IBM Simplifies E-Catalogue Creation and Management

Catalog Architect Helps Businesses Create and Manage Web Catalogs More Easily

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SOMERS, N.Y - 16 Mar 1999: - - IBM today announced another e-commerce breakthrough with the general availability of a content management tool that simplifies the way businesses design, build and manage electronic catalogs. The new client tool, called Catalog Architect, helps e-businesses easily create and update product information, providing a high degree of efficiency, accuracy and detail while reducing time spent on traditional catalog management.

Typically, 75 percent of the resources used to manage today's commerce sites is spent on managing information about the products being sold, such as part number, pricing, model number, size, color and other attributes. Collecting, entering, and properly organizing this product data is critical for businesses that want to implement sophisticated content management and personalization engines to enhance the Web buying experience.

However, effective personalization can require in-depth customer profiles and product data with detailed attributes. The labor-intensive process required to manage product data stopped many companies from fully deploying personalization. With Catalog Architect, companies now have a set of tools to create and manage the data necessary for a comprehensive personalization approach.

"Catalog Architect is another important step in the evolution of electronic commerce," said Dave Liederbach, director of e-commerce marketing, IBM Software Solutions. "This tool will simplify the creation and maintenance of complex electronic catalogs. By streamlining content management, businesses can devote more time to enhancing other Web commerce processes, such as sophisticated search capabilities and customer relationship management."

Three IBM Business Partners, Computer Intelligence Systems (CIS)**, Information Systems & Services, Inc. (ISSI)**, and Fisher Technology Group (FTG)**, have beta tested Catalog Architect since late last year.

Catalog Architect is designed for customers who use IBM Net.Commerce merchant server software to Web-enable catalogs that contain many products with multiple attributes or SKUs. Products often require frequent updating, and those catalogs that feature many items can become difficult to manage. Catalog Architect understands catalog elements and their relationships, enabling Web businesses to create an object-oriented product database.

By reducing the time required to create and update catalog data, businesses can better use their resources and improve their return on investment. For instance, a merchant who sells a cotton shirt in multiple colors and sizes and wants to offer it in a different fabric, today must re-enter all existing product information, and add this new attribute for every new item. Catalog Architect lets the merchant create these new items for order by entering the new fabric attribute value in only one place, and having it automatically generate and update all the information on each new item. This significantly reduces the amount of time spent on data entry and content management, and reduces the risk of human error.

In addition, Catalog Architect is equipped to handle thousands of discrete items. Its familiar spreadsheet interface is easy to use and requires no special database management skills. Users can cut and paste multiple attributes, products and categories in a single step.

Companies with vast quantities of data organized by separate business units - - for example, a manufacturer with distinct inventory systems for raw materials, finished goods and supplies - - can use multiple Catalog Architect licenses for each unit to 'publish' the product information to a common Net.Commerce server. This collaborative design allows multiple users from different product groups to access and update the database from different workstations.

Catalog Architect also checks for completeness, correctness and consistency in the data as required by Net.Commerce. For a typical electronic catalog, Catalog Architect performs quality assurance checks to ensure a more comprehensive, user-friendly environment, which helps to increase customer satisfaction and reduce customer returns. When used with the Net.Commerce PRO Product Advisor feature, Catalog Architect ensures that all the data needed to enable user-driven searches, virtual sales assistants, and product comparisons is available to buyers and shoppers.

The current version of Catalog Architect runs on Windows NT**, and is designed to populate DB2* Net.Commerce v3.1.2 on the AIX*, Windows NT and Solaris** platforms. Catalog Architect is designed to work with Net.Commerce v3.1.2 START or PRO. The IBM suggested list price is $3,000, and a single license is included with Net.Commerce PRO v3.1.2 at no charge. Present users of Net.Commerce v3.1.2 are able to migrate their existing data to Catalog Architect, modify it, and then publish back to their Net.Commerce database.

Catalog Architect is the only exclusive content management tool of its kind in this price range.

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