During 1990s, the popular method of exchanging information between trading partners were Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and all major ERP vendors added EDI facilities to their products. However, EDI did not achieve its desired outcome as each organization needs its own customized EDI (to account for its unique data format), high set up cost (requiring privately run Value Added Network) and little cohesion or standardization. A majority of organizations did not use EDI functionality, while implementing their ERP systems.
The advent of internet and intranet technologies since mid 1990s saw the exponential growth of electronic commerce (e-commerce). E-commerce involved buying of goods through internet (comprising of advertising need, issue invitation to tender, reverse auction etc.), selling of goods through internet (comprising electronic auction, publishing electronic catalogues) and handle related processes electronically such as receive invoice, making payment, monitoring performance.
Response of ERP vendors: ERP vendors were not agile to quickly respond to the changing need where customers and suppliers, wanted information, contained in the backend ERP system, for effective collaboration, better information flow and minimizing cost across the supply chain. Customers demanded supply status, billing information, warranty compliance over web whereas suppliers wanted on line information on inventory, supply schedule and payment status. ERP products are having rigid architecture and any modification/ development requires complex coding and developing a link between backend ERP with front end web based e-commerce, was a challenging task.
ERP vendors responded to this challenge by their effort to web enable their product. They have developed some functionality in house but also used/ acquired third party products such as storefront. They have developed new workflows encompassing vendors, customers, shippers, distributors and bankers. They have made these workflows web enabled by adopting open standards such as Java and XML.
Another challenge faced by the ERP vendors for web enabling their product was security issues relating to e-commerce transactions, which are carried out through Virtual Private Network (VPN) over internet backbone. They have to adopt authentication tools such as electronic signatures and digital certificates, Secured Electronic Transactions (SET) and confidentiality through symmetric key encryption/ public key cryptography.
E-commerce transactions can be broadly classified under e-procurement and e-selling particularly under the context of business to business transactions. Some details under these classifications are given below:
E-Procurement - A typical e-procurement requirement of an organization is depicted below:
For meeting the above requirement, ERP vendors carried out integration of web based front end with generation of demand (planning module), preparation of purchase Order (procurement module), receiving of goods (warehouse module), payment (account payable module), dealt by back end ERP system.
E-Sales - The biggest change that has been brought by e- commerce in respect of selling and marketing of goods is creating a new sales channel based on web. This has impacted retail sectors in a big way through increased sales, expended market reach including oversees market, improved customer loyalty and reduction of transaction cost.
E-sales enhance value in respect of following business process:
For meeting the above requirements, integration of web system with back end ERP system was done. Before order acceptance, ATP (Available to Promise) status of the item is verified from planning module. For quoting price, dispatching of good and receiving of payment, sales, warehousing and accounts receivable modules of ERP system are interrelated.
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