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ECM is 'well beyond ERP'

Companies are consolidating enterprise resource planning and e-business investments by developing collaborative business processes, rather than business-centric commercial, says AMR research.

LONDON -- Companies will seek to consolidate their ERP and e-business investments by developing collaborative or community-oriented business processes, rather than enterprise-centric commercial transactions, according to AMR research.

This activity will embrace whatever exchange/trading and supply chain operations are already in place and should, it suggests, include integrated analytic data modeling, an application server, an integration framework, business process management, a private trading exchange and a single portal framework.

AMR says these practices -- which it calls ECM, or enterprise commerce management -- will reduce costs, increase efficiencies, provide a faster payback on investment and offer secure collaboration with partners. It also says ECM strategies are well beyond ERP or ERP 2.

AMR is essentially trying to assemble a model for a pragmatic implementation of the current crop of enterprise software applications and a strategy for tying them to whatever e-commerce mechanisms a user may already have in place. It will sell the model, research and advice to its clients and, before year-end, promises to rank enterprise software vendors on their ability to offer products which fit this bill -- and more importantly, their ability to support multivendor environments. It will mean some changes in the horses it backs, AMR says.

For example, while SAP scores high on breadth of product, it's admonished for its proprietary Advanced Business Application Programming (ABAP) mechanism for storing data in tables and managing and passing data between applications. But this is changing. SAP is working on a new technology, according to AMR. Same for Oracle. It claims it can and will do the whole lot, but is essentially a database surrounded by applications and tools that could be sourced from other vendors.

Right now, AMR says there are no companies executing an ECM practice in sync with this model. The firm believes that more than a third of existing applications could be fitted with collaborative features but that less than 10% have any such functionality today. It expects the auto, consumer packaged goods and oil and gas industries to be early users of ECM-type software strategies.

AMR forecasts European business-to-business trade will be worth $3.97 trillion, or 23% of total transactions, by 2004, up from 2.5% in 2001. It forecasts that by 2005, combined spending on commerce platform software technologies and services will total more than $56 billion and that one out of every three companies with over $1billion in revenue will implement a private e-marketplace. AMR watches some 3,000 public and private business-to-business exchanges in the U.S. and 320 of the 430 or so in Europe. Of these, it estimated just 40 are getting any real liquidity in terms of transactions and members.

The problem for AMR and other research houses is that as enterprise and business-to-business software budgets go into holding patterns and spending on new projects is shelved, there will be a knock-on effect on research budgets.

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