After the Shipment Tracking project was over, I spent the next year working on several things, overlapping and simultaneously.
One cool thing was Rosettanet, the standards-based B2B architecture being developed, mainly driven first by IT and electronics companies. The idea was to define a set of supply-chain messages that companies could use with other companies who used the architecture. So, once you started using the message with one other company, you could then use them to communicate with other Rosettanet –using companies with little to no added effort.
One of the key set of messages had to do with making shipments of orders through a delivery company like DHL, including getting shipment status, and notice of delivery. So, Frank and I signed on as the representatives for DHL, and joined a working that included reps from Federal Express, UPS and a few smaller players.
The main deliverable consisted of XML message formats, with all the data defined that would need to pass from sender to receiver. ( A lot of the other messages sets were about automatically checking a suppliers inventory for desired product, then making the product order, and the supplier confirming the order, shipping --- which was our part ---, followed by invoicing. When we signed up, there were upwards of 100 individual messages defined, and about half had been created, and the first companies were starting to use them.)
Our messages were drafted during a couple days of meetings with all the reps, at a Fedex Ground location outside Pittsburgh. We took along an actual business person from DHL USA (also located near San Francisco) for Shipment knowledge. DHL’s acknowledged expertise at that time was in international shipments, so a lot of the message content about customs clearance came straight from us.
After that, we met weekly by conference call to iron out the final versions, after which they went through a formal Rosettanet review and approval process, after which they were published. The interesting thing about Rosettanet was the published services were free for any company to use, to spread their use, obviously. The core companies like IBM and others provided the most, and it cost to join in order to participate in development of the messages, worth the money if you made sure the messages were going to work for you.
I also went to one Rosettnet User Conference, in Chicago. A lot of it was about how to implement and start using Rosettanet at a company, with all day sessions or various tracks of one hour sessions, like most conferences. The basic structure was to have software sit in front of a company’s existing order and inventory systems, extract data as needed from them, use it to create the standard message and send them off. The same software would do the reverse as well, accepts messages, parse out the data and feed the existing systems. As you might expect, a number of vendors in the B2B space had already built and were hawking software packages to do just that, including services to automate the extracts from and feeds to existing systems. So, all the vendors were at the conference, of course. That always meant some free food and drinks and entertainment, which always helps make any conference more enjoyable.
In the end, the interesting thing was that some months later, Cisco and DHL entered into a logistics agreement, where DHL would warehouse Cisco parts around the world and deliver the parts when directed by Cisco…and their requirement was that these shipments would be triggered automatically using Rosettanet messages.
Anyway, its still out there, see www.rosettanet.org , check it out if you are serious about B2B...