One of the problems CIDX face is that they find using their current messaging standard for exchanging business documents, RosettaNet RNIF, is too expensive … especially for smaller companies. Even RosettaNet itself admits that RNIF is expensive and so they have started their Multiple Messaging Systems Project to address the problem.
So what’s this got to do with T-Shirts?
Well one thing we did in the meeting, which I want to share, was to try and understand the nature of the problem better so that we could identify what sort of solution would be required to fix it. So we developed a table of style=”font-style: italic;”>Company T-Shirt sizes. Where the “T” in T-Shirt stands for technology and really describes the IT/Technology capabilities of different types of companies varying from “small” to “extra large”. Here’s what we developed …
|Extra Small (XS)
||Somebody with just an email system and no ERP access. Perhaps just using spreadsheets. Can’t count on 7×24 connectivity or static IP address.
||Company with simple stand-alone single-user ERP like QuickBooks. Can’t count on 7×24 connectivity or static IP address.
||Single company with multi-user networked ERP system. Little or no IT support.
|Medium Large (ML)
||Single company with multi-user networked ERP system. Able to install and configure software. Limited code “tweaking”.
||Company with multi-user networked ERP system. Single company. Able to install and configure software. Can develop software effectively.
|Extra Large (XL)
||Potentially has multiple ERP systems, multiple geographies, multiple companies. Can develop software in-house or outsource. Extensive IT support.
So what’s the issue and what has this got to do with web services?
We concluded that you could never build automated links to XS companies but that you should be able to connect everyone else, i.e. from Small on up. Now most Extra Large and Large companies already have connections to each other that work, e.g. based on RNIF. However Large and Extra-Large companies do business with sometimes thousands of Small to Medium-Large companies and the lack of automated electronic connections requires that all the business documents they receive are entered into their systems manually … at high cost and with higher error rates.
Even web services, as currently defined, don’t really help as:
- They are primarily designed to work over HTTP – small companies are not connected 7×24 and don’t usually have a static IP address,
- Small, Medium and some Medium-Large companies usually don’t have the technical skills to configure a web service
- Even if they could build or configure a web service, the connections to their existing backend/ERP systems don’t exist.
This means that, right now, only the Large and Extra Large companies can easily exchange business documents automatically.
So what’s needed?
Firstly you have to make web services work over non HTTP based approaches, e.g. eMail/SMTP. Next, you have to make the configuration of software for Small and Medium businesses automated somehow, e.g. using some version of WS-Policy, and finally, you have to have “shrink-wrapped” links to backend/ERP systems … we still have quite a way to go.