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Building E-commerce bit by bit

While turnkey systems are labeled E-business solutions, and systems integrators are readily available to build such systems from scratch, effective E-commerce sites are being developed from existing Web sites, intranets, extranets and messaging systems.

For example, Allied Domecq Wines(www.allieddomecqplc.com)-known for its impressive offerings-is expanding its extranet using Lotus (www.lotus.com) Domino R5. The company has implemented a customer service intranet and extranet that provides information to its customers, buyers, distribution channels, sales force and internal work force.

Using Lotus’ Domino Enterprise Connection Services (DECS), Allied Domecq can access information stored in its Oracle (www.oracle.com) back-end database and serve up-to-the-minute information to internal and external contacts. Exemplifying the flexibility required in successful extranets, the vintner’s customers can receive the latest case prices while the sales force can check on orders.

The Lotus Domino, DECS and Oracle combination will further increase Allied Domecq Wines’ support offerings by allowing customers and suppliers to gain access to the data they need without requiring a live service agent. As a result, business is conducted quicker and more customers can spend more time enjoying wine.

Online forms integral to E-commerce

Generating interest and establishing value enough to have customers submit personal information over the Web is only part of building a successful E-business. According to experts in data capture, collected information must be cleansed and validated before populating, rather than polluting, a database.

"The biggest connection that forms processing has to E-commerce is in data validation at the point of collection," said Tim Dubes, VP of marketing at Cardiff Software (www.cardiff.com). "Data has to be cleansed and verified. Until then it’s not real."

Cardiff has added PDF features from Adobe (www.adobe.com), which enable users to either create new PDF forms or import an existing paper form and convert it into a digital PDF version. Cardiff’s Teleform with PDF+Forms ($2,495 per server) creates Adobe PDF files that can be printed on paper or used online with Adobe’s free Reader. Data from online PDF forms is automatically sent to the Teleform server, where business rules and verification tools confirm that the data is accurate.

"Typically, with an organization thinking from a marketing perspective, a site focuses on capturing interest and driving traffic," said Dubes, adding that the focus must also extend to handling information once traffic increases.

Dubes compared an online marketing plan with more traditional lead generation. "You advertise, go to trade shows, send marketing pieces two weeks later," he said. "Then in four weeks you place a call from sales.

"Businesses would like to do the same with Web leads, but they can’t; because it isn’t two weeks, it’s two seconds. It all happens that quickly. You’re already on step three, and you don’t know what to do with the information."

An advantage to Cardiff’s system is that it accounts for forms that are printed and returned by way of a scanner or fax machine in addition to those forms processed online. The ability to use a single automated process to collect data from paper and digital versions of a form is a unique capability delivered with PDF+Forms.

FileNet (www.filenet.com) and its ValueNet partner Shana (www.shana.com) also provide cross-platform E-form solutions. Powered by FileNet’s Panagon IDM software, Informed is an E-form solution that allows organizations to design and develop professional, intelligent forms. Those electronic form solutions allow users to gather electronic data early in the process and to keep the data electronic for as long as needed. In that way, data integrity is maintained, reducing errors caused by re-entering information.

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