Category Management in Federal eCommerce

Category Management is a way to present a group of like items, generally from a functional perspective, in such a way that the individual kinds of items in the category are listed and described, and their relationships and uses are also cataloged and explained in detail.

Organizing materials in such a fashion is essential for eCommerce sellers in order to support buyers who browse when shopping. Browsing provides the opportunity to understand all the options and enables informed, best-value choices.

A category will consist of an overarching designation: the title of the category. Within this grouping the subcategories can be listed in a branch-like fashion to show their relationships in relation to the entire category.

Here’s an example:

Office Supplies

Paper

White Copy Paper

By weight
By size
By package quantity
By brand
By finish
By price

Multi-Purpose Paper

Color Paper
Recycled Paper…

Writing Instruments
Fasteners
And so on …

Office supplies are ubiquitous and therefore a good category to illustrate the principle of subcategories. Even young students have a basic understanding that there are various items involved in doing activities at school that comprise “supplies” needed to support the learning process. Taking that further, they can distinguish between like-things that are used to write or draw with, things that are used to write or draw upon, things that are used to store or display the items written or drawn upon, and things that are used to change or repair those items; and yet see all of these things as related to each other.

Admittedly, there are some who know more about office supplies than others. For most people, a plain white sheet of 8.5 x 11-inch paper is “copy paper.” Little notice may be given to weight, content, density, manufacturing process, or stability by the average paper user, but for the connoisseur these […]

Busting Barriers for eCommerce in Government

I tend to think that time spent on the Internet is less productive.

Like any office activity, the time spent completing it is a strict coefficient of Dawdle. Compare the time spent browsing the shelves in a hardware store to searching for a product on line. Add to that the time it takes to go there and back again and the Internet wins.

Product Reviews for Government eCommerce

Government sites would be wise to adopt the commercial standard of providing starred reviews, which would go a long way to improve the perception of user friendliness by increasing the consumer’s understanding of the items available.

An Alternative to FSSI?

FSSI solutions provide easy access to its procurement vehicles, which offer business intelligence, best practice solutions, and greater discounts with volume increases.

A Look Back: eBusiness Retrospective Part II

With the Internet you could send large files to other people using “ftp” (this was the first time I remember using lower case letters for an acronym). And then another miracle happened: two people could look at the same thing on the Internet at the same time.

A Look Back: eBusiness Retrospective

Recently my friend and colleague Claudia “Scottie” Knott was inducted into the DLA Hall of Fame. This got me thinking about where she and I were in our careers when we met in the early 1980s. As everyone knows, the Department of Defense has always been an information technology leader and was an early participant in the development of the Internet. Leveraging the ability to make information, communications, and transactions available on a broad scale has had a positive impact on DOD business processes. I’m happy to say that Scottie and I were a part of that evolution at DLA and had big dreams for leveraging technology to support business processes—what we now call eBusiness. Today I’ll give you a look at this evolution up until the time of the Internet. Next week, we’ll continue the discussion with the significant innovations brought about in the post-Internet age.
Life before Big Data: Pre-Internet Times
Originally, data processing was accomplished on a local level. If two organizations needed to share data, they hand delivered or mailed completed forms to each other. Data had to be manually entered at each location where a computer would then process it to produce the desired effect (e.g., create paychecks, release stock from a warehouse, or bill a customer). Besides the duplicate labor, the margin for error was increased each time the data had to pass through another pair of hands to be processed. Punched cards were a great innovation. With punched cards, the margin of error was reduced because one computer could punch the card and the next computer could read the card, successfully preserving the information for data processing. This translated into measurable savings. But they had to be kept in […]

Government eCommerce: A Proposal for Austere Times

I think it’s time for another leap forward in how the Government approaches acquiring supplies. The commercial sector is replete with much of the stuff that supports business (office) operations. It has become accepted that Government warehouses stocked with these materials are not needed to ensure the smooth performance of daily operations. A lot of the acquisition of these goods is done outside the officially sanctioned Federal Government eCommerce sites. The US Government is losing visibility of where the money is going instead of channeling the business into its own transparent, made-to-suit Internet capabilities. Opportunity for intensely leveraged prices, streamlined business processes and strategic sourcing are being lost daily. Let’s just take one small leap this year and install customer product review capability in our Government on-line ordering platforms.

If we’re in the mood for more than that, here is another suggestion:

Only companies with a US Government contract are allowed to vie for the Government Purchase Card (GPC) business online within officially sanctioned US Government websites (e.g., DOD EMALL and GSA Advantage). At the same time, GPC holders can walk into any brick-and-mortar location to select items off the shelf at will or visit any commercial website and click with abandon. Commercial terms and warranties are completely acceptable when no one is looking evidently. The US Government needs to capture that walk-in business on its own eCommerce platforms for three reasons:

The data being collected on Government Purchase Card (GPC) usage is murky and incomplete. By consolidating GPC activity to officially sanctioned Government owned and operated eCommerce sites transparency on GPC usage can be achieved.
Compliance with laws and regulations concerning mandatory sources and socioeconomic program support can be monitored and enforced.
Channeling this tremendous volume of supplies […]

eCommerce for Government IS Different

The differences between government eCommerce and eCommerce for commercial business might be difficult to notice at first glance, but these differences are key to a successful government eCommerce solution.

Customers Voice High Praise for DOD EMALL

The DOD EMALL Program Office at the Defense Logistics Agency Headquarters recently sent a survey to customers asking the impact to their mission if DOD EMALL were no longer available. The application received high praise from the users. Here are just a few of their responses.

DLA Land and Maritime

“If we were to lose access to DOD EMALL Tire corridor, it would have a significant negative effect. Currently we use the website to validate NSN’s sources of supply for all DOD buyers and we provide our customers with validated spec sheets that they can use to verify the accuracy of the product they have received. There is no other database that will give me this ability. I am in that database every day reviewing, updating or retrieving data for a customer or a buyer. This section of the DOD EMALL has allowed other organization (TARDEC/TACOM) to easily assist with research and identify inconstancies with the data so that I can properly maintain the NSN’s through the cataloging actions. This is the best way for all organizations to see the same information on one system.”

DLA HQ

“It would make a big impact, I support 26 offices, so it would slow down our supply for the DLA offices I support.”

Magellan Aerospace

“As a broad stroke perspective from Procurement, lead time would be the greatest impact to our delivery schedule. The material purchased through DOD EMALL is not readily available on the open market or the OEM in most instances. GEAE is our main repair line, lead times ranging up to 725 days.”

USAF AFMC – Robins Air Force Base

“EMALL is very important to us at the F-15 SPO. We have a contract with Korean Air Lines (KAL) to complete the Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM) on the USAF F-15s stationed at Kadena AS, Okinawa, […]

Has the Time for a Mandate Finally Arrived?

People get comfortable doing things a certain way and, even when it makes sense to change, they won’t unless they are compelled to do so. They become emotionally attached to their routine and don’t want to leave their comfort zone. Fear of the unknown, negative assumptions, not-a-good-time thinking and past failures are all reasons why change may not happen in the end. This truism holds within the Federal Government as well. In the public sector there’s the additional reason of doing things the same old way because—so far—no one has gotten in trouble. Not yet, anyway.

My observation from thirty-three years of experience working on the inside is that real change cannot be effected without a mandate. Usually these mandates come from Congress: Competition in Contracting Act (1984), the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (1994), the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (2002)—and have you seen the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act changes to acquisition? But it is possible for DOD and Federal Agencies to make policy changes on their own.

In the early days of the Internet the “If you build it, they will come” perspective of the advocates was tinged with a healthy dose of, “… if it’s really worth doing at all” from the skeptics. Websites like DOD EMALL and GSA Advantage soldiered on and have collectively captured over $1.5 billion in annual Government spending—all on small stuff, a few hundred bucks at a time. Now is the time for the Federal Government to recognize the value of what it has and leverage that value to get over the bar.

A policy mandate that requires Government Purchase Card holders to source their items in specific categories from these Government-owned, built-for-Government’s-purpose assets will give the Government the ability […]

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