Jeff Odom, president of printing products at US-based services vendor TCS Corporate Services, said any concerns he had about the costs of deploying the Microsoft package are being offset by his access to new markets.
Odom said a growing number of his major customers had asked his firm to interface to the Ariba and Commerce One e-procurement products they had been installing. But he was unable to find a vendor to help for less than $1m (£0.7m).
"That's just absolutely out of our budget," Odom said, noting that his firm has $15m (£10m) in annual revenue and a two-person IT staff.
TCS spent about $50,000 (£35,000) on the Microsoft software licences and consulting services, which came from a Microsoft partner. One of the benefits is that TCS can now publish its catalogue, or a customised subset of it, in formats such as Ariba's CXML, Commerce One's CBL.
Odom said his company had already seen a pay-off. One large computer maker recently noticed that TCS had deployed an Ariba catalogue and thus included the company in a reverse-auction bid. TCS ended up winning the bid for toner cartridges.
"Usually, you have to scratch and claw for business opportunities in this case, this one came to us specifically as a result of our capability to publish [Ariba's] CXML," Odom said.
Once the back office has been connected to the output of the sell-side system, TCS expects to see a reduction in transaction costs from $27 per transaction to $6. That should save the company $42,000 per month, based on its average of 2,000 transactions per month.
Kevin Govin, chief operating officer at MarkMaster, a Florida-based manufacturer of custom rubber stamps, said he had been able to reduce his customer service staff from eight to six employees since deploying Microsoft's software package. Govin's company processes 4,000 to 6,000 orders per day. One hundred of these, he said, now came through the new system.
The Microsoft package was worth implementing because he could use it to connect to multiple sites and multiple market engines, explained Govin, adding: "If you were doing it for one customer, [the cost] would be prohibitive."
MarkMaster had eight Fortune 500 customers before installing the Microsoft system. By summer, Govin said, it expected to have set up 50.