SSA Global clarifies its ERP vision

After a flurry of acquisition activity, ERP software vendor SSA Global Technologies Inc. used its recent SSA Global Client Forum in Philadelphia to show it has managed to forge a clear product roadmap.

In his keynote address, Mike Greenough, president and chief executive officer, said the Chicago-based firm is currently the fourth-largest ERP vendor. The goal is to acquire market share and develop customer share, Greenough said in front of 500 attendees. SSA has been developing this strategy since it acquired Barneveld, Netherlands-based Baan from its former parent Invensys PLC in 2003. Recent acquisitions also include e-commerce supplier Ironside, supply chain execution supplier EXE and process manufacturing solutions provider Marcam.

But customers had been concerned whether SSA would be able to successfully integrate its new ERP pro-ducts into a coherent strategy. In addition to its core manufacturing ERP applications, SSA Global now offers a full range of integrated extension solutions including corporate performance management, customer relationship management, product lifecycle management, supply chain management and supplier relationship management. Instead of creating a “Frankenstein monster,” the new acquisitions have provided SSA with an “ERP mosaic” of offerings, Greenough said.

SSA will not “sunset” products but will actively encourage migration to newer products, said Cory Eaves, chief technology officer for SSA Global. Older products will continue to be supported so long as enterprises are willing to pay for support and maintenance, Eaves said. He added the long-term roadmap is focused on the convergence of functionally similar products and integrating the acquired products into its core ERP applications.

Eaves also pointed to SSA’s strategic alliance with IBM, which enables SSA Global technology to be standardized on IBM WebSphere technology to provide comprehensive portal infrastructure. SSA technology, including enterprise resource planning, corporate performance management, customer relationship management, product lifecycle management, supplier relationship management and supplier relationship management will run on IBM’s middleware stack.

According to John Moore, an analyst at ARC Advisory Group Inc., SSA has often been chastised for simply being a company that is acquiring distressed ERP companies, stripping them down and making healthy margins off of the maintenance contracts.

Nothing could be further from the truth, Moore said, adding the recent SSA announcements are the clearest signal yet that the firm wants to be more than a graveyard for its recent ERP acquisitions. Moore said the migration paths SSA is offering should breathe “new life into what were a series of increasingly moribund solutions.”

In August, SSA unveiled its new SSA ERP LN 6.1 suite. The Web services-based enterprise resource planning and supply chain suite is targeted at SSA’s discrete manufacturing customer base by supporting lean manufacturing processes and industry standard integration between applications. The company also released SSA Financial Management version 2.0, an enterprise-class financial management solution. SSA ERP also incorporates a number of the service-based technologies that had been developed by Baan.

At the time, Baan had spent an estimated US$100 million developing the next generation of its software, which was known internally as Gemini, and would have been called Baan ERP 6.

After acquiring Baan, SSA planned to demonstrate an early version of Gemini in September of 2003. But the project was put on hold because the software lacked integration with Baan’s CRM and logistics applications, the company said. SSA also wanted to add more localization features, including support for languages such as French and German. The interface is customizable so users can skip intermediate steps in, for example, a sales ordering process. Other enhancements include support for pull-based manufacturing processes, where stock is replenished depending on actual customer demand rather than on forecasts.

The company plans to unveil migration tool kits for the customers of its Baan IV and iBaanV, SSA MANMAN and SSA MK manufacturing applications, which will help automate tasks such as data mapping when upgrading to the new ERP suite.

SSA plans to release SSA ERP LX in 2005, the company said, which will be targeted at its process manufacturing install base.

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