Targeting those companies that have electronic storefronts and business-to-business trading platforms for various partners and customers, IBM is readying the next iteration of its WebSphere Commerce Suite.
Version 5.6, expected at the end of this month, will include a beefed-up Business Context Engine that enables users to manage relationships with their customers based on roles and channels.
Initially introduced with Version 5.5, this next iteration of the Context Engine provides personalization capabilities at the user interface level—something that had a negative connotation in the past, since personalization was seen as the equivalent of slow, according to Bob Werkema, product manager for WebSphere Commerce.
"Personalization in a B2B context has almost a negative context," said Werkema, in Armonk, N.Y. "If I have a lot of relationships and I am trying to personalize [each one], thats hard to maintain and upkeep. Very few companies have been successful with it. What weve done is [weve] allowed [users] to personalize all the way down to the user level."
With 5.6, the Context Engine can support in a single infrastructure every way a user needs to support a customer, be that B2B, business-to-consumer or channel, all running on a single instance.
In addition, Version 5.6 of WebSphere Commerce Suite will have a tighter integration with catalog and content management, as well as integration with IBMs WebSphere Portal.
Beyond Version 5.6 of the suite, IBM plans to add an analytics engine that allow users to set up a full-blown data mart to accomplish data mining and reporting—things that traditionally have been used in B2C but not in B2B relationships, according to Werkema.
A number of partners are working with IBM on its analytics initiative, including Cognos Inc., Business Objects S.A., Brio Software Inc. and Information Builders Inc.