GE, X-Change offer bidding tool to ease EC tasks

GE Information Services and X-Change Software Inc. have teamed up to make electronic commerce (EC) less of a chore for bidders who do not understand the bits and bytes of the service itself.

X-Change Software Inc., Oakton, Va., offers a product call X-Bid, which lets users respond to an agency's request for quotations (RFQ) using the Federal Acquisition Computer Network or Government Acquisition Through Electronic Commerce (GATEC).

With X-Bid, bidders and potential bidders can work through the procurement process electronically without actually learning X12, the government standard for electronic data interchange (EDI).

Such "translators" make it easier for small companies to get involved in EC, said Ron Meyer, senior account executive of government services for GE Information Services, Rockville, Md. Translators "shield the small company from having to learn what X12 is," Meyer said. "They shouldn't care about that."

GE is offering X-Bid to customers using its Bid Board EC service, an application of the company's value-added network. X-Bid is also available from X-Change Software for use with MCI's VAN service.

X-Bid, which uses a Microsoft Corp. Windows-based graphical interface, simplifies the technology so users only need to worry about filling in the prices on an electronic form, said Jay Hoffmeier, vice president of X-Change Software.

The software allows users to track their bid through the process—from the point they first open an RFQ until they are notified electronically of a win or loss. It also provides a forum through which bidders can send text to get more information or clarification on program requirements.

From the beginning, the software takes care of connectivity, user registration and other technical EC issues. "They do not have to know anything about EDI; we take care of everything," Hoffmeier said.

For several years GE also has offered a translator package from CACI International Inc. that was designed for specific Defense Department EC systems and standards. X-Bid, on the other hand, can work with any standard, Meyer said.

GE believes translators are critical to advancing EC. Other translators, each with its own strengths, are available in the market, and GE plans to work with a number of them.

However, X-Change Software's technology has the advantage of being easily adaptable to various systems, Meyer said. "Working with X-Change, we can quickly come up with tailored packages for specific government opportunities," he said.

For example, GE and X-Change Software are proposing an X-Bid-like application for the General Services Administration's Advantage EC program. The product would allow GSA suppliers to send in catalog updates and receive purchase orders, Meyer said.

GE also is developing its own translator software called Quick Bid. The company is working with several state governments—including Indiana and Missouri—to use Quick Bid and the Bid Board as part of their EC programs.

X-Bid is available from either GE or X-Change Software. For GE's service, X-Bid costs $275. For MCI's service, it costs $295.

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