When it comes to moving to an electronic business-to-business exchange, the technology side is the easy part, according to the president and CEO of GE Global eXchange Services.

Harvey Seegers says more and more companies are

moving to the Internet to streamline business processes within the company and with partners. But these projects are less likely to succeed if the human element isn’t taken care of first.

“”The most important thing is to have gotten commitment of senior management — line managers, operators that have responsibility for profit and loss — to have them committed to making fundamental business process changes because the technology to make all this work is here,”” Seegers says. “”The biggest stumbling block is companies who don’t have the willpower to change the way they’re doing business.””

Seegers says the company can have a B2B exchange up and running in 60 days, but for large companies looking for all the bells and whistles it would take between four to six months. The firm’s B2B platform was written in Java and runs on Unix, he says, and is operated in a data centre outside Columbus, Ohio.

Global eXchange Services (GXS) has customers in 52 countries including Royal Bank of Canada and the Electronic Commerce Council of Canada, but Seegers highlights Concord, Ont.-based Brake Pro Ltd. as company leading the way.

Tony Durante, Brake Pro’s MIS administrator, says it joined the exchange about a year ago. He says it went the outsourcing route because it didn’t have the staff or the expertise to do it alone. “”GE had a full-service solution that got us up and running in a short time (about 4 weeks),”” he says.

Durante says the one of the most important features GXS offers is mapping, which simplifies dealing with suppliers

“”When they do their cross-reference maps or translation maps, if a customer sends an EDI (electronic data interchange) that’s not in the format that works with my system, they automatically translate it for us at their end,”” Durante says. “”When it hits my mailbox I actually get a map that works.””

While Seegers can offer a service level agreement of 97 per cent uptime, he won’t guarantee the exchange will make life easier for IT managers. “”Ironically, it’s not making it easier, but I think it’s making it more fulfilling.

“”(This) is putting the IT manager right in the forefront of some of the most important productivity initiatives that are taking place inside companies with their trading partners,”” Seegers says.

“”Now he or she is much more involved in making decisions and implementing systems that have significant bottom-line impacts to the corporation.””

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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