Baan reorganizes, looks to CRM

Baan Co. last week moved to revive its line of customer relationship management (CRM) software, announcing a rebranded and upgraded release that will be marketed as part of an integrated suite of Web-enabled enterprise applications.

Netherlands-based Baan said iBaan for CRM will let departments within a company seamlessly share customer data. The rollout adds new data-analysis and product configuration tools and formally reverses a 13-month-old plan under which parent company Invensys PLC shifted the CRM line from Baan to a new unit in Golden, Colo.

Analysts said the reorganization and the addition of Web support to iBaan for CRM could help Baan compensate for sales opportunities that it lost because of muddled marketing and its CRM software’s lack of integration with the company’s other products.

The product line stalled after it was split off from Baan, said Kelly Spang, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va. Moreover, she said, London-based Invensys initially didn’t give the CRM operation enough resources or manpower. Sales “just kind of dropped off from there,” Spang said. “It might have cost Baan a year in the CRM market.”

Sharon Ward, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc. in Framingham, Mass., said Baan has had trouble linking its CRM and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications ever since it bought CRM vendor Aurum Software Inc. in 1997. But with the addition of iBaan for CRM, she said, Baan is now promising a fully integrated set of Web-enabled software.

“I don’t expect [iBaan for CRM] to be competitive as a stand-alone product, at least at first,” Ward said. “It will keep some customers who want an integrated solution from defecting [to rival vendors].”

For example, Baan ERP user A-dec Inc. plans to have finished rolling out iBaan for CRM’s online sales module by March. But Keith Bearden, CIO at the Newberg, Ore.-based maker of dental equipment, said installing the software was “not as easy . . . as it was made to seem” by Baan. A-dec had hoped the application would be easy to install, he said. But the company had to bring in consultants to do coding work to link its business processes to the Web.

Baan is at