E-Commerce (EC) implementation affects all aspects of an organization, not just the supply chain. Here are some ideas for purchasing people to consider before taking the plunge.

General Comments

  1. Not all EC processes are created equal.
  2. Consider both the operating system or software as well as the proposed business process.
  3. Involve other departments, the supplier and anyone else you can find to make sue you have a comprehensive understanding of what you want to do, your choices and the impacts on all organizations before you start.
  4. Consider how the proposed process will affect the company as a whole. Will the proposed process affect cash flow, impact accounting practices, require changes in receiving, change freight agreements, influence skill requirements for new employees, overload older computer systems or demand new training programs? 
  5. Make sure that your proposed EC Trading Partner Agreement (TPA) agreement reflects a clear understanding of what you get with the service, what else you need to purchase and the support you will receive. Nobody falls for the old used-car-salesman trick of having to pay extra for the spare tire anymore and nobody should buy into EC without making sure they are getting the whole package.
  6. Ask each prospective EC supplier to help address all of these potential issues. Get good, well-explained answers. The best suppliers are happy to help you understand. E-Commerce is a competitive business and there is no need to put up with garbled information, suppliers with an attitude or half baked assurances. If you don't feel comfortable with what you hear or who you are dealing with, GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!
  7. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) should be a good source of assistance and advice. Your ISP deals with the technical issues of connecting thousands of business to the Internet. They are your first line of defense in making sure your visit to the Internet is a safe, private and productive one. Enlist the support and involvement of your ISP in the planning and acquisition of the EC service. This might also be a good time to review the contract with your ISP and see what you should/could be getting in the way of service.
Here are a few questions and issues to consider in your planning and implementation.


  1. Is this a common business practice for the supplier or are they just learning?
  2. Does the supplier have the technical expertise in house or are they dependant upon consultants?
  3. Does the supplier already have a reputation on the web? What can you find in chatrooms and search engines about the supplier or process?
  4. Are there any concerns relative to the financial or legal health of the supplier?
  5.  Does the supplier have a publicly posted privacy policy that assures your company information will be safe?


  1. Who owns it?
  2. Who is liable if copyright or patent problems develop?
  3. What is the cost? Is it a transaction basis, annual fee or one-time purchase?
  4. Is there an annual use or licensing fee? Can you get an enterprise (site-wide) license or must you pay for each user? Is it per desktop or by concurrent users?
  5. Are you entitled to upgrades or will you have to buy them? Will you get free bug fixes and technical support?
  6. Are there upgrades to other operating systems and user applications required before you can install or use the software? If so, what will the effect be when upgrades are incorporated to one or more of the systems?
  7. Who is responsible for software compatibility?
  8. What is the "footprint" of the software? Where does the operating system reside? What network traffic will it generate? 
  9. Will it work with my existing or planned desktop applications?
  10. What impacts are there to the user PCs in terms of space needed, operating software, processing speed, etc.?
  11. What effect will the process have on your network when multiple users log in?
  12. Is the source code available to you in the event the supplier fails? Will the supplier consider a "software escrow" arrangement?
  13. Who owns the rights to any specific implementation software used or developed?
  14. Can I use this software/process with several suppliers?
  15. Is it going to cost me extra to connect to other suppliers and/or to add additional users?
  16. Can my supplier use this software/process with several customers?
  17. If I change E-Commerce suppliers or processes can I keep my existing software, user interface and process or do I have to change?


  1. Is it "Amazon.com" simple to learn and use?
  2. What training and training materials are available?
  3. Will the supplier provide training to users when they upgrade or change the software?
  4. Is there clear documentation for technical operation, process administration, and user guides?
  5. Do I have the right to copy and distribute copies of the documentation or will I have to pay for each copy?
  6. Can I administer the process in house or will I need to contact the supplier to add users and maintain user information?
  7. What special training will process administrators need?
  8. Are there annual operating expenses associated with administration, user groups, conferences, product enhancement meetings?
  9. How well does the supplier help line work? Are responses timely and informative?
  10. What is the process to report potential bugs or problems?
  11. How is the catalog maintained or updated?
  12. Can catalog items be added, deleted or locked?
  13. Does the application support individual user profile information (delivery location, charge codes, etc.)


  1. Where/how is the product info and catalog data is available.
  2. Is the catalog(s) searchable.
  3. Can requisitions be prepared and submitted electronically?
  4. Does the system maintain an order history to make repetitive requirement easier to process?
  5. Can I track order status easily?
  6. Can I determine material availability?
  7. Can I route requests for review and approval?


  1. What will it cost? Include: software, startup, installation, operation, maintenance, transaction costs,  upgrades and required business process changes.
  2. Who owns the transaction records and where are they stored? How long? How securely? Will they meet evidence requirements?
  3. Does the process meet my "legal" record requirements?
  4. Is there a plan for legal notifications as opposed to day-to day administration?
  5. What does each party stand to gain in the relationship? Who is making money on the deal? Is there a potential for a conflict of interest among the participants?
  6. Can everyone involved afford to continue the process or will they try to get out of the deal at the first chance?
  7. Is the EC process scalable? Can I expand usage to other commodities/suppliers without a major re-design?
  8. Can I get delivery information?
  9. Can the process be used for more than one commodity?
  10. Are the control and administrative functions transparent?
  11. Does the system allow verification to contract prices?
  12. What is the process for contract problem resolution?
  13. Are there usage and performance reports available?
  14. Can I track trends?
  15. Can I easily check the status of open releases?
  16. Does the data have to be re-keyed at any point?
  17. Can I use the process with more than one supplier?
  18. Can I restrict items by commodity and/or user?
  19. Are standard catalog descriptions being used?
  20. Does the system use standard product identification codes and NAICS codes?
  21. Does the process support stock replenishment and/or automatic ordering?
  22. Is there a complete and current emergency response plan in place and are all key personnel participants in the plan?
  23. Can I expand to international vendors and customers?


  1. Will the deliveries include a customized shipping label?
  2. What carrier will be used? Is the transportation chain part of the arrangement?
  3. Does the process supports negotiated transportation agreements?
  4. Will the system support Electronic Bills of Lading?
  5. Are records available to support tariff or rate audits?
  6. Can we use bar code identification and labels?
  7. Will the system create a manifest for delivery to end users?
  8. Does the system support Hazardous material labeling requirements?
  9. Are special receiving or delivery instructions are captured and provided with the shipment?
  10. Is there a process to support overages, shortages, damage and returns?


  1. Will the proposed process affect our cash flow?
  2. Will the proposed process require an increase in invoicing or payment activity?
  3. Will the proposed system support tax information and records?
  4. Is an electronic invoice available?
  5. Can we use some form of "evaluated receipt settlement"?
  6. Does the supplier and system support electronic funds transfer?
  7. Does the software support cost allocation to user organizations?
  8. Are records adequate and available for audit?


  1. How are security concerns regarding access to computer systems and information addressed?
  2. Does my supplier have controls in place to protect sensitive data and a policy about selling information about me to others?
  3. Who owns the rights to the catalog data? (can I keep using it even if the agreement lapses?)
  4. Is the EC system or process "state of the art" or out of date?
  5. What changes in EC software ownership are anticipated?
  6. Is the system already installed and working somewhere or is it "vaporware"?
  7. Can I talk to some references?
  8. Who is responsible in the event that there is a security problem; loss; data corruption...?
  9. If there are incompatibilities with you current PC or Network applications, who is responsible to find a solution?
MLTWEB is assembled and maintained by Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M. 
Materials and articles prepared by Mike may be shared for purchasing education provided that this source is cited and no fee is charged. The rights for any other use are withheld.
Copyright;  Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M.
Last Updated: 02/26/2012