Consolidation gets mixed reviews

The recent consolidation trend in the enterprise application space is prompting some mixed reactions from customers of recently acquired software companies.

Some users, like Brad Hay, chair of the board for the Crystal Decisions User Group of B.C. (CDUGBC), say they’re confident in their future relationships with the vendors they will now deal with.

In July, San Jose, Calif.-based enterprise business intelligence (BI) vendor Business Objects SA announced an agreement to buy Crystal Decisions Inc., a BI and enterprise reporting software vendor in Palo Alto, Calif.

Hay calls the acquisition a “great fit for both companies,” and has high hopes for a positive impact on Crystal Decisions customers. “There is very little overlap in product lines.

“[This] is great for customers of either company’s products,” Hay said. “This also means that any weaknesses in product portfolios will be immediately addressed once the combined company finalizes the regulatory requirements and starts moving towards a unified strategy.”

Allan Pym, account manager with Apos Systems, a Crystal Decisions consultant in Cambridge, Ont., helps to head the Toronto Crystal Decisions User Group. He said he foresees a positive experience for customers moving to Business Objects because of its good fit with Crystal Decisions.

“The two companies have come at the business intelligence market from two different directions,” he explained, adding that BI tools range from production reporting to high-end analysis. This acquisition means that “whatever gaps have been there in the product lines will be well-covered when the two product lines converge.”

But others are more worried about where the buyout of the software vendor they deal with will leave them.

Kevin Sundquist, systems and technology finance and administrative systems manager for Edmonton-based industrial contractor PCL Constructors Inc., said he was uneasy when Pleasanton, Calif.-based PeopleSoft Inc. first announced it would acquire Denver-based J.D. Edwards in June.

Before the acquisition, PCL had gone through a partial migration from from J.D. Edwards’ World to OneWorld. That project had been put off for some time, and just as PCL was considering finishing it, the acquisition news came along and the project was held back again.

Sundquist said he is wary of how the deal will pan out financially for his company.

“It looks like PeopleSoft’s licensing is higher per customer than J.D. Edwards’, so we’re wondering whether (J.D Edwards’ licensing) will now be going up or whether (it) will stay the same, and what that will do to the cost of our ERP,” he said.

Product support is also a worry for Sundquist. “We’ve been told that the current product suites have been supported so far, but whether that’s going to change, or how much migration work will start to come in to consolidate the products, and the timing – these are all concerns for us.”

Another user says his experiences with Navision A/S, ever since the Danish accounting software vendor was bought by Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft Corp. in May 2002, have been better than expected – but lingering issues remain.

John Larsen, chief information officer at seafood products-maker Stolt Sea Farm Holdings Ltd. in

Toronto, said that at the time the acquisition was announced, Stolt had just finished about 90 per cent of its planned implementations of Navision’s ERP software for its five offices worldwide, with only one region left to tackle: North America. Stolt’s implementation timeframe agreement with Navision was also on the verge of expiring. In the end, the North American implementation was postponed.

“We didn’t know how (the acquisition) would affect the purchase of the modules for Canada, or what price we were going to pay for them,” Larsen explained.

This issue was resolved when Stolt worked out a temporary agreement through Microsoft Canada to cover the North American implementation. Larsen said he’s waiting to find out whether the temporary deal will transform into the new global agreement.

Some of the unaddressed problems Larsen still faces have to do with Stolt’s global nature. Although Microsoft has provided local contacts for Stolt’s regional offices, Larsen is still waiting for a global contact with whom he can discuss company-wide Navision issues. “When I’m trying to deal with a global issue, I have to call up five people,” Larsen said.