Geac eyeing more alliances

Listening to customers and looking forward were the themes presented at this year’s Alliance2002, Geac Enterprise Solution’s annual user’s conference.

Held in Orlando in early June, the conference addressed about 1,000 Geac customers. The Markham, Ont.-based company focused the event on product direction and strategy, which Geac customer Kim Graham said she found to be both helpful and appropriate.

Graham, a systems analyst at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., who uses Geac’s E Series payroll on the school’s mainframe, said the annual conference is traditionally a time for her own IT shop to plan ahead.

“It is valuable for us to find out the direction that the product is headed in. We use this conference to plan for the next year,” she said.

According to Jay Sherry, Geac’s senior vice-president of marketing and strategic alliances in Southborough, Mass., the conference was a good opportunity for Geac’s customers to connect with the company’s executives. This was particularly important this year, as Geac has recently refreshed its management team, including its CEO.

From Graham’s perspective, this goal of engaging the customers with the company was nicely achieved by Geac.

“There was a real emphasis this year from Geac on wanting to hear from us,” she said.

With the company’s revenues peaking around Y2K, the new management team is focusing on growing the company again after a couple of down years, Sherry said. Geac is also forging ahead with making new alliances and acquisitions in order to provide more value to its customers, he said.

The company announced an alliance with Extensity Inc. to extend its financial planning product suite, and that acquisition is a taste of what’s ahead, according to Sherry.

Dennis Byron, an analyst at IDC in Stamford, Conn., said that this practice of acquiring companies and forming strategic alliances is Geac’s business strategy. He also noted that the company is in the top 25 of all enterprise applications.

“Geac is one of the largest enterprise application companies in the world, and it’s built up its business through acquisition. It’s really a conglomeration of about 10 different brands of software marketed by one company,” Byron said, noting that he was not surprised to hear that they are continuing along this path.

According to Byron, strength is that its product line spans a number of industries, which he described as a good strategy. Geac targets such varied industries as libraries, restaurants and real estate.

“This way they’re not beholden to hearing good news in healthcare one year and bad news the next,” Byron said.

As to how Geac has fared from last year’s conference to Alliance2002, Sherry admits that the company has not been spared from the decrease in IT spending, but has seen increases in other areas.

“It’s been tough on us from a new sales perspective, but the effect is moderated by the installed base of several thousand customers that continue to make use of the product and continue to turn to us for maintenance, support and professional services. There’s a new life in those areas,” he said.