SSA vision good for Baan users

Chicago-based SSA Global Technologies Inc., the new owner of Dutch ERP software maker Baan, recently revealed its commitment to older Baan technologies with the unveiling of its new product roadmap.

The two investment firms that jointly own enterprise applications vendor SSA bought the troubled Barneveld, Netherlands-based Baan from its former parent Invensys PLC, a systems maker in London last June and made it a subsidiary of SSA.

Baan ERP 6, which is code-named Gemini, was originally due for release in September. But at its annual user conference that month, SSA said it was delaying the rollout until next year in order to ensure that the upgrade would be “a solid product.”

Baan ERP 5 already supports Web-based application screens. The thin-client interface that’s being added to Baan IV will provide users with full read/write and transaction-processing capabilities, plus improved support for remote access, according to SSA.

SSA has been on an acquisition spree of sorts. The firm also scooped up e-commerce supplier Ironside in July, and most recently announced its intent to acquire supply chain execution supplier EXE.

SSA announced in November several product enhancements, including the new thin client user interface for existing Baan IV and Baan ERP 5 product lines. The new Web-based interface and related technologies will make it easier for older Baan manufacturing customers, those on Baan IV and 5, to share information.

The announcement effectively extends life of existing Baan systems. It also reverses a previous announcement by Invensys that support and development on Baan’s legacy suites would be discontinued, according to Cory Eaves, vice-president of solutions management and research at SSA.

“The SSA plan is 180 degrees opposite from that,” Eves said, adding the ERP vendor has committed to the release of the already planned Baan ERP 6. “The upgrade decision should be one that’s driven by the carrot and not the stick.”

According to John Moore, a Dedham, Mass.-based analyst for ARC Advisory Group Inc., the enhancements give users a clear gradual migration path to Baan ERP 6. Customers using the older Baan technology can now integrate with other SSA extension products including SSA Supply Chain Management (SCM), SSA Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) and SSA Corporate Performance Management (CPM) to tackle warehouse management and plant maintenance issues.

The strategy enables the many customers still comfortably using Baan IV and 5 systems to continue avoiding application upgrades, Moore said.

The company is currently consolidating all of its product lines under one SSA umbrella. The firm plans to ultimately consolidate the functions of similar applications into single offerings, a process that should take a couple of years, Eves said.

Baan and other discrete manufacturing lines will merge to become the SSA Unix ERP lineup, while the iSeries, or IBM AS/400 hardware platform-based products, such as BPCS and Infinium, will be rolled into the SSA iSeries ERP lineup, according to SSA.

SSA’s plan to rejuvenate the current applications got a big thumbs up from Keith Bearden, CIO at A-dec Inc., a Newberg, Ore.-based maker of dental equipment that uses Baan IV.

“This is very good news, not necessarily the browser interface itself, but the fact that they’re supporting and offering new functionality for previous versions,” Bearden said.

Bearden, who wants to wait at least a couple of years before upgrading to Baan ERP 6, said he plans to add the Web-based user interface to A-dec’s system after it becomes available. He noted that Mike Greenough, SSA’s president, chairman and CEO, said in September that the company will never “sunset” a product, a promise Bearden called “the best news I’ve heard from Baan in ages.”

– with files from IDG News Service

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