Andersen, InterWorld link

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Manufacturers and distributors are increasingly being told by customers to adapt to their new e-procurement schemes or risk losing their business. Arthur Andersen and InterWorld Corp., a sell-side software developer, have entered a pact to help companies do so.

The Big 5 professional services firm and InterWorld are teaming to offer B2B Essentials, a comprehensive solution consisting of software and consulting services intended to aid manufacturers and distributors in adapting their selling procedures to customers' e-hubs.

InterWorld's representatives will do most of the software development while Arthur Andersen's advisers will provide related consulting services. Both companies will market B2B Essentials at seminars and through direct marketing campaigns.

Alliances between consulting firms and software companies are nearly as plentiful as the e-hubs with which they intend to work. B2B Essentials' uniqueness is that it can be tailored to a broad range of sell-side tasks, said Stan Pittman, Arthur Andersen's InterWorld alliance partner. These range from standard front-end services, to managing pricing, to order management and fulfillment.

Often, such sell-side consulting and software services are sold piecemeal. "What we've done with B2B Essentials is put a circle around [e-selling services]," Pittman said.

Making changes

It is a foregone conclusion that manufacturers and distributors need to adapt their legacy selling systems to their customers' varying e-hub requirements. "From getting information online to ordering more efficiently, there is a real demand," said Tim Klein, senior b-to-b analyst at U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray Inc.

Companies' biggest collective challenge is deciding financially and strategically which customers are worth making changes for, because conversion is nearly always pricey. A main value of Arthur Andersen's proposition with B2B Essentials is helping companies make that determination, Pittman said.

One of Arthur Andersen's biggest challenges is letting the b-to-b community know of its Internet services. The Chicago-based firm has had some success in attempting to build its e-consulting brand, since recently splitting with Andersen Consulting.

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