The 21st century has become synonymous with the “e-business revolution”. Everywhere one turns there is a new “e” buzzword describing yet another business process or model that is to be transformed by the power of the Internet or yet another statistic proclaiming its potential. Today’s wholesaler can ill afford to ignore these trends for, as the new technologies are proven and adopted, the opportunity to operate more effectively and to streamline the supply chain will be considerable. The Internet will become central to the whole supply chain – linking wholesalers with both their customers and their suppliers in order to increase speed to market, improve customer service, lower costs and build stronger relationships, thereby improving overall competitive advantage.
A year ago Managing Director, Peter Shield, emphasised BCP’s commitment to e-business and the enhancement of Accord, its Distribution system, “to ensure clients are able to make optimum use of these new and developing ways of doing business.” Since then BCP has made significant progress with the e-enhancement of its systems, now offering clients a range of e-enabled services.
Wholesale/Retail Data Transfer
Throughout the year BCP dedicated significant resources to the new Messaging and XML technologies which allow disparate computer systems to communicate and which are, therefore, critical to the expansion of e-business and true Internet based applications. It is these technologies which allow, for example, wholesalers to pass product and price information to retailers, distribution systems to pass information into ERP systems, wholesalers to send sales and stock information to suppliers and so on.
Undertaking extensive work with XML and working closely with Progress on the development of its Messaging Service, BCP has developed standard structures – or ‘schemas’ – to facilitate a range of business transactions. Approved by, and registered with, Microsoft’s Biztalk initiative, these include the Internet messaging format for communication between retail stores and a head office or wholesaler. Now implemented, this allows a wholesaler/head office to transfer product and price information to retailers and retailers to return sales data via the Internet, thereby providing a faster, cheaper, more reliable means of transferring information and eliminating the need for a WAN or dial up access, with its associated complexities of managing banks of modems. At the request of Progress, BCP presented a paper on this subject at the Progress 2000 Convention in San Diego last June. Entitled ‘Messaging and XML in the Food Industry Supply Chain’, this can be downloaded from the ‘News’ page of BCP’s web site – www.bcpsoftware.com
In September BCP launched e-Accord, the web enabled version of its AccordDistribution System, allowing the entire Accord package to be accessed over an Internet connection with no software installed on the PC other than a Web Brower such as Microsoft Internet Explorer.
Many companies using Accord already provide access to remote users via dial up modems, which requires one modem for every remote user that needs to be connected simultaneously. Using an Internet connection allows many remote users to share a single Internet connection on the server, to benefit from local telephone rate calls to an ISP rather than a telephone call direct to the office and to use the familiar browser interface.
Potential users for e-Accord include:
• Sales Representatives connecting from home, customer premises or by mobile phone
• IT support staff connecting from home or by mobile phone
• Senior management when away from the office
• Home based office staff
• Regional offices or depots using either a WAN or Internet connections
• Customers accessing restricted parts of the system for, eg, ordering
• Suppliers accessing restricted parts of the system for, eg, supplier management of stock
e-Accord also allows BCP to supply the Accord package using the new Application Service Provider (ASP) model where the system is hosted at a remote Data centre rather than purchased and installed at the user’s premises.
Technical Information, Discussion and Service via the Internet
BCP’s new website also incorporates dedicated links to a secure customer area to give clients easy access, via the Internet, to valuable user information, technical data and enhancements, as well as facilities to log Service Desk requests and participate in discussion forums. The site involved a major investment in hardware to allow BCP to host it in house, not only to ensure full control and security, but to allow BCP to demonstrate true e-commerce and e-business enhancements to its range of software solutions and provide the opportunity to host sites for customers in the future, where appropriate.
The pace of change in the new e-economy is unrelenting and BCP continue to dedicate substantial resources to ensure it remains at the forefront of these technologies. Peter Shield reaffirms: “BCP are committed to enabling clients to take full advantage of these new technologies and gain real business benefits. Appropriate enhancements to Accord are ongoing and will be rolling out to clients on a regular basis.“