GSA Advantage to deliver faster, timely product updates

The General Services Administration is for the first time using a new industry standard to automatically update PC product information located in the agency's online catalog.

The support will mean faster and easier product updates and more accurate information offered in GSA Advantage, the agency's online supply catalog and ordering system.

GSA partnered with PC supplier Micronpc.com and electronic commerce vendor Netfish Technologies Inc. to test the new standard designed for PC products. Netfish is providing the core messaging and communication component and the tools to convert Micronpc.com's business data into Extensible Markup Language (XML) messages.

The standard was developed by members of industry group RosettaNet, which was formed in 1998 to reach industry consensus on electronic commerce standards. GSA is also a member of RosettaNet.

"The major difference between the use of RosettaNet standards based on XML is that these transactions are interactive, vs. typical batch transactions enabled through [electronic data interchange]," said Patrick Gannon, vice president of marketing and strategic programs at Netfish. Transactions can happen directly between trading partners instead of having to go through a value-added network, he added.

GSA sells a variety of products in GSA Advantage. A lack of standard business interfaces makes the process of updating product information on the site cumbersome and slow for vendors.

Standard support will help cut the time and expense associated with keeping online catalogs up to date. "All companies that are RosettaNet-compliant will enter their information one time and broadcast it to all customers," said Terri Hobson, project coordinator at GSA.

GSA plans to test this and other RosettaNet standards with additional GSA Advantage vendors such as IBM Corp., 3Com Corp. and Dell Computer Corp., Hobson said.

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