Post staff writer Sarah Schafer says you wont find "gum-chewing
teenagers with wads of their parents disposable income"
in the new Emall. What you will find, she says, is "Pentagon
officials with large checks from the U.S. Treasury hunting for lubricating
oil, drill bits and other supplies needed to keep the worlds
most powerful military humming."
In a story
in the Business Section on April 5, Schafer calls DLAs Emall
the "ultimate marriage of Washingtons old business, government,
with its new one, high technology."
"As business-to-business, or B2B, commerce companies replace
business-to-consumer ventures as the hottest Internet plays, government
managers are following their private-sector counterparts online."
that sell primarily to government now have a "shop" on
Emall. So far Emall focuses on small purchases - under $2,500 -
that are not already automated. But thats still $4 billion
worth of purchases, according to Schafer.
sector has seen a flurry of deals and strategic partnerships recently,
with companies that might otherwise compete, joining forces and
attempting to divide up the government procurement market,"
There are challenges
for the government, however. She quotes Don O'Brien, electronic
commerce research-and-development manager for the Joint Electronic
Commerce Program Office at DLA. Part of the problem, he said, is
coordinating the many different parties involved in purchasing,
especially when the system "is quite a departure from the normal
way of doing business."
in B2B electronic commerce, the idea behind business-to-government
is to cut out as many steps as possible between the purchaser--the
government--and the supplier. When that happens, the government
reasons, transaction costs plummet.
example, O'Brien recently visited a Navy aircraft overhaul facility.
There, the mechanics rely on "material control people" to secure
parts. Before Emall, the mechanic asked the material control
worker for a part. That worker filled out a paper form and sent
it through internal mail, or sometimes e-mail, to a procurement
employee in another office. The procurement officer would call
a few suppliers or send them a letter, asking for bids. Then,
the officer would order the part from the chosen supplier by
telephone, fax or sometimes through EDI, and the supplier would
ship it to the material control person.
the material control worker goes to the Emall site, scrolls
through parts available from a number of pre-approved suppliers,
and places the order online directly with the supplier, which
ships the part.
is for the customers to be able to directly interface with the
supplier," O'Brien said
customers buy directly from suppliers means government needs fewer
procurement officials. And last year, the Emall project cut the
cost of some micropurchases in half or more, O'Brien said.
Agencies, a High-Tech Way to Shop
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 5, 2000; Page G05