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Introducing Burns e-Commerce

Another pioneer in the EIPP space is Burns e-Commerce from the North West of England, in fact not too far from where I live. Founded in 1989, now in 3rd incarnation, the beX (Burns Business Exchange) handles documents worth well over Euro23bn pa for global brands such as Philips, Eli Lilly, Office Depot, Intel and Citibank.

Above shows the document flow within beX. Their offering seems to be limited to 3 document types (purchase order, invoice and remittance), which keeps the solution simple, but also put a significant limitation. Modern systems should at least handle 9 document types (request for quotes, quotation, purchase order, delivery note, proof of delivery, invoice, credit note, debit note and remittance advice). See my article on UBL 2 which offers 31 document types. Payment is through ACH (I thought this was through Mastercard eP3).

beX supports a wide variety of structured message formats including:

  • XML (internally on beXML format; plus ebXML, cXML, opXML, etc.)
  • flat-file formats (beX’s own CSV format – beXSV)

beX seems to have offered limited number of formats, which keeps the solution simple, yet reduces its competitiveness when compared with solutions offered by others. Some will map any customer format. For payments, beX supports SWIFT, ACH, BAI, EDI and other proprietary banking payment formats.

Burns has also stretched the model to include "financial supply management" capability. Their method of implementation is to align with a invoice discounter (Finance Provider). Once the supplier select "pay now", the Finance Provider takes care of the appropriate payment. The issue here is that suppliers may already have invoice discounting or factoring arrangements in place. In this case, once the suppliers have joined beX for document exchange, they would also need to either ditch their existing Finance Provider in order to benefit from Burns arrangement, or not use Burns payment facility at all. However, in theory, Burns Finance Provider will be able to offer much higher % of the invoice amount due to visibility of the invoice transaction (that negative practices of invoicing and crediting the next day ironed out), which is of course good news to suppliers.

Above shows outgoing document management from purchasers to suppliers. Notice that this solution is implemented as a purchaser-centric exchange solution, and not delivering equal benefits to both purchaser and supplier (i.e. the solution specifically recognises a company as a supplier or a purchaser instead of recognising a company as both a supplier and a purchaser – there is a significant difference when you start to segregate companies).

It seems Burns also handles documents in paper, fax and e-mail formats in addition to electronically. This is a plus but makes the solution complicated, as you need to provide expensive means of data correction, etc.

I will revisit Burns in the near future including discussing how they were funded, etc.

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