In a world of global competition and relentless price pressure, more and more products and services are becoming commoditized. High quality and low cost are givens. Often, the winning competitor is the one who responds first, has the easiest-to-navigate Web site, gets the order right the first time and suggests complementary products that actually fit the customer’s needs.
Once their order is placed customers want to track or change it over the Web; via e-mail, phone, or fax; or through existing standards such as EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). They also want consistent, correct answers whether they’re talking to the vendor or a reseller.
ExEcutivE SummaryIn today s economy customers are in charge, and they re demand-ing an easy-to-use, seamless buying experience across channels and geographies. What drives this customer experience is infor-mation everything from detailed specifications to options to the availability, price and even location of the product. Delivering this information to customers wherever and whenever they want it in-creases sales, profits and customer satisfaction. But finding this information and getting it to customers requires seamless integration among legacy applications. The best way to achieve that is through service-oriented applications (SOAs). Un-like earlier generations of stove-piped, standalone applications, SOAs require no expensive special coding or integration to make the data within them available to other applications. This white paper examines why the seamless integration of information is so critical for businesses today, how to successfully integrate a SOA, and provides real-world examples of SOAs at work. SOA s are built to operate in a services environment where the functions of an application, such as looking up a price quote or checking a customer s credit, can be shared with other appli-cations far more easily than traditional, standalone applications. Customer-facing business processes are a top investment area for an SOA, said Eric Austvold, research director for AMR Research. After investing in internal SOA projects, top companies are turn-ing to external-facing customer processes for future investments in SOAs, getting more actionable information on their true de-mand for products and services. intEgration: thE nEEdIn a world of global competition and relentless price pressure, more and more products and services are becoming commoditized. High quality and low cost are givens. Often, the winning competitor is the one who responds first, has the easiest-to-navigate Web site, gets the order right the first time and suggests complementary products that actually fit the customer s needs. Once their order is placed customers want to track or change it over the Web; via e-mail, phone, or fax; or through existing stan-dards such as EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). They also want consistent, correct answers whether they re talking to the vendor or a reseller. IT and business executives are responding. Delivering signifi-cantly greater service to customers was the top spending priority last year for 72 percent of IT executives surveyed by CIO Insight magazine, while tightly integrating our processes with those of our suppliers, customers and partners was most critical for more than a third of those surveyed. However, much of the information needed to deliver good cus-tomer service is scattered across the enterprise. Product details might be in an online catalogue, while data needed to order materi-als and schedule production runs might be in an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. Customer addresses, credit histories and past purchases could be in a CRM (customer relationship manage-ment) application, with billing and invoice information in a general ledger system. The technical and pricing information needed to properly configure complex IT products might be in a custom ap-Optimizing Customer-Facing Operations T hrough Service-Oriented ApplicationsBy making it easier for customers to do business with you, however and wherever they choose, service-oriented eBusiness applications improve sales and accelerate order fulfillment.1 customer-facing business processes are a top investment area for an Soa, after investing in inter-nal Soa projects, top companies are turning to external-facing customer processes for future invest-ments in Soas, getting more actionable information on their true demand for products and services. Eric austvold, research director, amr researchUntitled Documentplication built by developers who long ago left the company. Then there are the inventory, billing, shipping and CRM systems run by partners such as resellers. Given all this diverse and decentralized data, it s easy to see why changes in orders, pricing, availability or ship dates don t get through to suppliers, customers, resellers or even a company s own sales force.Better integration provides benefits that span the product life cycle. It makes it easier to share product plans with outsourced manufacturing partners, and to implement lean manufacturing and distribution processes that cut inventory costs. Because SOAs make it easier to access existing application services, they reduce the cost and risk of entering new markets or introducing new products, and allow companies to sell more products with little, if any, additional headcount.Companies report fewer mistakes and delays in ordering be-cause SOAs allow one person (often the customer himself) to enter the required information once and transmit it to all the affected systems. This not only reduces the cost of correcting mistakes and processing returns, but also increases customer satisfaction and loyalty. A user-friendly interface makes it easier for customers to spend more, while links between CRM systems that track past purchases and a company s current catalogue make it easier for the in-house call center (or the company s e-commerce server) to suggest cross-sell or up-sell opportunities. This in turn boosts the average sales per transaction and the seller s bottom line.SOAs are particularly effective for sharing customer or product information across organizations. Companies without SOAs have to handle a blizzard of paperwork just to track orders, products shipped to or returned from resellers, the status of sales leads re-ferred to (or from) resellers, and the status of discounts, incentives and special deals offered to resellers. SOAs can eliminate much of the paperwork, reducing costs for both the company and its resell-ers while improving the experience for their joint end customer. From a CIO perspective, SOA is a way of building applications that capture your firm s digital capabilities in a way that is ready to integrate into any business process, via any interaction chan-nel, says Randy Heffner, a vice president in Forrester Research Inc. s Application Development & Infrastructure Research Group. The benefits tie back to reuse and business flexibility, but busi-ness flexibility is the long-term bigger benefit. Saving timE and monEy with Soas Service-oriented applications (SOAs) present their functions (such as the ability to generate a price quote or an order acknowledge-ment) as a service across the network. When another application queries an SOA, the query does not have to have been written to 2DuPont Performance coatings Better customer service through eBusinessDuPont Performance Coatings, a 4 billion paint and coatings manufacturer, needed its eBusiness initiative to help establish better relationships with its distributors, provide customers with the most up-to-date product information, and cut costs. To build its Web portal, the company needed a partner whose solution offered the right product functionality, worked with its current infrastructure, could scale up to handle thousands of customers, and had customers with demonstrable ROI. DPC found that partner in Comergent Technologies. Comergent s enterprise eBusiness solution allows DPC s dis-tributors to securely purchase products directly from the manu-facturer, eliminating the error-prone manual order process. The site also delivers information to customers in a timely fashion, and provides DPC with data it can analyze to better understand product demand and distributors effectiveness.ge access DistriBution online system sPeeDs uP the orDering Process GE Access Distribution is a leading distributor of complex com-puter solutions. Its Partner Connect e-services, driven by the Comergent eBusiness System, enables GE Access Distribution partners to accelerate their sales cycles through online sell-ing, quoting, ordering and account management. Users can quickly get product information, shipping details, order sta-tus and quote details. Comergent developed a user-friendly interface that makes it easy for GE Access Distribution customers to place orders and check transaction status. Customers can enter multiple pricing, product and service configurations into shopping carts, then submit them for quotes. The Comergent tools fur-ther reduce configuration time by letting users save product searches as carts, eliminating tedious data re-entry. The Comergent system has enabled GE Access Distribution to accelerate order processing, improve partner relations and account management, operate more efficiently and increase cash flow for partners with online invoicing and payment sup-port in real time. Launching Partner connect is helping us do busi-ness with our partners [and] it s having a significant impact on our efficiency. the solution is fulfilling our goal of making us the easiest distributor to conduct business with globally. anna mcdermott, President and cEo, gE access distribution delivering significantly greater service to customers was the top spending priority last year for 72 percent of it executives surveyed by cio insight magazine, while tightly inte-grating our processes with those of our suppli-ers, customers and partners was most critical for more than a third of those surveyed. the comergent technology allows us to instanta-neously supply our customers with valuable infor-mation, including pricing, product availability, order confirmations and advanced shipping notices. this streamlines communications between us and our customers, giving them real-time information about their orders online. catherine marchand, eBusiness Strategy manager, duPont Performance coatingsUntitled Documentthe sending application s API (application programming interface). Instead, all a developer has to do is find the service that provides that information in a directory and bind to it. For the same reasons, SOAs make it easier to offer new features by making use of functionality already present in existing SOAs rather than ripping and replacing proven legacy applications.SOAs can allow for the reuse of commonly used code, such as that needed to determine customers credit ratings, to calculate the price on a customer product configuration or to e-mail a customer a noti-fication that a product has shipped. Once a company has developed such code for an SOA, it can make the engine available as a service to other applications rather than spending time and money rewriting the same function within another application. The more use a company makes of SOAs, the greater the potential savings in money and time. As the inventory of services within an organization grows, so do the opportunities for reuse in order to fulfill new or augmented business requirements, says Thomas Erl, author of Service-Oriented Architecture: Concepts, Technology and Design. While cost savings are a powerful draw, the ability to quickly respond to new customer or market needs may be just as important. Through the use of business service and orchestration layers, service-oriented solutions can be altered or even constructed through the assembly of these services, says Erl. This, in turn, can significantly improve the efficiency with which an organization responds to change. For such reasons, Web services was the technology mentioned most often by IT executives surveyed by CIO Insight when asked which technologies would do the most to carry out their companies business strategy in 2004. The same survey showed that improving the IT infrastructure (which includes SOAs) was the top technol-ogy priority for CIOs in 2004, with spending expected to increase by nearly 16 percent over the previous year. One example of a service-oriented eBusiness application suite is the Comergent eBusiness System from Comergent Technologies Inc., which automates processes ranging from product information man-agement, configuration, pricing and quoting to order management. It is already in use at leading companies worldwide and delivering the information needed to improve customer service, thus increasing sales and profits.Soas at workHere are just a few examples of how the service-oriented Comer-gent eBusiness System is currently supporting key customer-facing activities:n Interactive selling and marketing means presenting product infor-mation to customers, offering them up-sell and cross-sell options and allowing them to complete their purchases. Cleaning products supplier Castle Rock Industries uses the Comergent eBusiness Sys-tem to link its Web sales platform to a legacy AS/400 platform, providing 24x7 access to customer order status information and order confirmations. International Rectifier, a manufacturer of semiconductors and power-supply products, uses the Comergent eBusiness System to produce an interactive buying tool that quickly guides design engineers to the right component, reducing the time Q: many organizations are moving toward service-oriented architectures. What is your vision for service-oriented applications?Kovacs: Comergent s eBusiness solutions are built on a third-generation service-orient-ed architecture. Our proven applications are modular, interacting with each other through a loosely coupled services API. This gives our customers great flexibility in optimizing busi-ness processes in specific areas of business such as marketing, guided selling and quoting, and order management. Our vision is to continue to deliver the best-of-breed eBusiness applications in a modular project or the entire suite. A key benefit of the Comergent eBusiness System is that it provides a common platform for both customer and partner-facing operations and, ultimately, enables new business models and opportunities.Q: What steps are you seeing organiza-tions take as they consider new B2B and B2c sales strategies in 2006? Kovacs:One of the top business initiatives we see across all industries is organizations wanting to make it easier for their customers to do busi-ness with them. With solutions like the Comergent eBusiness System, compa-nies can now provide customers with the products and services they need when they need them. Customers can get personalized price quotes, negotiate pric-ing based on unique business terms, and place orders via Web, fax, phone or sales representa-tives. Using Comergent, it is now possible to hide the complexities of divisional structures, supply chain relationships, and back-office systems by providing a customer-facing layer of personal-ized applications.Q: tell us about comergent.Kovacs: Comergent is the leading software provider for enterprise eBusiness solutions. Our eBusiness solutions orchestrate complex product, selling and order management pro-cesses across multiple enterprise systems, business organizations and sales channels. By deploying Comergent solutions, enterprises typically are striving to improve the customer experience; increase revenue; and take costs out of the sales and sup-port process.Q: What does comergent bring to the table for cios? Kovacs: Comergent can help with some of biggest issues facing CIOs today application integration and consolidation. Most of our customers have multiple back-office systems from multiple vendors. System consolidation efforts are complicated by different business needs from various business groups and the constant pace of mergers and acquisitions. Comergent provides a layer of customer- and partner-facing software that creates a unified customer experience. This insulates users from exposure to the complexities of the back office and offers a common platform for managing business rules around customer engagements. ViewpointComergent Technologies President and CEO Jean Kovacs shares her views on service-oriented architecture and the future of eBusiness.3Untitled Documentneeded to deliver a sample part from seven days to one. By deliver-ing samples more quickly, the company estimates it achieves design wins resulting in follow-on orders about 75 percent of the time, compared to less than 50 percent for its competitors.n Order management involves executing, changing, deleting and providing updates on orders, as well as handling returns and up-sell or cross-sell offers. Before adopting Comergent s tools, the Airframe Systems business of Goodrich Corp. relied on manual, error-prone processes to manage orders and inquiries. Using interfaces between Comergent and Goodrich s SAP ERP sys-tem, customers can quickly search more than 42,000 products, request custom quotes and place and check orders online. This streamlining allows Goodrich to handle increased sales without excessive increases in administrative costs. Symbol Technolo-gies, a leading vendor of mobile data management products, has cut its costs from incorrect order entry by 33 percent and ac-celerated the configuration-to-quote process by 66 percent since implementing the Comergent eBusiness System. n Partner relationship management allows resellers to order online from a company and receive the proper pricing and other terms. It also allows vendors to track inventory sent to or returned from the channel, monitor and manage leads and create and manage promotions. A key need here is for sellers to cooperate with, rather than compete against, their resellers. Haworth Inc. sells its furni-ture, seating, walls and other office environments direct to cor-porate customers as well as through more than 600 independent dealers. The Comergent eBusiness System has cut the time needed for Haworth to create a customer-specific product catalog from 40 hours to eight hours, and the time it takes to process, schedule and acknowledge an order from days to minutes. Disk drive maker Seagate Technology has improved the satisfaction and loyalty of its distributors and OEMs, cut the average order cost by 60 per-cent and improved visibility into its sales and order processes by implementing the Comergent eBusiness System.n Private marketplaces are intranet commerce sites open only to employees or selected business partners such as franchi-sees. These allow a company to aggregate purchases from a single vendor to qualify for lower prices and to track purchases. Choice Hotels had been spending more than 100,000 a year on printed lists of suppliers that were quickly out of date. It also had little or no control over the quality of its franchisees purchases. After Choice Hotels implemented the Comergent eBusiness System, franchisees have been able to save as much as 25 percent on supplies, while the intranet portal s capabili-ties allow some suppliers to increase their sales to the chain by as much as 600 percent. Truly seamless, customer-oriented eBusiness processes are no longer just a dream. SOAs today are delivering the behind-the-scenes integration that delivers information from multiple legacy applications to customers, internal users and business partners. The results are lower costs, higher revenue, improved customer satisfaction and increased profits across markets, channels and geographies. aBout comErgEnt tEchnoLogiESComergent Technologies Inc. pioneered the concept of a single service-oriented eBusiness system to address all products, cus-tomers, channels and selling processes. The Comergent eBusiness System orchestrates complex product, selling, and order manage-ment processes across multiple enterprise systems, business orga-nizations and sales channels. The modular suite includes applica-tions for guided selling and configuration, quoting and proposals, marketing and pricing, as well as for order, account and product management. An underlying service-oriented platform provides core system services such as security, integration and messaging among the eBusiness System modules. To learn more about Comergent, download the Comergent Executive eBusiness Kit at www.comergent.com/execkit or call 1-866-236-61564Copyright 2005 Comergent teChnologies, inC., 1201 radio road, redwood City, Ca 94065, www.Comergent.Com, 650-232-6000. all rights reserved. Pearson PuBlishing Boosting salesanD customer satisfactionBeing the world s largest publishing company doesn t mean you don t have to work harder to keep your customers happy. In order to give its customers a better purchasing experience, Pearson Publishing, whose holdings collectively ship more than 375 mil-lion units each year, turned to Comergent to help develop its new online ordering system. The Comergent eBusiness System provides an efficient order man-agement process that makes it easier for customers to take advan-tage of special pricing incentives and discount coupons. As a result, Pearson provides enhanced customer service, sells more effectively and reduces inventory. Comergent s tools handle every step of the customer process, from order entry to credit card authorization, then feeds final orders into three ERP systems, including SAP. Comer-gent also built user-friendly interfaces that provide customers with a seamless ordering process as well as a visually consistent look and feel unique to each one of Pearson s publishing subsidiaries. From a cio perspective, Soa is a way of building applications that capture your firm s digital ca-pabilities in a way that is ready to integrate into any business process, via any interaction channel, the benefits tie back to reuse and business flexibility, but business flexibility is the long-term bigger benefit. randy heffner, vice President, Forrester research inc. s application development & infrastructure research group the Pearson team created a spreadsheet with 103 unique requirements for our eBusiness project. we selected the vendor that fulfilled 83% of them right out of the box, comergent technologies. charles Benante, vice President, application technology, Pearson Publishing