"The apparel industry has historically lagged many other areas in the application of technology"
The journey begins
Like any company implementing a new system that would change the way it conducts its business, Guess? first had to select the right architecture and tools for the job. But while Guess? is certainly big enough to make a substantial e-business investment, it's still small enough that e-business can make a big difference in the corporate culture. And CIO Timm recognized this.
"The apparel industry has historically lagged many other areas in the application of technology," says Timm. "Much of our attention in the next 12 months will be placed on improving the information flow between Guess? and its suppliers."
Timm wanted a solution that required just a PC, a browser, and a connection to the Internet.
That's why Guess? was eager to choose products that could integrate with the systems it already had in place. Says Timm, "The decision to go with Commerce One had a lot to do with the fact that Commerce One's MarketSite product can communicate back and forth easily with the PeopleSoft HR and procurement software [we already had in place]."
This is an issue many corporations face today as they examine the best ways to put the Internet and technology to work for them. It's problematic, because typically wholesale and retail business systems don't take advantage of each other. Ideally, they ultimately meet in the middle at manufacturing, but real integration is scarce.
That's because integration requires customization, which can be very expensive and can require piecing together disparate systems. But new developments in software are on the way to smooth the process. The most promising are protocols based on the eXtensible Markup Language (XML) that will provide ready-made language libraries for specific tasks such as e-commerce (CXML), electronic catalogs (ECX), and more.
It's also important particularly for large firms to realize that not all companies have the technology to do business strictly over the Internet. For Guess?, this realization became part of the company's RFP: "The ability for us to conduct business with a company without a Web presence was a stated requirement," says Timm. "Commerce One's MarketSite makes it relatively easy for a company to place their product catalog online and receive an order via the Net, a fax, an e-mail, or an edi transaction."