Baan ERP upgrade delay adds to user cynicism

SSA Global Technologies has delayed the release of a Baan ERP applications upgrade due this month to the second quarter of next...

SSA Global Technologies has delayed the release of a Baan ERP applications upgrade due this month to the second quarter of next year.

SSA took control of Baan in July, which has spent about $100m on developing the software, codenamed Gemini. But SSA executive vice president of sales and marketing Graeme Cooksley, who is also Baan's new president, said Baan had lost touch with the needs of its users and had neglected to integrate its CRM and logistics applications with Gemini.

Cooksley added that SSA, which held its annual user conference last week in Orlando, is committed to Gemini and will release the technology as "a solid product, with migration tools and the essential features and functions".

Meanwhile Baan users are going to need convincing that the company is there to support them whether or not Gemini goes to market.

Chief information officer Keith Bearden, who works for a maker of dental equipment, said he intends to wait at least a couple of years before upgrading to Gemini from the Baan IV ERP applications he now uses. In the meantime, he added, Baan needs to do a better job of supporting its users.

"We've seen support become second fiddle to new development," Bearden said. "Baan spent more time on Gemini than they did integrating the products they already had."

He noted that after his company ran into performance and integration problems with CRM applications it bought from Baan last year, its IT staff had to spend "a lot more time and money" than it expected to get the issues resolved.

Darren Symington, IT manager at a car parts manufacturer, said his company is still satisfied with its seven-year-old Baan IV software, and that switching to another ERP supplier would require a huge investment.

He added that Cooksley "has to convince me that SSA is going to take care of the situation" at Baan. Symington agreed delaying Gemini was a good start, because shipping an incomplete version "would be the last nail in the coffin for Baan".

About 70% of Baan's 6,000 users are still running Baan IV, not its newer iBaan V software. If SSA botches the rollout of Gemini, it risks losing customers altogether, said Gartner analyst Brian Zrimsek.

Baan IV users are nearing the end of the lifecycle, Zrimsek said. "Given what Baan has been through, I don't think SSA can assume that they're just going to upgrade."

Cooksley said Baan was in dire straits when it was handed to SSA, which itself is trying to rebound from years of financial problems by making a series of acquisitions.

He added that Baan lost $150m last year and was "bloated", operating as if it had $500m in annual revenue when the actual total was about half that. But he predicted that Baan will become profitable again within three months, following the recent layoffs of 800 of its 2,800 workers.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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