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Where to Start

In my discussions with many of the Global 2,500 companies that have built an exchange, they all (without exception) mentioned that the communication challenges the companies first faced were what drove them to seek out applications that could streamline their communications internally between product groups and distribution channels, for example. There's a varying level of urgency, depending on the level of disconnectedness of a channel. That seems to be the biggest driver of private exchange adoption overall.

So what about going with an ASP to make this entire vision of an exchange come together? Is an ASP the right partner for an exchange? The answer is that there are several ASPs that are becoming adept at handling exchange deployments with Corio, USinternetworking, Interliant, and Qwest are all companies that have been able to get traction in building exchanges. In starting to build an exchange, it's important to remember the following key factors, especially when building one with the assistance of ASPs:

  • Think of an exchange as a tool for responsiveness. Don't get caught in the trap of just looking at the technology. Instead, ask yourself the following: "How do these technology tools map to the needs I have today?"

  • Develop metrics to measure the contribution of an exchange. Get an ASP that can deliver metrics of performance for your specific application needs. Don't settle for an ASP that cannot deliver on metrics, or has metrics in the future. You need them from the very beginning to get the traction you need in core markets.

  • Security systems. Any ASP will have a claim toward being state-of-the-art when it comes to protecting data on your exchange. You need to get customer referrals and hard figures about how many Denial of Service attacks have been used to test the robustness of the ASP's Network Operating Center.

  • Where's the money? Increasingly, you can rely on your ASP to be a full partner in your business because ASPs are taking this approach to differentiate themselves from one another in the face of increasing competition. Look for ASPs that can actually be business partners, transcending the role of a mere service provider.

  • Delivery versus business model. Find out what the future of the ASP model means to the company you look to partner with. Is the company going to be moving more in the direction of a software company over a service one? Consider the future direction of the company because many are moving towards a technology base, looking to differentiate through technological innovation first.

  • Insist on talking to investors even if the company is public. In the era of intense pragmatism, be sure to get a good handle on how the company is handling its investor relations. Are periodic updates provided? Is the company strong in responsiveness to its investors? This is a great barometer of the company's performance, even if it's publicly held, because the accountability that the senior management has is critical for the long-term prospects of any company.

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