If you’re looking for reference material on domestic sludge, gold nanoparticles, or peanut butter, a move by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to modernize its e-commerce portal should make it easier to get the information you’re seeking.

Fresh off its successful deployment of a cloud-based e-commerce solution from Salesforce, NIST has decided to consolidate all of its e-commerce activities on the Salesforce platform. NIST currently has multiple e-commerce solutions in place, each with its own customer database and customized functionality for order execution, fulfillment, and billing.

The goal of the project, according to the statement of work, is to modernize legacy e-commerce solutions in order to eliminate redundancy, streamline business processes, and improve the overall customer experience.

NIST wants to hear from commercial vendors who are interested in submitting a FedRAMP-compliant solution. The agency expects to issue a request for quotations in Q3 of fiscal 2018 and plans to award a contract in Q4.

Current state of the NIST e-commerce platform

Currently, there is a marked lack of integration when it comes to NIST’s e-commerce platform. Some systems generate invoices directly, while others pass the information back to NIST’s Oracle-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. There are multiple interfaces with the Department of the Treasury’s Pay.gov online collection platform. Debt management is performed by the ERP system, but data is not passed back to the originating system.

In a world where companies like Amazon.com are processing transactions in real time, the NIST system is still using batch processing to upload data into the ERP interface at predefined intervals.

Product areas

The NIST site offers customers Standard Reference Data (SRD), Standard Reference Materials (SRM), and Standard Reference Instruments (SRI).

  • The SRD system was first brought online in 2006 and is built in the outdated Cold Fusion Web development platform. There are currently 94 active products. The e-commerce system consists of an online shopping cart, a business portal which services customer inquiries, and an administrative component which manages accounts.
  • The SRM e-commerce site was built in 2004 and has more than 1,200 measurement products available, most in inventory, but some requiring customization. The SRM office implemented Salesforce Service Cloud in 2017, but it’s not integrated with Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
  • The SRI system offers highly specialized instruments, each with up to 20 different configurations available. There is also a related calibration support service.

Future state

NIST is looking for a vendor to implement a single solution built on the Salesforce platform. The goal is to create a brand new NIST storefront that allows customers to create and manage their own accounts, provides for security and authentication, allows customers to easily search for products, and has shopping cart functionality.

On the billing side, the new system should allow customers to view order status, provide a workflow for sales order and quote generation, generate invoices, handle refunds and returns, and must seamlessly connect with existing Salesforce systems.

Finally, the system needs to provide backend integration with the Oracle ERP system, Pay.gov, SRM’s business system, and NIST’s shipping solutions.

So, NIST’s standardizing on a modern cloud e-Commerce infrastructure, setting an example for government IT.  That goes together like peanut butter and jelly.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.