SSA reiterates long-term support for product portfolio

Although it has a number of product lines, business applications vendor SSA Global Technologies Inc. said this week that it is committed to supporting them all indefinitely, while offering a migration path that will enable users over the next several years to move easily to the next generation of software from the company.

That was the message from company executives during the SSA 2003 Global Client Forum in Orlando, Fla.. The Chicago-based software firm owns, among other product lines, the InterBiz unit formerly owned by Computer Associates International Inc. and those from Netherlands-based Baan Co. NV, which it acquired last June.

SSA CEO, President and Chairman Mike Greenough said his company “will never sunset a product” and there will be no “forced march” upgrades. “(The customer) will only move as he sees a business advantage.”

Looking ahead to the next two years, SSA plans to incrementally consolidate the functions of similar applications into single offerings, company officials said. For instance, the Baan, Manman and other discrete manufacturing lines will converge and become the SSA Unix ERP lineup, said Greenough. And iSeries, or IBM AS/400 hardware platform-based products, such as BPCS and Infinium, will morph into the SSA iSeries ERP lineup.

“We will eventually go from many to fewer general ledgers,” said Cory Eaves, vice-president of global solutions management and research. “The process to merge the products will take place gradually over time.”

While SSA has demonstrated its commitment to various product lines and shown they didn’t make various acquisitions for short-term financial gain, it still has to get that message across to the industry at large, said analyst John Moore, a consultant at ARC Advisory Group Inc. in Dedham, Mass. In addition, the product releases will generally come only in two-year cycles, which can be problematic for some users, especially those running older products from companies that hadn’t updated them before being bought by SSA.

A couple of attendees at this week’s event were enthused by the message from SSA.

“I think they are doing all the right things to provide both current and new customers a solid value proposition in trying economic times,” said Marsha Williams, CIO at Arvada, Colo.-based Cobe Cardiovascular Inc., a maker of medical devices. “Coming in, I was somewhat concerned due to the large number of new companies and (whether) they could continue enhancing the functionality for current customers while merging the various companies.”

Customers can add new functions without jeopardizing their existing investments, she said.