Inovis Delves into PIM by Snatching QRS Part Two: QRS Marketing

Event Summary

On September 3, Inovis International, Inc. An electronic data interchange (EDI), business-to-business (B2B), and value-added network (VAN) connectivity specialist, and a leader in providing e-business commerce automation solutions that facilitate the more effective management of retail, supply, and manufacturing partnerships, and QRS Corporation (NASDAQ: QRSI) announced a definitive agreement to merge.

This announcement occurred just as JDA Software Group Inc. (NASDAQ: JDAS), a prominent global provider of integrated software and professional services for the retail demand chain, was about to close acquisition of QRS. QRS broke off the "engagement" in favor of a better-priced acquisition by Inovis. For details of what happened between JDA and QRS see Not All Acquisitions Happen: JDA and QRS.

Both QRS and Inovis claim that to collaborate, trading partners must interact and transact business efficiently, and automation of transactions helps make collaboration effective and differentiation easier. On the other hand, to transact, companies must be connected or networked. Thus, QRS believes that it adds value to its customers because it offers the products and services that companies need to connect, transact, collaborate, and differentiate themselves, ultimately driving overall business performance improvement and improved brand equity as measured through customer awareness, image, preference, and loyalty.

QRS markets its products and services within the following three Solutions Groups:

  • Software Applications
  • Trading Community Management
  • Global Services

This is part two of a five-part note.

Part one began and part three 3 will continue to detail the event.

Part four will discuss the market impact.

Part five will cover challenges and make user recommendations.

QRS Software Applications

Software Applications automate and help optimize business processes between companies. Specifically, they support the following business functions: PIM and data synchronization; and collaborative product planning, design, production, and shipment. These applications include both enterprise applications installed on customers' computer systems and hosted applications installed on QRS' computer systems.

  • QRS Catalogue is the North American retail industry's leading product data synchronization application containing information on over 100 million products. It allows 3,500 marketers, brand manufacturers, and suppliers to share with retailers their latest product information, such as price, style, color, size, weight, unit of measure (UOM), and over 550 additional product attributes. The catalogue offers a broad solution for item setup and synchronization, supporting the latest European article numbering (EAN)/Universal Code Council (UCC)—EAN.UCC global standards and initiatives, and it is a UCC-certified solution partner for UCCnet registry services. QRS Catalogue features multiple access options, including an Internet-based user interface, EDI, XML and real-time application integration.

    It also features extensive data synchronization that allows vendors to upload a single catalogue for all their trading partners while tailoring data visibility for each member of their trading community as needed. By automating business processes such as item setup and maintenance and product marketing content management, QRS Catalogue should help customers achieve increased revenue and greater productivity through quicker order completions, product price confirmations, streamlined shipping and logistics, and ensured compliance.

  • QRS IMPACT is a new PIM solution designed specifically for retailers, vendors, suppliers, and brand manufacturers, which strives to provide quick, complete, accurate, and relevant product information across departments, diverse channels, and trading partners' syndication points by providing a single, global repository of product information. QRS IMPACT works with QRS Catalogue to offer the retail industry a nearly end-to-end data synchronization solution built specifically for the North American retail industry.

  • QRS Sourcing is a broad suite of web-based software applications designed to enable customers to improve their

    1) collaborative sourcing and supply capabilities (the module manages product definitions and price quote requests and responses; provides automatic costing and global normalization of time and price values; tracks components, origins, value, and demand for bills of material [BOM]; and identifies potential suppliers based on user-defined criteria),

    2) financial order management (the module generates orders after comparing demand against inventory; notifies users of letter of credit requirements; tracks vendor delivery performance against the original order; generates invoices based on order information; transmits and receives payment activity with banks, auditing the payments against the orders; and reconciles estimated versus actual landed costs at the style, shipment, and component levels), and

    3) international logistics and customs (the module provides global shipment track-and-trace capability by the original order, item, or stock keeping unit [SKU]; generates vendor or shipment booking based on a commercial invoice; manages shipment consolidation and deconsolidation processes, allowing for multiple origins and destinations; generates, collects, and tracks international documentation; and pre-classifies goods to expedite customs processing) management efforts. In other words, the suite enables ordering, managing, and tracking products manufactured overseas.

QRS Trading Community Management

Somewhat overlapping with its future parent's offering in the following product group, QRS' Trading Community Management solutions allow retailers, vendors, and their trading partners to exchange electronic business documents, such as purchase orders (PO), invoices, and advance ship notices (ASN). These electronic transactions are conducted over a proprietary VAN or over the Internet. As mentioned earlier on, the communication of these electronic business documents is typically used with the accounting and inventory systems of QRS' customers and their trading partners, whereby these solutions can reduce typical costs related to paper transactions, mail delays, and manual data input errors for customers.

QRS Exchange is a suite of hosted and point-to-point electronic commerce and trading community enablement solutions that help trading partners exchange information. These solutions try to maximize a company's existing infrastructure through hosted networks and enterprise software solutions. Regardless of the standard or protocol—EDI or XML; VAN or EDI over the Internet (EDIINT via AS1/AS2), phone, fax, e-mail, web—QRS Exchange tries to ensure companies can trade with virtually anyone at any time, through one provider. QRS also provides trading community enablement services through which it can plan, communicate, and implement electronic commerce programs for large trading communities.

Included within QRS Exchange are the following products and services:

1) Data exchange, which is an EDI solution using an electronic mailbox on a proprietary VAN, through which communications can be established across dissimilar machines and across disparate connectivity architectures and protocols, thereby resolving many of the complexities of inter-company communications;

2) Internet transaction exchange (ITX), which provides an alternative messaging system that is Internet-capable and that supports multiple data formats and protocols such as EDI, XML, and RosettaNet. It also provides an alternative to traditional VAN services without disrupting customers' current trading environment;

3) Enterprise business exchange, which is enterprise software providing real-time data and document delivery that helps companies connect, integrate, and optimize business operations;

4) QRS web forms, which is an Internet-based means of sending and receiving EDI documents and is aimed at streamlining the purchasing and procurement process. It establishes connectivity to trading partners; supports multiple EDI documents (including purchase order initiation, changes, acknowledgements, and status inquiries and reports; credit and debit adjustments; payment order and remittance advices; invoices; UCC-128 case labels; and ASNs); and includes a number of manifest, bill of lading (BOL), and packing list reports;

5) QRS managed EC operations center enables small- and medium-sized companies to comply with communications requirements using simple fax, phone, and e-mail without having to make a significant investment in internal systems, by setting up the connectivity to trading partners and managing the data exchange transactions. It also performs tags and label services that consist of production assistance relating to product tags and bar code labels, which services allow customers to outsource the labor-intensive effort involved in merchandise tagging;

6) QRS compliance link is an Internet-based product that is designed to simplify and streamline the trading community enablement process and allow companies to realize the benefits of their electronic commerce initiatives more quickly by giving companies the ability to monitor the status of vendors, while offering vendors an easy-to-use tool to automate the start up processes. It provides tracing, program management, on-line transaction testing, and a standards repository to simplify the enablement process

7) QRS EDIINT gateway is a service that allows customers that use data exchange to communicate with trading partners that request data delivery via EDIINT by providing a seamless connection between trading partners using VAN and AS2 protocols. With this service, QRS customers do not have to invest in additional software or hardware to comply with AS2 mandates; and

8) Access services that provide high-speed managed connections over dedicated lines, which eliminate the difficulties otherwise presented by dropped connections or busy signals and provide an "always-on" connection. The leased lines are secure and are fully managed by QRS through its relationship with IBM and AT&T, and they also provide networking connections via remote access to a frame relay network, an Internet protocol (IP)-based network and a systems network architecture (SNA) network.

QRS Global Services

Global Services include the collection, analysis, and delivery of pricing, promotion, and distribution information; software implementation and integration services; and technical support and training services for its various solutions. QRS Retail Intelligence Services include competitive price audits, price scan verification, and retail experience analysis, as they collect store-level data and analyze the information in a market context to deliver fully customized, actionable intelligence for competitive differentiation in the marketplace. These services try to help retailers obtain reliable and up-to-date market intelligence about pricing, competitive activities, and their own in-store consumer experience, whereby QRS can provide analysis based on national, multi-regional, metropolitan, or customer-defined price zones.

This concludes part two of a five-part note.

Part one began and part three will continue to detail the event.

Part four will discuss the market impact.

Part five will cover challenges and make user recommendations.

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