B2B Guard Change

New CEOs at Ariba, i2 Technologies lay out their strategies.

Two of the leading business-to-business software providers will look quite different once the CEOs that each introduced last week make their marks.

While new Ariba Inc. CEO Larry Mueller expects to take his company back to basics with a heightened focus on improving e-procurement applications, i2 Technologies Inc. CEO Greg Brady plans to extend his companys footprint more deeply into the enterprise.

Dallas-based i2 this week will introduce what Brady calls a DTMS (Distributed Transaction Management System).

The new software allows companies to present users with a single interface for different iterations of an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, as well as disparate ERP systems, in a supply chain. The software also enables companies to integrate transactions within and outside the enterprise. WebMethods Inc. developed the connectors in DTMS.

Siemens AG is using DTMS to put a single front end on the hundreds of instances of the ERP software it runs, Brady said. DTMS provides a back-end capability that unifies transactions coming from different ERP systems or multiple instances of the same ERP.

i2 will announce new templates to enable users of its software in specific vertical industries to set up and manage a range of B2B transactions—such as order fulfillment or tracking—more quickly and easily.

Using DTMS as a backbone, Brady expects to rapidly grow sales and supplant ERP.

"We think it will replace ERP over time," said Brady, who replaced Sanjiv Sidhu, who will remain i2s chairman. "Our initial strategy is to make [existing ERP] systems work better ... but over time, ERP will naturally go away."

Meanwhile, Mueller, who took over the top job at Ariba from Keith Krach, said he remains focused on bolstering Aribas role as a traditional B2B transaction platform. Mueller said his company will invest heavily in its Ariba Commerce Services Network and its network-centric applications, including Network Connect, for which Ariba announced availability at its Ariba Live user conference here last week.

Network Connect allows non- Ariba customers to come into the Ariba services network and conduct business or procure services. This is a step out of the closet for Ariba, of Mountain View, Calif., which had kept its trading borders closed to non-Ariba users.

Mueller is also making changes inside Ariba. He will reorganize Aribas sales force, consultants and product development offerings to home in on five verticals—financial services, high tech, automotive, consumer packaged goods and pharmaceuticals.

Ariba under Mueller will also make heavy investments in its existing e-procurement and sourcing platform and its Commerce Services Network—building technology around the key interactions, such as procurement, that enterprises have with trading partners.

"Our message right now is really Back to the basics," Mueller said. "Its really focusing on delivering our e-procurement and sourcing platform combined with our Ariba Commerce Services Network—to penetrate that in the largest enterprises around the world."

Brady and Mueller have their work cut out for themselves. Both i2 and Ariba missed earnings estimates for the last quarter and cut their respective work forces.

Some IT managers welcomed the changing of the guard at Ariba and i2 but said the companies still need to improve their products.

"Its time to put on the brakes and take a look at the model they are pushing and define it better," said Robert Sieger, director of e-commerce for Boise Cascade Office Products Inc., in Itasca, Ill.

Only about 2 percent of the nearly $800 million in online sales that Boise did last year came through the Ariba and Commerce One Inc. e-procurement platforms that the company uses. The bulk of Boises Web transactions are processed through electronic data interchange, said Sieger, who doesnt see that number rising much because adoption takes so long.

"The key issues are the customers infrastructure and user adoption," said Sieger. "Its a different way of doing business. You have to get users to accept it and ... youve got integration [issues], legacy system [issues], all that stuff."