Easing B2B Trading

Manugistics, Microsoft and KPMG join forces on supply chain services

Manugistics Group Inc. last week announced an initiative with Microsoft Corp. and KPMG Consulting Inc. that officials said will make it easier and less expensive for companies to connect to online exchanges.

The trio will bundle Manugistics supply chain applications with Microsofts .Net delivery mechanism to provide Web-based supply chain packages that enable customers to quickly integrate the business processes of trading partners with their own.

KPMG, of McLean, Va., will provide implementation expertise.

Manugistics, of Redmond, Wash., with help from Microsoft and KPMG, will rewrite some of the code for its WebWorks supply chain management architecture to make it compatible with Windows 2000 and Microsofts SQL Server 2000 and BizTalk Server 2000.

This will enable sellers that want to take part in the business-to-business trading of an exchange built on the WebWorks platform to have a relatively lightweight client installed on their systems, rather than the entire Manugistics suite of products, according to a Manugistics spokesman.

The .Net delivery system takes the application service provider model one step further by providing access to specific pieces of a remotely hosted application or suite of tools that are connected by Extensible Markup Language—rather than offering an entire application.

Manugistics Chairman and CEO Greg Owens stressed that the package will focus on delivering rapid implementation as well as enhanced supply chain visibility and reduced operating expenses.

The initiative targets middle-market companies that typically cant afford to buy enterprise software, Owens said. It will focus on specific verticals, including the consumer, manufacturing, electronics and government sectors.

Focusing on verticals may be a good idea since different industries have different requirements. While the supply chain software may work for businesses where the price of a manufactured product is well-known, it may not work well for a commodities exchange, where prices fluctuate, said Paul Hutchison, chief operating officer of FuelSpot.com Inc., an energy products exchange.

"We looked at some supply chain software vendors, and we determined that we are a little more complex," said Hutchison, in Golden, Colo. "Im not sure that what they are trying to deliver will help us."

Manugistics, of Rockville, Md., has been in a race with competitors such as i2 Technologies Inc. to offer a broader array of supply chain automation software. The company announced last week, in addition to its Microsoft/KPMG initiative, that it has partnered with NetVendor Inc., a B2B Web-enabler vendor for suppliers. The two companies plan to deliver a Web-based order planning, management and execution solution for Global 2000 manufacturers.