure. It is arrogant in the extreme to expect a customer to fundamentally change the way they purchase goods, irrespective of what they may save by doing so. The collapse of e-marketplaces has shown that businesses value more than simple price in a transaction – customer service is key, even in commodity markets. Traditional trading has always relied on trust and understanding – moving into the e-business age does not change anything this fundamental. The Internet is merely an extension of the benefits seen by the arrival of the fax machine.”


A good example of ease of use in action is with chemical distribution company E&E Ltd (formerly Ellis & Everard), who have implemented Ironside’s Ironworks software on top of its Baan ERP system to offer online ordering to its customers. These range from Proctor & Gamble to small businesses. Using Ironside, buying is a simple Web-based process through a friendly and easy to use screen, purpose written for E&E Ltd.


This requires no user training as it is similar in look and feel to a consumer Web site – even simpler to use as it takes just three steps to place an order. The Web site also provides all the information necessary to order, store and use their products, meaning that effectively E&E Ltd has created a chemical industry portal for customers; this has dramatically cut the numbers of calls to E&E Ltd’s customer service centres as more companies get the answers they need via the web site at any time.


Ironside’s software combines order management, marketing, content management, logistics, customer service and finance suites as a selling platform for supplier and vendor management. It enables suppliers to connect to upstream trading partners with direct, real-time integration to all trading partners via browsers, wireless devices, eMarketplaces, eProcurement Systems and any trading partner’s enterprise system.


More information on the analyst reports is available at: http://www.emea.idc.com/press/20010727b.htm

About Ironside Technologies

Ironside Technologies is a global leader in supplier-focused business-to-business electronic commerce solutions, powering e-Commerce strategies for more than 180 manufacturers and distributors. Ironside solutions enable suppliers to integrate on-line channels with existing business strategies quickly and flexibly in order to deliver measurable results, strengthen trading partner relationships, drive revenues and increase operational efficiencies. The Ironside solution suites automate key business process such as order management, customer service, finance, vendor management and marketing, enabling suppliers to transact with trading partners in real-time through browsers, wireless devices, e-Marketplaces and e-Procurement systems. Ironside Powered® solutions integrate into virtually all enterprise business systems and are available as rapidly deployable integrated solutions for most leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms.

For more information see http://www.ironside.com


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