European user groups oppose united Baan plan

Baan wants its European and North American user groups to unite, but although the Europeans say they will work together, they do...

Baan wants its European and North American user groups to unite, but although the Europeans say they will work together, they do not want to merge with Baan World Users (BWU), the North American user group.

"European user groups are typically organised by country and really have no vehicle for cross-border cooperation," which means Baan has to deal with each organisation separately, said Dave Wangler, senior vice president of global marketing at the business software supplier.

"The user group members in North America tell us they get a tremendous amount of value from working with their peers on a large scale," Wangler said. European users also could enjoy that value by aligning in Europe and working closely with the BWU, he said.

However, creating a single European user group is a good idea, but a far-reaching worldwide co-operation is not, said Heath Tipton, chairman of the UK and Ireland Baan user group.  European Baan user groups, in fact, met at the technology trade show CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, last week.

"Speaking to my European colleagues recently, I feel that we share a high degree of commonality. On a worldwide level, the logic of total merger has to be more questionable since in my view, no single user group body can realistically best represent all users in all markets," Tipton said.

Several European user groups have claimed there is too much difference between European and North American Baan users to make a single user group work. In Europe, many users are on Baan IV or III, early versions of Baan's ERP (enterprise resource planning) software, while many US users are already on Baan V.

Merging all user groups while still retaining a local focus will "inevitably add an additional layer of bureaucracy and potentially distance the real users from the decision making process," Tipton said.

"A key strength of any ERP software vendor has to be its ability to effectively deliver a product designed for the world market at a local level. This requires close co-operation with customers in each market."

Klemens Hauk, chairman of the German group, agreed.

"Co-operation of the user groups on an international level can be very helpful [as already done in the past], but due to the special market situation in the different countries we need local user groups to support our members best," he said.

The BWU "is interested in collaborating with as many customer groups of Baan in any process which yields the best voice to Baan", BWU president Ron Papajcik said.

If a merger does not work, Baan would like to see the user groups create global industry focus groups, Wangler said. Tipton agreed this idea has potential, but only for those industries that are truly global, such as automotive and aerospace.

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