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From the Top - Ontuet

Earlier this week I spoke with John Jackovin, CEO of Ontuet, ( a provider of data synchronization tools. Ontuet's tools address the needs of companies of varying sizes with a combination of tools that range from basic Excel spreadsheets for data collection and manual editing, to SaaS hosted applications with automated integration to backend processes.

Awareness of and pressure to get on board with data synchronization was brought to the forefront at last year's UConnect conference where data synchronization was declared ready for prime time. A significant number of enterprises have already gone through the pain of synchronizing their internal data in order to present unified information to their trading partners. Ontuet finds itself increasingly helping those companies find internal uses for this clean data. It's not surprising to find that an organization's internal customers have the same problem reconciling product information as did its external customers.

Image - What is the current focus of your company's business?

Jackovin - Our company is focused on data synchronization and product information management. We offer two sets of products that address both those companies new to the concept of data sync, and to organizations looking to automate and make their synchronization efforts more efficient.

Our basic product is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that helps organizations collect and analyze their product information. Once that process is complete, the information can be uploaded to our SaaS application, and the company's product information is ready for deployment with their trading partners.

Our more automated product is an XML based application that connects to the company's online data, but also provides integration between their multiple internal applications and their external data presentation.

We generally recommend new clients start off with the spreadsheet product. We find that starting off this way gives people a better understanding of the whole data synchronization concept. In fact 99% of our customers, even those very large enterprises, started off this way.

Image - How has this focus changed in the last 2 years?

Jackovin - Initially we thought the market would be served by large installed applications, but realized that hosted, dynamic applications would be the starting point for just about every organization, large and small.

Over the last couple years, we have found that our clients are interested in leveraging the data they have now collected and cleansed. It's a given that they want to use their data for it's initial purpose; providing standardized data to their trading partners. But they increasingly realize that they have an asset that can be used to solve problems within their internal operations. Applications include producing catalogs, brochures, engineering specifications, or any number of processes that require communicating product information.

Image - What are your current initiatives?

Jackovin - We plan on focusing more on the lifecycle of product information, from its origins to when it is syndicated to various resources.

We continue to hear from our larger customers about their data proliferation, and how important it is that the information be consistent from one use to another. In order to support these efforts, and to bring the cost of implementation down, we are modularizing the concept. This will make it possible for some smaller organizations to use it relatively easily.

Our main competitor is the 'catalog' like that available from GXS or Sterling Commerce. However we are finding that those are not really that much competition because they are full blown PIMs (Product Information Systems), which are at the high end of the cost scale. Analysts like Gartner indicate that it will be 2007 before there is a clear leader in the PIM arena. But I think it will be closer to 2009 before PIMs even have a big impact.

Image - How has the market for EDI changed with the impact of the Internet?

Jackovin - I think EDI and most every legacy technology has changed with the Internet. The Internet has made technology and services much more affordable because of the efficiencies gained by distribution and support. I know from experience that our cost has gone down so significantly that some companies can get our products for less than what they pay for Internet access.

Image - What are the greatest challenges for your customers?

Jackovin - Keeping up with what I call the "Ante to Play" with regards to technology. First it was bar codes, then EDI, now it is GDS and RFID. Technology providers need to keep coming up with ways to make these technology adoptions very streamlined and efficient for the supply chain community.

The synchronization of an organization's internal data is a big issue, but it often comes down to the use of our simple Excel application. We supply the cleansing tool, but it's the combination of our services and education that make it as easy as possible to use the tools and get complete/accurate data set.

Image - How are you helping your customers address these challenges?

Jackovin - First we are very conscious about adding costs. We know the returns our clients will experience will far outweigh the costs, but there is cost involved, so minimizing them is key. Additionally, our service level is what really differentiates us from our competition. We focus on data sync, so the suppliers and retailers can focus on selling more product. Because, after all, that is why they are in business.

Image - What is your stance on the eC-BP organization and tenets?

Jackovin - All of these tenets are right in line with all of our business philosophies. Everything this stands for is everything our business relies and is predicated upon.

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Scott Koegler

Scott Koegler is Executive Editor for PMG360. He is a technology writer and editor with 20+ years experience delivering high value content to readers and publishers. 

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