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Fly Me to the Web

The latest T&E software runs on internet-based networks--and the host can be a third party.

Integration with legacy systems was one of the top priorities articulated for its new T&E solution by Vodafone AirTouch. That steered it away from an ASP, says Webb: “We thought it would be difficult for an outsourcer to handle our accounting system.” With Extensity, the company has an intranet T&E system that ties into its Oracle ERP back end, feeding data into the accounts payable module, as well as handling extracts from Oracle’s HR, project accounting, and general ledger systems.

Of course, that didn’t discount the importance of the solution’s being Web-enabled. “The Web was high on our list of criteria,” says Webb. “We’re moving away from desktop-support types of things. It’s getting prohibitively expensive, and it’s unfriendly for upgrades.”

Integration with a back- office system was also a concern for Sensormatic Electronics Corp., an electronic-security firm in Boca Raton, Florida, when it chose Solix Internet Inc. (www.isol ix.com) in February 1999 as its T&E software provider. Sensormatic had installed a Baan ERP system in one of its Canadian locations, and the company’s existing T&E software wasn’t going to interface very well with the ERP system. “Solix had experience with Baan, and it was committed to giving us a turnkey solution that was integrated with the Baan system,” says Sensormatic vice president and chief information officer Larry Hatfield. “It gave us a Web-based, thin-client solution, which was where we wanted to go. And Solix committed to handle the whole project for us–integrate it, roll it out, test it, and turn it over to us.”

Cisco’s Partner

While Web-enablement has become a critical component of any T&E package that wants to make headway in the market, offline functionality is still an important consideration, since travelers don’t always have access to the Web.

“The offline client was one of our reasons for choosing Extensity,” says Steven Bernstein, manager of Internet solutions at Cisco Systems. “Our home-grown system didn’t have an offline client, and our sales force was screaming for the ability to do expense reports offline.”

Technology considerations aside, when Cisco began looking for a T&E package, it wanted a partner rather than just a vendor for its needs, according to Bernstein. “In actual activity, a partner may not be that different than a vendor,” he explains, “but in attitude it is substantially different.”

In Extensity’s case, Cisco wanted the vendor to deploy its software first in Europe, then in Asia, and finally in the United States. “That was something very different for any T&E vendor to do,” Bernstein says. “Travel-expense policy and local legal requirements vary substantially from country to country. Because we were doing this deployment essentially backward, we were looking for a partner to accommodate that sort of a rollout. And Extensity was very willing to do that.”

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