B2G firm ready to rumble
- By Colleen O'Hara
- May 15, 2000
As the business-to-government (B2G) e-commerce market heats up, NIC Commerce
is trying to position itself in the middle of the action right where sellers
and government buyers do business.
The Reston, Va.-based company makes software that helps agency employees
find, compare and purchase products and services across multiple catalogs
on the World Wide Web. The company was called eFed before it was acquired
last September by the National Information Consortium.
The acquisition combines NIC's experience building Internet portals
for state and local agencies with eFed's federal presence and e-procurement
software and hosting services.
What sets NIC Commerce apart from its competitors such as Ariba Technologies
Inc. and CommerceOne is its single-minded focus on the B2G market, said
John Lee, a former eFed official who is now executive vice president of
NIC Commerce. "Our market is the business-to-government market," he said.
"We understand government business rules."
Looking for a quick splash, the company made several announcements late
last month targeted at the nascent B2G market. Among them was a partnership
with Citigroup's Electronic Commerce Division, in which NIC Commerce software
will support CitiMart, an e-mall gateway that allows government users to
buy products from vendors through a Web browser. The e-procurement software
helps agencies purchase and reconcile items bought with the Citibank government
NIC Commerce also released the latest version of its flagship procurement
software, which is designed to make it easier for federal users to customize
and compare products they want to buy online. With eFed Version 3.0, users
can conduct a side-by-side comparison of systems from multiple vendors before
making a purchase. Users also can customize the system they want to purchase
by choosing different components, such as memory, from different vendors.
The new version of eFed also gives vendors the ability to update their online
product data on an as-needed basis and to modify individual items on the
site in real time. The software works with existing contract management
and back-end financial systems.
The Air Force Standard Systems Group will use the new software to help
run its Air Force Information Technology Superstore, which offers buyers
access to hardware, software, networking, service contracts and blanket
purchase agreements (see related story).
In addition to the new software, NIC Commerce announced that the General
Services Administration's Federal Supply Service will integrate the company's
Request for Quote Module into the GSA Advantage online shopping site. The
E-Buy quote module will streamline the request-for-quote process.
Market analysts expect more vendor consolidation in the B2G market as
companies scramble to assemble the products and customer relationships needed
to compete in this fast-growing market.
"There's no magic or mystery to procurement technology," said Joseph
Marino, research analyst at Current Analysis Inc., Sterling, Va. "It's a
question of who is the quickest and nimblest and best at integrating things."
Although not a corporate merger, American Management Systems Inc. and
Ariba teamed up late last year to stake their claim to the government e-procurement
market. The deal was the first strategic partnership for AMS in the B2G
market, and Ariba's first concentrated initiative in the public sector.
If successful, the alliance could make major inroads into the many procurement
networks both closed and open systems and the legacy supply chains that
exist in the government, Marino wrote in a report.