A late entrant to electronic bill presentment, Electronic Data Systems Corp., thinks it has found a niche: translating data from billers' computer systems into a form suitable for presentment.
EDS said its new Interactive Billing Services-iBilling, for short-would send formatted electronic bills to companies already in the business of presenting them. The launching is scheduled for the end of this month.
EDS intends to remain in the background, publishing electronic bills to consolidator Web sites, including those of financial institutions and the two dominant forces of the field, Checkfree Corp. and MSFDC, the joint venture of Microsoft Corp. and First Data Corp.
"We will take the billers' data in whatever form billers have it, whether it is a laser print stream or a system that can support EDI," or electronic data interchange, said Dan Twing, director of EDS' electronic billing services. "It involves getting the data out of the billing system and putting it on the Internet. Most billing systems are relatively old because billing was one of the first places computers were used."
The $15 billion-revenue company initially will target business-to- business bills, branching out to consumer bills.
EDS officials said one telecommunications company-which they declined to identify-will use the service to deliver electronic bills to thousands of business customers this year.
The Plano, Tex., company hopes to capitalize on the relationships it has with banks as a major outsourcer.
"We are working with financial institutions to bring this to their commercial clients and integrate with the bank's lockbox services and simplify the reconciliation process," Mr. Twing said.
EDS officials also plan to add features such as order entry, supply chain management, electronic catalogs, and Web hosting.
"EDS' systems integration strength and comprehensive distribution options mean that billers can focus on customer service and customizing their electronic billing program to touch their customers in new ways," said Chris Gwynn, senior analyst of Internet market strategies for Boston- based Yankee Group.
By linking numerous other bill presentment providers, EDS hopes to avoid locking billers into a single scenario.
"At this point, no one is certain which path will dominate, so most billers intend to try multiple channels," Mr. Twing said.
Interactive Billing Services is not EDS' first effort at electronic banking and billing. An earlier bill payment and home banking alliance with U S West, France Telecom, and Checkfree Corp. formed the basis for the company's current home banking service, offered to 91 banks.