Tuesday, December 19, 2006

New Merchandise Management System for Datavantage

Cleveland, Ohio, December 19, 2006 — Datavantage Corporation, parent company of CommercialWare and a leading provider of retail technology for the specialty and general merchandise retail industry, today announced Datavantage Enterprise MMS (Merchandise Management System), a Java-based corporate office information system to optimize retail data flow throughout both retail and direct organizations to enhance sales, inventory turns and price and promotions management, thereby increasing margins, and reducing out-of-stocks and administrative costs.

For example, the solution allows merchants to manage their assortments and make better, more timely decisions by viewing data by piece, collection or down to the store or book level, sorted by size and color, providing real time visibility into business operations.

The Java-based solution is built on technology from SIS Info_Mercio, a Mexico-based innovator in merchandise management systems, which has more than 20 customers (with over 3,500 stores) in the highly competitive Mexican retail environment, including VIPS (a division of Wal-Mart Mexico), Smart & Final Mexico, Calimax and Comex.

The three core features of Datavantage Enterprise MMS are inventory, purchase order and price management. Both push and pull inventory allocation is supported to track the movement of goods from the warehouse to a retail location. Managing orders for both new and replenishment requisitions is made easier with tools like on-demand sales and inventory data in the purchase order process functions. Pricing can vary by channel, store or zone, and complex pricing sets can be administered through Enterprise MMS.

Developed in a J2EE environment, Datavantage Enterprise MMS offers many deployment choices on multiple operating systems, databases and application server platforms.

Miles Kimball Selects Junction MCR

Lincolnshire, IL - December 19, 2006 - Junction Solutions today announced Miles Kimball Company, a recognized leader in the consumer catalog industry, has selected JunctionMCR to replace its current Ecometry retail enterprise software system.

Established in 1935, Miles Kimball Company is a recognized leader in the consumer catalog industry. Owned by Blyth, Inc. a $1.5B provider of home decor and home fragrance products, Miles Kimball Company consists of five catalog titles and mails about 120 million catalogs annually including:

. Miles Kimball -- unique assortment of distinctive, hard-to-find merchandise
. Miles Kimball Cards -- unique and personalized Christmas cards
. Walter Drake -- functional and unique value-oriented general merchandise
. Easy Comfort -- value-priced health and personal care items for seniors
. Exposures -- products for preserving and displaying life’s remembrances
. Home Marketplace -- functional, clever gadgets and tools for the home

The company needed a new solution to better manage its warehouse management, order management, merchandising and marketing processes. They chose JunctionMCR, which addresses the unique challenges of measuring marketing effectiveness, customer service, and streamlining order fulfillment while providing control and integration of processes, systems and channels. With JunctionMCR, the entire stream from catalog campaigns to order entry, through shipping and returns can be analyzed and improved for greater efficiency and high-touch customer service.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tackling Gift Card Fraud

eWeek has some enlightening insights that separate myth from reality in the realm of gift card fraud. If you are a multi-channel merchant and offer gift cards, you should make sure you've got your bases covered. See link.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Direct Response - New Release

Release v2.1.46 of Direct Response from DirctEDJE, a browser-based order management and fulfillment system, has improved error-checking functions, workforce tracking, Ecommerce interfaces, and inventory management capabilities.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

PCS Signs Four More Users

ProfitCenter Software, a wholly owned subsidiary of Systemax, Inc., has added four more companies to the roster of users of its browser-based, hosted "on demand" direct commerce suite of solutions: Probe Racing Components (Torrence, CA), MLS Camps and Sporting Essentials (Mystic, CT), Nest Family Entertainment (Coppell, TX), and Fishs Eddy (New York, NY).

PCS Signs Four More Users

ProfitCenter Software, a wholly owned subsidiary of Systemax, Inc., has added four more companies to the roster of users of its browser-based, hosted "on demand" direct commerce suite of solutions: Probe Racing Components (Torrence, CA), MLS Camps and Sporting Essentials (Mystic, CT), Nest Family Entertainment (Coppell, TX), and Fishs Eddy (New York, NY).

Monday, November 13, 2006

CommercialWare: PCI-compliant

CommercialWare, Inc., a division of Datavantage and the leading provider of cross-channel commerce solutions for retailers, and AmbironTrustWave, a leading provider of information security and compliance management solutions, have announced a partnership to offer Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance services to its joint customers.

Compliant with Visa USA Cardholder Information Security Program (CISP) Payment Application Best Practices (PABP), CommercialWare’s recently released CWDirect v10.0 provides an integrated suite of applications that manage the entire retail transaction lifecycle from informing and attracting customers, to merchandising, fulfillment and customer service across all points-of-touch including Internet, catalog, call-center and kiosk. The partnership allows CommercialWare and AmbironTrustWave customers to obtain PCI DSS compliance, a requirement for all merchants and service providers who store, process and/or transmit Visa cardholder data.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

CommercialWare Releases Vers. 10.0

CommercialWare, Inc., a division of Datavantage, and a provider of cross-channel commerce solutions for retailers, has announced major updates in version 10.0 for its cross-channel retail suite, including CWDirect, CWStore and CWData/Analytics.

Version 10.0 of CWDirect provides retailers with even greater flexibility for extending and offering promotions and special offers. For example, enhanced loyalty program capabilities can now be automatically applied to the qualifying order or be configured to take effect on the next subsequent order, further supporting the retailers’ objectives of delighting the customer and earning repeat purchases. Promotional activity can also be non-offer specific and accessible to all customers, allowing personnel to suggest additional items for cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. Additionally, refinements to the application of promotions, such as free shipping, free gifts, and discounts just prior to the check out process, provide precise order total and freight calculation before payment is requested.

To maximize warehouse efficiency, the picking logic has been enhanced to use quick pick zones. This is ideal for fast moving items and can be leveraged to streamline the order picking process and improve productivity. To further improve efficiencies and expedite the check-out process, enhancements to recognize the type of credit card based on the first few numbers have also been delivered.

System enhancements to CWStore that support merchants in the obtainment of PCI compliance have been included, with data security, password access controls, and encryption among the improvements.

The process to update existing clients has been straight forward, non-disruptive and is usually accomplished in less than three hours. This gives retailers the ability to easily take advantage of the new features in CommercialWare’s suite of cross-channel retail solutions as they gear up for the holiday season.

“CommercialWare continues to deliver rock solid upgrades for cross channel software solutions to its retailers,” said Jane Cannon, Chief Operating Officer at CommercialWare. “This is evidenced by survey results and recent awards in both The RIS Leaderboard and Apparel Magazine.”

Junction Solutions de Mexico Lands Nautica Mexico

Junction Solutions, a direct commerce software and services provider whose solutions are based on the Microsoft Dynamics AX (formerly Axapta) platform, announced that Nautica Mexico has chosen JunctionMCRT, their multi-channel retail ERP solution, to manage its supply chain and retail distribution in Mexico.

Nautica apparel is internationally known and sold in upscale retail stores such as Liverpool and El Palacio de Hierro in Mexico. JunctionMCRT was selected because Nautica felt it has the functionality and flexibility to meet the latest eCommerce needs of the distribution and retail markets in Mexico. In addition, JunctionMCRT provides a single view of the complete supply chain needs of Nautica in Mexico.

"We chose JunctionMCRT and its single Microsoft database platform because it supports our multi-currency transactions. Also, the need to select a provider with a local presence and proven track record was as important to us as software functionality," said Martin Fernando Ramirez, Finance Controller of Nautica Mexico.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Ecometry, GERS, Escalate Retail Update

We spoke with John Marrah, President of Escalate Retail, who clarified a number of issues regarding the merger of Ecometry with GERS.

We already knew the name of the new company was derived from Escalate, a Tier One order management system GERS had purchased in September 2004, with users such as Eddie Bauer and Williams Sonoma. It was a leading provider of eCommerce, order management, and order fulfillment systems for the retail industry, which became the hosted Java-based "MultiChannel Commerce" solution in the GERS suite of products, with its development and support out of Redwood Shores, CA.

In the next six months, GERS and Ecometry will fully integrate and rebrand all of their existing solutions, modules, and components, including Nextor and Blue Martini, which was fully integrated with Ecometry in July, and integrate them all on a Web Services platform.

The new company will have three primary target markets:
1) direct marketers (catalog, eCommerce)
2) general retail
3) specialty retailers, such as furniture (a GERS area of specialization)

As CEO of Escalate, Stewart Bloom will focus on financial issues, while John Marrah, as President, will be handling product strategy and top-line revenue generation, plus additional acquisitions.

The objective of the Escalate Retail, a $100 million company, is to become a "Multichannel Retail Powerhouse." This does seem to be, at this stage, a marriage of two companies (and their extended families) that stands a reasonably good chance of working as planned.

As for legacy Ecometry users, "they should see no difference in support or in migration to the open platform" whether they migrate now or in the future. Current users of the open platform should also notice no significant change in features and functions, although the system will migrate to the Web Services platform.

So there you have it. Obviously, we'll keep you posted as time goes on....

Ecometry and GERS Retail Systems Combine to Form Escalate Retail

DELRAY BEACH, FL, August 21, 2006 – Retail, E-Tail and Direct Marketing solution provider Ecometry Corporation and GERS Retail Systems, the San Diego-based leading provider of planning, merchandising and supplier collaboration software solutions announced today the combination of their organizations. The transaction was funded by Bay area private equity firm Golden Gate Capital.

The combined organization is named Escalate Retail reflecting the focus on improving retailer profitability through customer-focused solutions. By combining the front-office strengths of Ecometry, customer-interaction and loyalty, with GERS strengths in merchandise planning and execution, the company will provide retailers advanced capabilities to meet their customer demands across channels. The newly formed company will be led by CEO Stewart Bloom, President John Marrah, and CFO Michael Larkin.

The company will have headquarters in San Diego and Delray Beach. Six additional satellite offices are located across North America and in Europe.

"We are excited about our ability to bring integrated and customer focused solutions to the industry," said Stewart M. Bloom, CEO of Escalate Retail. "The synergies created by merging GERS and Ecometry into a significant new entity, Escalate Retail, have immediate benefit to our current customers and create a compelling new option for retailers who are looking for a unique technology partner to help with their business growth agenda."

Market analysts see significant growth potential for the combined offering as retailers demand market choices other than monolithic ERP applications and isolated point solutions. Additionally, no other vendor has made customer intelligence available, across all customer touch-points and in back-office merchandise and planning applications.

"After analyzing opportunities in the market for over a year, we are very excited to join forces with GERS,"said John Marrah, President of Escalate Retail. "We are both committed to the goal of delivering highly extensible retail solutions that can be delivered individually or as a comprehensive suite."

Escalate Retail has over 650 retail clients across North America and Europe. Current clients include Home Depot, Williams Sonoma, Nordstrom, Hot Topic, Sainsbury, Harry Rosen, Louis Vuitton, Blue Fly, Z Gallerie, Brooks Brothers, Saks, Lamps Plus, Sony and Raymour & Flanigan.

"Hot Topic uses GERS solutions for merchandising, inventory management and analytics and Ecometry's Blue Martini solutions for e-commerce, online order management, loyalty programs, and marketing analytics" said Tom Beauchamp, CIO for Hot Topic. "The consolidation of these two, highly customer-centric solution providers offers opportunities for Hot Topic to leverage our current investments. The application portfolio of the combined company will provide more efficient integration of applications across our enterprise, both in-store and on-line, ultimately creating an even more satisfying shopping experience for our customers across all sales channels."

About GERS
GERS Retail Systems is a leading supplier of software solutions for consumer-centric retailing. By facilitating the real-time flow of transactions and information across the entire retail organization, our solutions enable retailers to consistently anticipate, understand, and fulfill their customers' expectations for products that are priced, located, and timed to provide the optimal shopping experience. GERS solutions manage the merchandising life cycle, multi-channel selling, planning, business intelligence, and supply chain synchronization to create a great customer experience.

About Golden Gate Capital
Golden Gate Capital (www.goldengatecap.com) is a San Francisco-based private equity investment firm with $2.6 billion of capital under management. Golden Gate is dedicated to partnering with world class management teams to invest in change-intensive, growth businesses. They target investments of up to $100 million in situations where there is a demonstrable opportunity to significantly enhance a company’s value. The principals of Golden Gate have a long and successful history of investing with management partners across a wide range of industries and transaction types, including leveraged buyouts, recapitalizations, corporate divestitures and spin-offs, build-ups and venture stage investing.

Natural Solutions: Enterprise Ready, Adds Six Users

Natural Solutions, vendors of the Natural Order, Natural Web, and Natural Retail solutions for multi-channel direct commerce, has achieved a new level of enterprise readiness with the appointment of Richard Carter as Vice President of Development. Carter, who was with Sigma-Micro Corp. for twenty-six years, where he worked as a developer and programmer on the GAP, Lands' End, and East Bay accounts, brings industry expertise in working with large user organizations. He will be working at Natural Solutions to realize a more mature, more fully integrated application.

More than 200 users in the US, Canada, and Australia currently use Natural Order.

With Version 8.0, released earlier this year, the system now offers:
* Internationalization for addressing and currency
* Expanded security definitions
* User-definable order entry setup schemes
* Assortment kits
* Gift recipient lists
* Expanded picking selection criteria
* Email schemes
* Additional 3rd-party interfaces

"We are very excited about the release of Natural Order 8.0, which allows us to provide much more flexibility and functionality within our suite of software offerings," says Tyce McIntosh, VP of Marketing. "We will be implementing version 8.0 for six new users by the end of the year."

Three points in the above list invite comment. The first is the use of "schemes" in Natural Order. These user-definable template interfaces supporting parameterization of system functionality will become the norm in future development on the system. In order entry, for example, schemes specify the order of field navigation, what fields are called, and rules for using each field. You can also designate different sets of fields by user log-on, so that you can have specialized fields for new users and fewer fields for advanced users.

In addition to e-mailing, schemes currently manage royalties and advanced discounting options.

The second point is internationalization. Natural Solutions joins a select group of software vendors who can support virtually any currency and contact (phone, address) conventions worldwide.

Finally, with regard to third-party interfaces, Natural Solutions recently announced integration with Independent Solutions, a provider of sales tax software. This is in addition to integration with POSitive Technology's POS solution (using Microsoft's Retail Management System), the Satori worldwide address verification solution, and Commerce V3 for Web storefronts.

Natural Solutions will start migrating all users onto the same platform in the near future. Says Tyce, "Our latest version is stable and mature. We have an aggressive R&D schedule to continue to extend its functionality, and we're looking at partnerships with additional Ecommerce vendors."

CommercialWare Update

Title Nine has chosen the CommercialWare suite of cross-channel retail software products - CW Direct, CWData and CWAnalytics, CWStore, CWValueCard, and CWLocate – for its eight retail stores, storefront retail operations in its call center and supporting the website operations. Also, Sur La Table has completed the implementation of CommercialWare's CWDirect and CWCollaborate for improved and accelerated inventory visibility and managing its processes for drop-ship orders. In addition to improved coordination between the stores, website, and catalog call center, Sur La Table can now obtain reports and more easily access information including comprehensive order activity, trending views, and operational metrics.

CommercialWare also announced that Restoration Hardware, Payless, Vermont Country Store, and the Metropolitan Museum Of Art will all be going live later this year or early next year.

In other news, CommercialWare is now fully PCI-Compliant, having become PABP (Payment Application Best Practices)-certified. The PABP is currently a voluntary VISA program, which will be mandatory in the near future.

Finally, six months after its acquisition by Datavantage, a wholly owned subsidiary of Micro Systems Inc., the two companies are on course to integrating their solution suites, according to Mark Lightbody, Senior Business Consultant at CommercialWare. Datavantage provides specialty retailers such as Coldwater Creek and JJill with POS and analytical applications, with some users having more than 10,000 registers in place. CWI’s users tend to have a total of fewer than 50 cash registers to manage.

When the two companies’ application suites are merged, the final result will rely on components from each. For instance, “Relate” is the Datavantage CRM application, which can house the Retail Master File and populate it to the POS. For the Inventory Locator and Gift Card management, it will be CWI applications they will use.

The two sales teams are beginning to coordinate and work together, and to market together as well. Europe, Asia, and South America are already covered by Micros, and eventually both Datavantage and CWI will be serving specialty retailers on a truly global basis, too.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

PCS Announces Four New Users

ProfitCenter Software (PCS), a subidiary of Systemax, Inc., has announced four new users for its Web-based, on-demand Profitability Suite of direct commerce applications.

Extreme Halloween, Nania, FL, will use PCS to consolidate order management and fulfillment for its 13 Ecommerce sites, supporting aggregation of product demand and customer databases.

Art of Beauty, Cleveland, OH, a leading manufacturer and marketer of natural nail care products and cosmetics, chose PCS for its CRM and multichannel B2B and B2C capabilities.

AM Leonard, Piqua, OH, a multichannel horticultural tool and gardening merchant, looks forward to using PCS for its Web sites, outbound wholesale sales team, consumer call center, and accounting departments.

Virginia Diner, Wakefield, VA, a provider of gourmet foods, has selected PCS because of its effective pricing, which will allow it to make additional investments in growing its business.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Google Catalogs

Has your company signed up for Google Catalogs? Google Catalogs helps you make a scanned version of your paper catalog accessible to online users by scanning it and hosting it online for free. Google thinks it's "easily browseable and fully searchable, enabling users to quickly find your products."

While the browsing can be a bit difficult -- not every catalog looks good in a scanned version -- the searching is interesting. Using an intelligent search/query box, shoppers can find out which of the scanned catalogs carry the product(s) they are looking for.

You get access by clicking on "more>>" in the links above the Google search box, and selecting "Catalogs" (fourth one down on the left, under "Search"). Catalogs are categorized in the following buckets:
Apparel & Accessories, Computers, Home & Garden, Arts & Crafts, Consumer Electronics, Lifestyle & Gift, Arts & Entertainment, Education, Sports & Outdoors, Automotive, Food & Gourmet, Toys & Hobbies, Books/Music/Film, Health & Personal Care, Business To Business, and Home.

However . . . there is no way to place an order on Google Catalogs. If you find what you want, you can then click on the catalog Web site or call the phone number, both of which are displayed next to the scanned pages.

This would have been considered slick in 1997, but 10 years later, I'm curious to know if it is getting any action. Let me know your experience with Google Catalogs (kept in confidence, if you wish). Thanks.

Update on Junction Solutions

In April Junction Solutions rebranded its offerings as:
JunctionMCR (Multi-ChannelRetail)
JunctionIIS (In-Store Systems)
JunctionRQW (RetailQuadWare Business Intelligence)
Junction F/B (Food & Beverage vertical)

The company has also recently signed Royal Canadian Mint; Folica, a wholesaler and retailer of hair and skin care products; Nautica Mexico (its first international customer); Redcat Motors, provider of off-road vehicles, and Resolution, a major third-party fulfillment center for 50 leading media companies and online retailers such as A&E, CBS, MTV, Food Network, National Geographic and Ben & Jerry’s (which has already gone live).

Pfaltzgraff selected Junction Solutions's Business Intelligence Application, JunctionRQW, to improve understanding of customer behavior and product marketing.

Release 3.3 of Junction MCR includes the following new functionality:
• Database Integration AX/RQW /ISS
• Reporting Portal and Executive Dashboard

Customer Service
• Screen Re-design
• Improved Order Status Flow
• Misc. Credits/Refunds

Warehouse functions
• Expedited "Hot" Order Flags
• Shipping Station Integration
• Additional Pick Wave Options
• Substitute Item Process
• Returns and Exchanges Workbench

Order Management
• Fraud Checking
• Mail Order Batches
• Check Hold Function
• Unauthorized Payment Workbench
• Deferred or Installment Billing
• Credit Card Resubmit Controls
• Priority Backorder
• Coupon Creation and Processing

Promotions Management
• Customer List Creation Tools
• RFM and LTV scoring applications

In December of 2006 Junction plans to release version 4.1, the first release on the Microsoft Dynamics AX 4.0 platform (which replaces "Axapta"). The theme for this release is "integration and streamlining processes," with full integration of the data warehouse solution (JunctionRQW) and the POS Solution (JunctionISS) as the major focus of this release.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Update on Ship4U

Gunnar Fredlund of CIO Technologies Inc., reports some updates regarding Ship4u, a hosted order management/fulfillment application:

"...all customers currently are using the ASP version of our software and the same code base. One of the fringe benefits for our customers is that additions made for one customer are made available for the others at no extra charge.

"We have implemented our system at four new warehouses last month so our customer base is growing.

"One major improvement in the system is that we now can set up automatic routing tables to split client orders automatically between East and West coast (a Canada alternative is coming on-line this month). One infomercial client who uses our solution noticed an immediate reduction in call center calls as the products now reach the customers much faster."

Friday, June 16, 2006

More on Sigma

I finally spoke to Kevin Spark at Sigma regarding their technology. They are making good use of “Windows Communication Foundation,” which is now .NET 3.0. They are using a lightweight transaction manager that can cache data locally and be notified when it gets updated on a database. This reduces roundtrips to the database (for things like authenticating username and password that get lots of use with very few data changes).

They are also using some homegrown tech innovations that I am precluded from talking about, or even describing. Suffice to say that when they are ready to introduce their new browser-based system later this year, it will be well worth waiting to take a good close look at.

Ecometry World Conference

Attended the Ecometry World Conference this week. They put on a good show, as always. My primary interest was in determining how Blue Martini, which the parent company, Golden Gate Capital, acquired last year, fits into the picture as a Java based application that won two "Java Pro Magazine" Reader's Choice Awards for Best Pure Java Packaged Client-Server or Distributed Application and Best Pure Java Packaged Client Application, since Java was not part of Ecometry's technology for its order management and fulfillment application. Most of Blue Martini's legacy users are also much larger than Ecometry's user base.

The answer seems to be "better than expected." Ecometry and Blue Martini will be synchronized on the same version number, 9.0, next year, and it appears that the two organizations are doing a good job at learning from each other. This is one of those times when "synergy" is not just a buzzword. So while the jury is still out, I think there is a good chance that by the end of next year Ecometry will have evolved into a more mature multi-channel solution (they've also got Nextor, a Java-based POS application, which will be synchronized on 9.0 as well). They have their work cut out for them, but the pieces are in place for a big leap forward.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Sigma Commerce Suite

As noted in the June eCSForum newsletter, Sigma Micro has acquired the Intellectual Property Rights to the Quark Commerce Suite. I promised more information as soon as it was available.

According to Sigma's President, Joe Swern, the acquisition provides a major boost to a development project that Sigma had begun nine months ago to migrate to a .Net environment. Much of the Quark functionality was consistent with their own development, and the company will undertake a "gap analysis" in the next few months to determine what needs to be added to meet the needs of the current Controller+ installed base. They anticipate that only a few database changes will be required in implementing a true N-Tier application suite.

Sigma will also be converting the .Net 1 platform of the Quark product to .Net 2, which provides improved scalability and performance of applications with improved caching, application deployment and support for a broader array of browsers and devices with ASP.NET 2.0 controls and services.

The new product, expected to be available before the end of the year, will be fully multi-channel, and available in a browser interface on a hosted or a licensed basis. They expect the deal with Quark to be finalized by July 7.

I am still waiting to clarify some technical details with Sigma's technical staff. For the moment, it appears that the Quark system has found a very approprate new home that will redound very well to the benefit of Sigma's user base, and to anyone looking for a broadly functional direct commerce order management system using some of the latest Microsoft tools and technologies.

Common Sense

Based on feedback from software vendors, it seems like a word of caution is in order regarding common sense in dealing with vendor proposals for software applications.

Companies spend countless hours -- and plenty of sweat, a little blood, and sometimes even tears -- in putting together a Request for Proposal that they send to vendors for "good faith" responses. The vendors in turn invest a considerable number of hours in producing their proposal, which often translates into thousands of dollars worth of time. The more conscientious the vendor, the more expensive the investment.

Each vendor realizes that they have only a 1/N chance of being selected by the merchant/prospect, but they are willing to take that chance if they feel they are well qualified compared to the presumptive competition, and if in their judgment it is a truly open competition (and not stacked in favor of a predetermined candidate).

All too often, the next step is a frustrating silence and lack of communication on the part of the merchant prospect. Calls are unreturned, e-mails unanswered. After months of the cold shoulder, the vendor may find out almost as a casual afterthought that they have been eliminated from consideration, without any discussion of their proposal or chance to clarify issues that might have been misunderstood.

You might say, "Well, that's just the way it goes, and it's the cost of doing business." But in my experience the lack of communication is typically the result of inadvertance or a fits-and-starts approach to the evaluation process altogether. It doesn't take a major commitment of time to keep the candidates "in the loop." Just letting them know your timeframe, and changes to it, and the status of the decision-making process, should be enough to establish a welcome civility. And when a decision has been made, every vendor who fails to make the cut deserves to be informed in a timely manner, with or without an explanation.

This field is a very small world, and you never know when what goes around is going to come around (and hit you on the back of the head). A word to the wise....

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Seize the Day!

I had the opportunity to make a presentation on the subject of "Getting a Handle on Fulfillment Software" at the Mailing and Fulfillment Services Assoc. Conference in Dallas, March 24. It was a good show with a nice turnout.

By way of introduction to the subject, I mentioned I had read in The Economist that week that Belarus, a Russian "satellite," is in the throes of a political stalemate. Their apathy is reflected in many of the jokes Belarusians tell about themselves. In one, a citizen is hung by his captors. Two weeks later, he is still alive. How did he survive? “I got used to it.” This apathetic adaptability is also evident in the villages where they say, "Maybe another president would be worse!"

The point? All too often users with a crippled/compromised system simply "get used to it" and fear that making a change to another system might only make matters worse. Done poorly, of course, such a change could end up for the worse, but to reduce the chance of that outcome you need to know what you have control over and act accordingly.

The comedian Emo Phillips, I told the audience, says that when he was ten years old, he prayed to God every night for a bicycle. After awhile, he realized that God didn't work that way, so he went out and stole a bike, and prayed to God every night to forgive him!

It takes hard work to get a new system right, but if you engage in the effort intelligently, you won't have to pray to God every night that you made the right decision...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

March Madness

We are back at work on the site. The "guts" and much of the skin should be done by the end of this month -- and we should have settled on a new official logo. In April we will finalize functionality (e-mail newsletter and other communication, credit card processing, etc.) and should be ready to have vendors start entering their data in May. Knowing how these projects go, I am assuming it will be the end of June before we are really and truly ready to go!

Thank you to those who have contributed suggestions. Feel free to click on "# Comments" and make it "# plus 1" with some suggestions of your own....

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Month of Treading Water

February has turned out to be a month of treading water for us as far as working on the site is concerned. Two key players are out for two weeks.

In early March, we should make up for it spades, with a new logo, all the database "guts" done (or most of them), and a lot of the HTML coded. We might even be ready to get the vendors started on entering their data, which will be like herding cats, but that's the way it goes.

Any questions, I'm always at ernie@schell.com

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sample Page Images

The first image above is a jpeg of the Home Page. We're working on a new logo this weekend. The second is a jpeg of the details of a system profile (in early draft form...)

We're hoping to have all coding done by April 2006. This is probably way too ambitious, but at this point it's better to be aggressive than not.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

"Under Construction"

I will be keeping you posted on the progress being made in replacing the eCSForum site with
"The Guide to Direct Commerce Systems and Services."

Watch this space....
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