IBM App Tracks B2B Sign-Up

BIC 4.2 integrates a trading community

IBM this week is introducing software that is designed to help companies overcome the obstacles of managing information with trading partners.

BIC (Business Integration Connect) 4.2, part of IBMs WebSphere line of integration software, enables users to keep track of their internal business-to-business e-commerce operations and of trading partner activities.

In addition, IBM will announce that it is working with Viacore Inc. to provide integration products and services for companies that want to build trading communities. IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., will provide the community integration software through WebSphere BIC 4.2, and Viacore, of Irvine, Calif., will provide professional services to users trading partners as they build their trading community.

BIC is a single platform for integrating a trading community by streamlining the supply chain. Version 4.2 brings new installation and simulation features. For instance, the InstallShield capability helps simplify trading partner installation by preserving the integrity of the customers installed applications.

With the Community Participant Simulation function, a user can test his or her community integration prior to deployment to validate the effectiveness and characteristics of a trading partner.

BIC 4.2, due this quarter, will be offered in three versions: Express, Advanced and Enterprise Edition. The first is geared toward owners of small and midsize businesses looking for a simple community trading integration process. Advanced Edition is aimed at companies that want to connect a growing number of trading partners, while Enterprise Edition is priced to manage larger communities.

Establishing individual connections to customers and suppliers is currently labor-intensive, with much of the critical information exchange established over the phone, said Dan Vaught, manager of enterprise architecture and integration at Safelite Glass Corp. The Columbus, Ohio, company uses the predecessor to BIC and is considering the 4.2 upgrade.

"Right now, we go through negotiations to figure out what were going to do," Vaught said. "With Connect, it has a Web site that [a trading partner] can come in and set up values for retries and when to connect, and there are pre-defined documents. ... You dont have to work out all the problems together—they can work it out for themselves."

"Weve looked pretty heavily at the B2B market, and [although] everyone has been forecasting important and accelerated growth, its yet to materialize in the fashion everyone expects," said Marie Wieck, vice president of IBMs WebSphere Business Integration unit. "There have been some positive B2B deployments, but what weve found beyond key hubs is there are still limitations of how quickly partners can be enabled in a community."