When most people think of the United Nations, they picture dignitaries sitting at long tables, not e-commerce applications. However, UN/CEFAT (United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business) and another international organization called OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) have come together to create peace in the e-procurement world. Their vision is ebXML.
The intention is to create a single global, electronic marketplace where enterprises of any size and in any geographical location can meet and conduct business with each other through the exchange of XML-based messages. In essence, ebXML will enable anyone, anywhere, to do business with anyone else. ebXML can move documents of any sort, whether they are EDI (electronic data interchange), XML, xCBL (XML common business library), cXML (commerce XML), or RosettaNet; it is language agnostic.
Both Albert Maruggi ,VP of marketing for TIE Commerce (St. Paul, MN), and Brian Gibb, director of architecture for Sterling Commerce (Dublin, OH), agree that widespread adoption of ebXML won't occur for at least a year; but when it does, it will be hot.
Finding The Cheapest Raw Materials
Maruggi said, "Most of the people involved in this open standards building process are software solution vendors like us. They are interested in taking out every bit of cost from an e-procurement process, in other words, providing solutions so companies can find the cheapest raw materials possible."
So why is ebXML described as the ultimate dating service? Picture an online marketplace where a company that has a product or service to offer can post a document in XML that describes the company, the product or service, the manner in which it does business, and contact information. With ebXML, matches would be made with companies that have compatible business practices and are seeking or offering the same product or service.
This process enables a much more automated, dynamic trading community than the static one in place today. Right now, when companies want to buy lumber, they have to search the Yellow Pages or the Internet, contact a vendor, and set up an account. Imagine if this could happen in seconds instead of days.
"With the ebXML registry discovery capability, businesses will be able to define themselves electronically," said Gibb. "They can put that information in a public place and other businesses can browse and look at that information in many different ways. For instance, profiles can be categorized by industry, region, and service. This way companies can discover one another and initiate relationships rapidly."
First Phase Of ebXML In Place
Gibb said the first phase of ebXML is already in place. This is the messaging service that actually packages documents and transports them electronically. Last May, 35 major vendors gathered in Vienna, Austria where they participated in an interoperable proof of concept which used ebXML and its messaging service. This scenario showed many different documents like EDI, OAG (open applications group), Hl7, and RosettaNet coming together in a single scenario.
"Right now in the user community, there is a lot of confusion over the various B2B standards," explained Gibb. "Users don't know which XML standard to adopt. ebXML shows the promise of bringing those worlds together without making anybody abandon technology they already have in place."
Questions about this article? E-mail the author at AnnS@corrypub.com.