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Management, e-commerce in one

Industri-Matematik is working to meld its order management software with e-commerce software from IBM.

IMI and IBM want to give a little electronic zap to order management software.

Industri-Matematik, a Swedish maker of demand planning software with U.S. headquarters in Tarrytown, New York, is working to meld its order management software with e-commerce software from its Big Blue neighbor in Armonk, New York.

The two companies made the joint announcement today at Internet World in Chicago. Under the agreement, IMI's System ESS software will be made compatible with IBM's Net.Commerce merchant server software.

Company executives said the idea is to infuse business-to-business e-commerce functionality with such back office tasks as advanced order entry and tracking, customer profiles, price and promotion management, and distribution management.

"E-commerce is becoming a major extension of the supply chain, the delivery chain, and every other chain there is," said Joshua Greenbaum, analyst with the Hurwitz Group in Framingham, Massachusetts. "Most supply chain vendors and e-commerce vendors need to work on these compatibility issues. The two concepts are being worked on in the same breath."

For many users, these deals will help accelerate and stretch the concepts brought forth by electronic data interchange but at a fraction of the cost and management needs. Using readily available Internet technology and public Internet lines, user companies will be able to give customers the status of orders, payment history, and even allow customers to place their own orders directly into the ordering system.

Greenbaum said similar deals to IBM and IMI's should be coming as e-commerce merges more and more with corporate supply and demand chain management systems.

"We should see either formal strategic deals like this one, or more agreements to have some kind of application programming interface compatibility," he said. "Basic e-commerce 101 use is customer order management and order tracking."

In fact, leading makers of e-commerce software have a two-year agenda to set standards for the industry. And many enterprise resource planning vendors like SAP are launching e-commerce initiatives.