Dell to launch next-generation e-business model

Dell Computer, the company credited with creating and validating the e-commerce model, will deliver another breakthrough business model next week when it announces its e-business marketplace at its Dell DirectConnect event in Austin, Texas.

Dell is characterising its e-marketplace, set to go live in October, as an exchange "where suppliers and buyers meet," according to Andy North, a Dell spokesman.

Choosing his words carefully, North said that the site will be "more wide-ranging than just hardware and software" and will also include a lot of "commoditised" products from "lots of different suppliers," North said.

In essence, Dell would provide a single electronic interface that will publish supplier catalogues of products as well as Dell products.

This will allow Dell customers to talk in a similar way to other suppliers.

"My guess is Dell is trying to become a facilitator for its customers, extending to its customers the same smooth relationship it has with them to other vendors," said Roger Kay, a senior analyst at IDC, in the US.

Up until now, most exchanges and buy-side marketplaces have functioned as simple databases doing searches on part numbers. Dell, it appears, will take exchanges to a different level by using a home-built knowledge management system that includes elements of design collaboration and configuration for storing complex data models.

What appears simple on the front end is, on the back end, a complex product knowledge management system that stores every detail about a product or system. This level of information has yet to be deployed by any other company or exchange.

"For example, on a simple level when a customer goes online to buy memory for a computer the system has to know about that particular computer and what particular memory chips work in it before it can make a recommendation," said Jim Ivey, CTO for Structural Dynamics Research, in Ohio. SDRC builds lifecycle design collaboration software tools.

Storing the configuration rules for every product, which basically constitutes a knowledge management system, and making that system reusable by an online exchange is something that has yet to be done, Ivey said, who believes it is the next trend in e-business. In order to do that, companies will need to use XML and Enterprise Architecture Integration technology, Ivey said.

In many cases, knowledge management systems store information that previously was accessible only by a company's engineering department.

"These exchanges need to move into offerings that are taking the processes out of the inside of the company and exposing them externally," Ivey said.

The official announcement of the exchange and its capabilities will come on Wednesday at its Dell DirectConnect event for 1,300 corporate customers.

Ford CEO Jacques Nasser will deliver the keynote address on the e-transformation at Ford and how Ford is integrating the Internet into its business operations at the event.

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