On-line computer buying grows


As the MIT Computer Connection (MCC) begins its eighth month of electronic commerce, MIT online purchases for computers and related products from partner company NECX of Peabody have grown to more than $3 million.

The partnership with NECX was developed to provide more direct access to computers and related products by the MIT community. "Partnerships are essential if MIT is to reduce its vendor base and achieve lowered costs for acquiring goods and services," said Diane Shea, acting director of Purchasing. "Partnerships also allow us to take advantage of technologies like electronic commerce, order fulfillment systems and 'just-in-time' capabilities."

The MCC is now in the process of moving from an MIT-owned-and-operated resale store to a consulting showroom staffed by MIT employees. The rapidly changing computer industry made it increasingly difficult to operate the MCC store efficiently while continuing to offer good pricing to the MIT community.

As a result of this partnership, markups that were originally needed to cover the overhead of the MCC resale store, its staff and the money tied up in inventory have been greatly reduced or eliminated. This has resulted in cost savings to departments and to individuals making personal purchases.

"While the wrinkles are not quite gone, the partnership with NECX is well on its way into a second phase, ECAT2, which will save MIT the costs associated with purchase order paperwork and invoice processing," said MCC manager Joanne Hallisey. ECAT is MIT's electronic catalog.

NECX has contracted special pricing for MIT and has created an MIT Recommended Products web page featuring recommended equipment and software for use on the MIT network. NECX works cooperatively with MIT to keep these pages up to date. In addition, this web page serves as a doorway to the NECX catalog of more than 30,000 products. While not all products are eligible for education discounts, a recent market-basket survey shows that NECX is competitive in all product lines.

NECX has an MIT-dedicated customer service staff who can be reached by calling (800) 961-9246. They are available to help with information on non-recommended products, returns and customer account issues.

What this means for MIT customers is easy access and searching capability for product information, availability and pricing for thousands of products in one catalog location. The catalog has detailed specification sheets, links to manufacturers' web pages, and tools like Powersearch and Memory Express to help customers find the right products.

For now, departments can browse the catalog, identify products and send orders via MIT requisitions to the MCC or Purchasing for processing. In the coming months, as ECAT2 moves forward, departments will be able to order products and track their orders directly.

Individuals may place personal orders using a credit card. Since access to the catalog is limited to the MIT community by digital certificates, individuals may access the catalog from any Athena workstation. If they use Netscape, they can access the catalog from their dorm room or from home. Orders are shipped to the US address indicated by the customer.

MIT and NECX are continuing work on improving the partnership. Information Systems has scheduled training classes, "Purchasing on the Web," which are conducted monthly in the E40-302 training lab. MCC consultants also make appointments for on-site training.

The MCC showroom is located in Rm W20-021. MIT-recommended products are on display and MCC consultants are available to advise on these products, show how to access and navigate the catalog and help to place an order. Hours of operation are Monday from noon-4:30pm and Tuesday through Friday from 10am-4:30pm.

For more information, contact the MCC at x3-7686 or mcc@mit.edu.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 1, 1998.


Topics: Campus services

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