Speedy Response

New software category aims to accelerate delivery of products.

A relatively new class of software is being targeted at manufacturers that want to use their business-to-business Web sites to go beyond simply attracting customers and proactively serve them.

Demand chain management software from companies such as Comergent Technologies Inc., OneChannel Inc. and Haht Commerce Inc. blurs the lines between supply chain management and CRM (customer relationship management) software. The goal is to make manufacturers more responsive to customers demands for their products so they can ship them in a more timely manner.

John Rough was so impressed with Comergents demand chain management software that he is considering replacing his order entry software with Comergent E-Business System, which helps companies automate customers sales and order management processes.

Rough, CIO at Castle Rock Industries Inc., a floor cleaning equipment and chemicals manufacturer in Denver, implemented Comergents software last winter at a Castle Rock subsidiary.

Comergent, of Redwood City, Calif., last week said it will acquire Enduse Inc., which makes variable-pricing software. San Francisco-based Enduse brings with it Incentiv Auction, a patent-pending online auction technology that enables sellers to implement incentive buying programs based on volume or option discounts.

Rough is particularly excited by the new auction capabilities available through Enduse. "We have companies in New Jersey that do on-site service, and were now going into customers and selling a bundle—the equipment, on-site servicing, chemicals—[everything for] one-stop-shopping," said Rough. "As part of that, well be taking in a lot of traded equipment that well service and sell. Were looking forward to the auction capabilities to move this equipment."

Rough said he likes that all the auction data will be tied into the Comergent platform, which is where his order entry system resides now.

"Thats tied into the back-end enterprise resource planning [software], as opposed to going with a stand-alone auction that isnt tied into the back end," said Rough. "We had planned on using a stand-alone shopping cart, then when Comergent talked about the auction, the light bulb went on; it sounded like a good idea."

Rough said that from a "purely selfish" standpoint, he would like to see in Comergent more capabilities that traditionally have been found in CRM software.

"[Comergent has] very carefully avoided getting into the CRM market," Rough said. "They have a lot of aspects of that, but they dont have contacts and calendaring [applications]. It would be nice if they did move there, rather than me having to go with someone else. I dont think that fits their corporate directive. But for purely selfish motives, I would like to see it."

Separately, OneChannel last week released two applications, called Scenarios, that automate business processes by tying together functionality gleaned from a variety of applications. Built within its DPMA (Demand Process Management Automation) platform, which is used to manage demand-oriented processes, Scenarios predict demand by modeling alerts and events along with metrics and key performance indicators. This enables proactive synchronization of supply and demand while providing collaborative resolution branching and workflow execution features, said officials at OneChannel.

The Scenarios are dubbed Reasons-to-Call, which is designed for the insurance and banking industries, and Weather-Driven-Demand, which is for products whose demand is driven by temperature or weather severity.

OneChannel plans to expand its Scenarios library with new releases every four to six weeks, with a focus on sales performance, inventory management, marketing effectiveness, market performance and other areas.

The Mountain View, Calif., company will bolster these offerings when it announces later this month the acquisition of Black Pearl Inc., which provides event-driven software for the financial services, banking and insurance industries. The acquisition will enable OneChannel to take a step forward in the convergence of demand-based processing and automation for supply chain management, manufacturing and inventory control, officials said.

OneChannel will combine DPMA with Black Pearls software to create a combined product, code-named Avalon. The software, due in the third quarter, will add advice and recommendation, process management, and integration capabilities to OneChannels offerings.

For its part, Haht, of Raleigh, N.C., last week shipped Version 7.1 of its Haht Commerce Suite, with three new bundling options for the chemical, consumer products and discrete manufacturing vertical markets.

Hahts suite provides integrated order management, product and brand information management, channel management, business intelligence, and customer service between manufacturers and their channel partners and customers. The three new bundles support automated business processes specific to those vertical industries.