Can XML succeed where EDI has failed?

CIO |  Development

Last March, Mooney, Mike Giesler, then Ethyl's CIO, and two other cofounders began knocking on colleagues' doors, talking about creating an electronic hub for the chemical industry they called Envera (roughly translated from Latin, envera means "in truth"). Envera would differ from other electronic trading exchanges that were then making headlines, such as the chemical industry's CheMatch.com and the auto industry's Covisint, in that it would not attempt to match sellers with buyers. Rather, it would serve only as an electronic platform on which already-established business partners could conduct their transactions. Envera would not take a piece of each transaction that it hosted but instead would charge members an annual subscription fee of between $5,000 and $300,000, depending on company size. Mooney and Giesler got a warm reception from their peers, snagging funding from 11 companies. Things moved quickly after that. Giesler and Mooney left Ethyl in July and by the end of the summer Envera had hammered out XML document definitions for eight basic business processes in conjunction with an industry standards group. By the fall, the initial phase of Envera was up and running, with partners such as Lubrizol and Occidental Chemical beginning to conduct business online. To date, only a tiny number of transactions have taken place on Envera. Giesler expects business to jump once Envera's 40 trading partners come online this spring.

Mooney, now president of Envera, likes to say Envera is "business for business" as opposed to the ubiquitous "business-to-business." The theory is that companies of all sizes can come together on Envera without fear that the e-hub benefits only the largest companies. "The early exchanges were dominated by the big players. A lot of smaller companies were afraid [the large companies] would get together and try to drive down prices. Our philosophy is that this is a neutral site for all the other businesses, and the benefits get passed down to all members," says Giesler, now Envera's chief technology officer. Envera's second phase, which launched in January, added links to service providers, among them two trucking companies and one rail company to move products traded on its exchange. By banding together, Envera members will be able to negotiate discounted prices on services, according to Giesler. Envera also plans to add services such as data warehouse capabilities and management of subscribers' material safety data sheets, a legal requirement for chemical companies.

Cautious Optimism

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