IBS Keeps Supply Chain Partners on ICe2

International Business Systems (IBS, Stockholm, Sweden) recently released an enhanced version of Internet Connection, its ERP-integrated e-commerce software. The new release, called Internet Connection eXtreme 2 or ICe2, is designed to improve customer service by supplying real-time information about pricing, availability and order status to customers and business partners.

ICe2 is used in conjunction with IBS’ ASW supply chain applications suite, and is intended for use in a business-to-business environment. The product connects back-office data—such as customer history and preferences, inventory status, or estimated shipping times—with a “super shopping cart” Web front end, according to Lowell Feil, product manager, e-business and logistics systems for IBS.

“This is built for businesses-to-businesses, and it is a little bit different way of looking at things,” Feil says. “When I go in to place an order, it’s only going to bring up the products I’m authorized to buy, with my pricing, with my shipping preferences that I’ve organized with (the supplier). … In that sense it’s a much deeper product than a standard shopping cart.”

ICe2 offers a number of advanced features compared to its earlier releases, according to Feil. It uses HTML to modify or redesign Web page templates and includes more flexible graphic capabilities. For the first time, this release of the software includes credit card management and order processing functionality and easy order entry. Once an order is placed, customers can check the status of their shipments using their customer ID or via a shipping company they designate. With the new version, each Web page can also be SSL-enabled or disabled to improve security for data transfer functions.

Of the new features now offered, Feil says its drastically reduced implementation time is one of the most significant.

“There was more handholding involved for installing the earlier product,” Feil explains. “We’ve really reduced a lot of the complexities, and we’ve given it a wizard look-and-feel, so that now it’s pretty much turnkey. With the new product, now I can fly out to a customer site and have this thing up and running in 24 hours. That’s a real advantage for a business.”

Feil says many IBS customers have expressed an interest in the connection product because it allows them to update their business practices while preserving their investment in their back-office system, by linking legacy data with a sophisticated Web front end. However, he says ICe2 can also benefit start-ups, just beginning the process of building a Web presence, a data warehouse, and effective supply chain relationships all at the same time.

“This is not really something that just stands alone by itself,” Feil says. “You don’t just open up a shopping cart and start selling. It is fully integrated with our back office system. …Our product would be perfect for a dot-com company because it gives them all the back office stuff they’re lacking.”

IBS considers its ICe2 to be a competitor with general ERP and supply chain execution products, from vendors such as J.D. Edwards, SAP, BinaryTree’s ezMerchant and IBM’s Net.Commerce. Primarily, Feil cites two factors by which IBS distinguishes its product. One factor is the product’s integration with IBS SCM suite, which Feil says avoids any potential complications that can arise when back- and front-end applications are running as stand-alone products on different systems, from different vendors with different upgrades. The other key feature, Feil adds, is real-time processing.

“We really distinguish our product in that it’s truly real-time. With most other products, they’ve got some kind of interface in between that’s a replicator – there’s a hand-off, there’s duplication,” he says. “That not only slows down productivity, it creates another opportunity for something to break down. …The more players you have, the more problems you end up having.”

ICe2 is sold as a module within IBS overall supply chain system. Typically, it sells for $15,000 to 30,000 for companies under $40 million revenue, or up to $60,000 or higher for larger companies requiring multiple servers or more extensive support services.

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