RALEIGHT, N.C. (Sept. 27, 3:50 p.m. EDT) — Sam Bayer of Haht Commerce Inc. calls himself chief evangelist for his Internet software company. He even has that title printed on his business cards.
"I size up every organization and its appetite for change," said Bayer, vice president of the Raleigh, N.C.-based computer software company. "When companies really don´t know what they´re facing with e-commerce, it seems ominous. As soon as they start learning about it, it sounds doable."
Haht preaches small steps to connect a company to the Web. Its clients already have spent thousands of dollars installing expensive computer systems linking plants and warehouses.
Now, the company wants them to link those internal systems with the outside world, where order taking and fulfillment can be accomplished.
And unlike the initial, wallet-busting computer systems, basic Haht software costs $250,000, Bayer said.
"On an order of magnitude, the cost is small," he said.
One of its new clients — and one of the first in the plastics industry — is plastic-pipe producer Lamson & Sessions Co. The Beachwood, Ohio-based company purchased the software to track orders for its Carlon electrical products division, purchased over its Carlon eConnect Web site.
About 400 customers have signed onto the system since May, said Dave Barnett, manager of electronic commerce at Lamson & Sessions.
The company also plans to add software for order entry, used by manufacturers representatives, later this year, Barnett said.
And in the third phase, the company will provide personalized information to customers, offering promotions and discounts on a one-to-one basis, he said.
"We want to be ahead of the competition," Barnett said. "Maybe next year, customers will have the ability to use online marketplaces to place orders. But we want to be in that position now."
The software is one of several new initiatives to connect companies. Another is a new private sourcing exchange being launched by SupplierMarket.com Inc., and its new owner, technology company Ariba Inc.
Those partners will provide an automated clearinghouse to buy and sell goods and receive payment, said Steve Heutlinger, director of supplier management for the Burlington, Mass.-based company.
The system, installed in-house at companies, could include an electronic bulletin board to answer supplier questions and the ability to download design drawings, he said.
"It will be a private label for companies," Heutlinger said. "We want to introduce buyers and sellers in a functional marketplace. Our work will be transparent for suppliers, so they´ll feel right at home."