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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Tech Industry

Business e-commerce upgraded

An e-commerce firm backed by big bucks will release an upgraded version of its software to streamline business-to-business buying on the Net.

E-commerce software firm Fisher Technology Group on Monday will release an upgraded version of its CornerStone software to streamline business-to-business buying over the Internet, one of the hottest sectors in electronic commerce.

Fisher, a unit of the $2 billion chemical and lab equipment distributor Fisher Scientific (FSH), also operates a Web mall called ProcureNet for business purchases of routine supplies.

"Today's hot issue is purchasing and procurement and the supply chain," said Geri Speiler, e-commerce and extranet analyst at Gartner Group. "How do I order? How can I streamline ordering to cut costs? That's the key place for electronic commerce: to solve those problems."

Bob Grzyb, FTG's vice president of marketing, contends that business-to-business systems must move beyond Internet catalogs.

"Today's technology is catalog driven, and that's not the business process the buying organization is looking for," he said.

In version 3.5, CornerStone adds features such as customer registration, hot lists for personalized repeat orders, ordering from multiple suppliers from a single form, contract pricing, availability data, and getting bids from multiple vendors.

CornerStone competes in one of the most crowded markets in Internet commerce: streamlining the buying process for routine items. FTG's strategy is to sell its $150,000 software to large sellers and buyers, while offering small and midsized businesses the ProcureNet Web mall for buying and selling everyday items.

Other players on the software side include Ariba Technologies, which offers its higher-priced software as a turnkey system for buying oirganizations, and Actra, and Commerce One, a service headed by former Sybase chairman Mark Hoffman.

"Our technology supports new business processes to tie end users to suppliers," said FTG's Bob Grzyb. "We don't attempt to replace an existing system; we are a front-end to a buyer's purchasing system." He likens FTG to competitors Open Market, Connect, Web mall TradeEx, and Elcom.

Gartner's Speiler lumps FTG with other vendors that provide catalog and search software, companies such as iCat, Saqqara, and Cadis.

But FTG thinks having both a product and a service makes its offering unique.

"You have to demonstrate to people that you can do commerce via these sites, and you have to have a migration path in Web commerce from a service to the ability to do it on your own, We have that migration path," he said.