Picture the scene: you're at a supermarket checkout and your last item sails past the cashier. She says you owe £37.57 and you give her your credit card. She gets up and walks over to the office with your receipt and card and gives them to her supervisor, who re-keys your bill into the main computer and swipes your card manually before reuniting you with your goods.
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According to Microsoft Surveys, 94% of Web shopping baskets have no direct link back to an accounting system and rely on simple e-mail notification to advise owners of e-commerce sites about receiving orders and payments. So 94% of dotcom companies have to re-key the basic data captured by their Web site back into their accounting systems.
E-commerce has been on the top of the corporate shopping list for a long time now, so, how come the management of received data has escaped our attention? Firstly, the fledgling e-commerce industry has concentrated on establishing Web sites to entice the customer, but has neglected the provision of stable back-end systems to support usage. Secondly, a lack of standards for data exchange complicates the process of establishing a link to the back-office. To avoid this, the accounting software industry should agree a unified standard for exchange ordering and payment information.
Thankfully, its implementation is underway via the development of eBIS-XML, a worldwide XML-based transaction scheme, developed by the Business & Accountancy Software Developers' Association. Establishing and adopting an e-commerce accountancy standard would then mean that handling transactions in the supply chain would amount to queuing at the express checkout.
Eduardo Loigorri is managing director at Exchequer Software