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An eCom site without worrying about software upgrades


February 7, 2005

Johnny Tai, administrative manager of CPI, needed a robust, full-featured e-commerce platform that could handle complex and secure transactions.

As a B2B, CPI sells vehicles and parts to dealers across the country, and must provide these dealers with a full palette of account management tools.

Yet, Tai didn't want to spend an astronomical amount of money for CPI's e-commerce platform. He's an Oracle certified technician, and so is partial to Oracle products, but found the software maker's e-commerce platform too expensive. Likewise, he says, with Microsoft's, about which he had heard stories of huge customization fees.

He settled on NetSuite, a platform geared for the mid and small business market. Instead of purchasing a platform outright from NetSuite, CPI pays a per user license fee, which Tai says came to $12,000 for the first year. By comparison to some of the platforms he looked at, which cost a few hundred thousand dollars, he feels NetSuite's cost is reasonable - especially going forward.

"If you hire someone to write a program for you, later on you still need to pay them to update your program," he notes. "But with NetSuite we don't have to, we just pay the monthly fee."

In addition to handling software upgrades, NetSuite also provides the hardware infrastructure for CPI. The company's e-commerce platform runs off of NetSuite's central bank of servers.

Had CPI purchased all its own hardware, Tai notes, it would have needed two sets of servers (one for back-up) and an IT person to monitor everything on a daily basis.

"But with NetSuite, all we have is an Internet server, and we log in to our account," he says.

This remote hosting provides other advantages. "Today I'm in Dallas, and I can log into my account, and if I go to China, my boss can log into NetSuite and check our performance," Tai says.

NetSuite has built many industry-specific features into its platform, Tai says, which made the tool easier to integrate into his own company's business. Additionally, the NetSuite platform is customizable by its licensees, and Tai has done quite a bit of his own tweaking.

CPI USA allows its vehicle dealers to manage all aspects of their CPI account online. Dealers can register warranties online, download password-protected manuals, check order status, and print out invoices and credit memos. They can also see past order history.

After launching the platform in October 2003, he spent about eight months making software changes before he was satisfied that the platform was completely geared for CPI's business flow.

CPI's platform allows its vehicle dealers to manage all aspects of their CPI account online. Dealers register warranties online, download password-protected manuals, check order status, and print out invoices and credit memos. They can also see past order history.

At this point, CPI's challenge is to get all of its approximately 200 dealers to use the platform - some still prefer to use the telephone. To convince those dealers who prefer the phone to use the NetSuite platform, CPI has considered offering a discount for Internet orders.

Additionally, each month Tai sends his dealers a newsletter about using NetSuite, a little "how to" lesson.

"Even though the technology's very good, if they don't know how to use it, it's nothing," he says.


Source: eCommerce Guide



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