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The asset of experience

Just when you think you have the topography all mapped out, and you have seen every kind of e-company that you can find, inevitably, you will discover one more that doesn't fit exactly into the mental landscape you have painted.

One thing about the e-business industry, it's made up of as many shades of gray as you can think of.

Just when you think you have the topography all mapped out, and you have seen every kind of e-company that you can find, inevitably, you will discover one more that doesn't fit exactly into the mental landscape you have painted.

One reason is innovation, if something different isn't existing already, you can bank on someone somewhere thinking it up pretty quickly.

Another is evolution. If you are to take a magnifying glass and put a company under close scrutiny, you will see that the company's present make-up is a result of its own unique evolutionary experience.

The arena of e-procurement today is accentuated by huge exchanges, industry mega-hubs where hundreds, if not thousands, of suppliers vie for a chance to do business with buyers. These are the head-liners, the US automotive mega-hub,Covisint, the Asian pulp and paper hub, E-pulppaper.com. The way to the future may well lie that way, whole industries conducting purchasing and requisitions at an on-line marketplace.

For one e-procurement solutions provider, PurchasingNet, however, a rather different route has been taken.

This is a software company that has been in the business of streamlining customer's procurement process through technology for 17 years. Founded in 1984, the early years were about working with DOS, and Internet was still a DARPA project.

You can't ignore a history like that.

Which is perhaps why instead of rushing into building e-marketplaces and web-based solutions, the company's presentation at the launch of its Asia Pacific operation in Singapore is focused on intranet services and end-to-end solutions.

As Laurene Fielder, PurchasingNet's senior vice president, professional services and co-founder, explains, the company's experience with clients has shown that many companies still prefer to work with the suppliers that they already have instead of foraging the Internet for the lowest bid.

What is offered by PurchasingNet is a full front and back end system that takes care of the whole procurement process including requisition, purchase order, approvals, receipts, invoice matching, inventory control and asset tracking. All set up in a remarkable short period of 8-12 weeks, at a price tag of US$300 000 to 400 000 for full deployment, including implementation and training.

This is a company that knows the procurement business. The chairman and co-founder himself, Tim Mceneny, has a preponderate background in purchasing as a fellow and frequent speaker of American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS), and author of a book on materials management.

A brief walk-through of the system conducted by Fielder at the presentation demonstrates an intimate knowledge of the procurement process.

When it comes to web-based initiatives, however, PurchasingNet does seem a little like a Johnny-come-lately. Although boasting a 12% market share in the US with over 1400 clients, many of whom are big name-brands such as Black and Decker and Warner Brothers, the number of its SQL web-based solutions clients is just over 30.

Still, an ASP version of their product is available, and the company has even begun building digital marketplaces. But as Mceneny admits, they are still very new to this area of Internet commerce.

With an ROI of 100% to 300% and a typical 6-month payback period, accolades for the company has been piling up. This year alone, the company has been named one of the top 500 software companies in the world by Software Magazine and won the CIO-100 award for excellence in customer service/relationship management.

Making Singapore the first out-post of its expansion into Asia Pacific, PurchaseNet plans to spend approximately $10 million in the next 3 years, hiring over 40 people and setting up offices in Japan and Australia.