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Q&A RosettaNet CEO Jennifer Hamilton

Much like its namesake which helped crack the code of Egyptian hieroglyphics, RosettaNet is creating a common language and standard processes for some very disparate sections of e-business. RosettaNet's CEO Jennifer Hamilton is responsible for envisioning RosettaNet's strategic direction and making RosettaNet the de-facto B2B standards organization.

Internetnews.com sat down with Hamilton to talk about what's going on in the industry, including the increasing role in China and Asia in B2B growth and the impact of RFID .

Q: Since it was established in 1998, RosettaNet has been working to establish B2B standards. What is the current focus of the group?

RosettaNet has two major pushes right now. One is to continue to build and drive standards adopted in the current supply chains that we support including the IT industry, the electronic components and the semiconductor industry.

The other is reaching out to other industries. Currently we have a telecommunications council and we're talking to the leaders in the telecommunications industry and deciding how they are going to use standards to automate that part of the supply chain in terms of moving telecom products. The other area is logistics. Today we're setting up standards where the high-tech industry integrates with the logistics providers. The logistics providers are seeing the real value in that and want to bring that up to a broader set of vertical industries.

Q: You've also established many relationships in Asia. Can you talk more about that?

Regardless of where your headquarters are located, all of the manufacturing and supply chain activity is moving to Asia. The governments have been very quick to recognize the need to invest in that, motivate the local companies within their country or region and to drive that to ensure a competitive advantage for their countries.

Q: Which ones?

Countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and more recently China. With China, the Ministry of Standards and Technology has, after careful consideration, determined that RosettaNet is the standard of choice for B2B integration across the supply chain and has embraced RosettaNet. It has started up a RosettaNet China. And looking at their players, both domestic in China -- companies like Founder and Legend and Digital China -- as well as the multinationals that have operations there.

Q: Are we seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to standards adoption in China?

I think so. Certainly, they have been taking advantage of the low-cost leadership that China has to offer. And certainly there are many domestic companies in China that have gotten a foothold and done quite well. But the advantage that China has is that it embraces sort of a New World market that has been embraced by the rest of the world and I think the opportunities are pretty incredible.

The mistake that some companies can make is to look at that as a panacea. They say things like, 'My supply chain is not optimized. I need to cut out more costs. Therefore, I will move something to China.' If you have problems in your supply chain, exporting it to another country is not going to fix that. So you have to focus on optimizing your internal business processes, your processes between your partners as well as optimize your labor cost.

Q: What parts of the supply chain have the most opportunities ahead of them?

There is a lot of activity right now in driving the logistics business processes into a much more automated space. And not just between a company and its customer, not just between a company and its logistics providers, but also with customs. So we are getting governments involved now as the implementers of these logistics standards. Getting the shipping ports, the Port Authorities, the customs bodies etc. all working together to expedite the movement of goods. That is a big push right now. Another one is inventory.

Q: Speaking of inventory, what about RFID ? How is that impacting the supply chain?

I think it's going to be a huge opportunity. As with any new standard or new technology in the supply chain, it takes a group of companies committing to implement together a new capability to get the value out of it. And what we are seeing is that it is starting to materialize in the retail sector. You have companies like Wal-Mart and P&G joining forces to really drive RFID technology. And the high-tech industry is just starting to go through that process as well. There are quotes that it will be bigger than the bar code. The bar code [system] has had a huge impact on how goods are moved.

[RosettaNet is an independent subsidiary of the Uniform Code Council, which helped establish the bar code standard. ]

Q: What about for small- to medium-sized companies?

The only way that we can get mass adoption for small- to medium-sized companies is if we make B2B software a really simple no-brainer. In our Nirvana, you [would] buy this product or this service. Within 48 hours it's up and running and in the first couple months you have recouped your costs. It has got to be that easy. And from a B2B integration standpoint, we are not there yet. We are working towards that. That is what I like to think about: how to get to that point.

Q: If we are not there yet, where are we now?

We are at a couple weeks to get a solution up and running inside a small to medium sized company. And for payback it would be about six months to a year. For us to get to that Nirvana, solution providers have to come with low-cost solutions and the industry leaders have to drive the supply chain and lead the supply chain through this change. It is happening.