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Briefing Report: Meeting Promise, SSA Global Releases ERP LN
By: John Moore, VP, ARC Advisory Group
Mid last year, SSA Global acquired Baan from Invensys, adding yet another ERP platform to its growing list, now numbering three distinct platforms, Baan, ManMan and MK for the discrete industry sector. In addition to its large customer base, one of the main attractions of Baan for SSA was the completely new platform, Baan ERP 6.0 (code name Gemini), which Baan was on the verge of releasing prior to the acquisition. Upon acquiring Baan, however, SSA management took a long hard look at Gemini and decided that it just was not ready for prime time, postponing release to a later date.
That day has come. True to the promises SSA made to customers last fall at the Baan user group conference to deliver a new platform by July 2004, SSA has come through with its newest release, ERP LN. The wait for this release, which at its core is the former Gemini, appears to be worth it as it offers numerous enhancements that will indeed take SSAs customers forward.
Enhancements include a greatly improved user interface that is thin client, browser-based, an architecture that will support a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) including support for industry standards, SOAP and WSDL, and an object-based framework to ease cross application integration. Important to note that the integration broker is based on IBMs WebSphere platform, however, despite the agreement SSA signed with IBM in late May this year, other aspects of the WebSphere platform will not be included due to timing, but is expected in later versions.
This new ERP package also continues Baans tradition of providing very strong manufacturing capabilities for the discrete industries, primary among them the new Leanware module to enable Lean practices and Freight Management for supply chain execution. SSA has also embedded specific solution templates for its primary target industries, automotive, aerospace & defense, hi-tech electronics, and machine & equipment builders.
These are all fine enhancements for SSA to offer in a new ERP package and will put them on par with their leading competitors, SAP, Oracle, and QAD for the hearts and minds of the discrete industry CIO, but what is arguably the biggest story here is what they have done for the existing installed base.
SSA has often been chastised for simply being a company that is acquiring distressed ERP companies, stripping them down to lower costs and making healthy margins off of the maintenance contracts. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This release is the clearest signal yet to the market by SSA that it intends to be much more then just a graveyard for distressed and disparate ERP systems.
One of the primary reasons SSA delayed the launch of Gemini was that this product, as architected by Baan, provided absolutely no clear migration path for a significant majority of Baans customer base who were still on version IVc4. SSA correctly saw the danger in releasing this product early as many Baan customers would have more then likely fallen into the arms of a competitor. And SSA did not stop with addressing only the needs of Baans customer base.
In addition to providing a clear and smooth migration path for Baan customers on version IVc4 or later, ERP LN has been architected to also provide a clear upgrade path for both the ManMan and MK installed bases. Simply put, with ERP LN SSA has consolidated the three discrete ERP solutions into one, single unified source code base. While Baan customers should be pleased with this upgrade, both ManMan and MK customers will be elated as they now have a truly viable upgrade to bring them forward.
ERP LN will be offered to all existing customers on maintenance as a standard upgrade (e.g. no cost for the software itself). SSA spent a significant amount of effort to insure that upgrades go smoothly developing several implementation tools to accelerate, as well as simplify, the upgrade process. The product has been fully vetted at a number of Beta sites, the largest currently live with over 1000 users.
While SSA will face the same challenges as other ERP suppliers in trying to bring their customers up to the latest version of their software, what they have done with this new product release is impressive and is expected to breath new life into what were a series of increasingly moribund solutions. This truly is a big move by SSA and I applaud their decision to take the time to get it right, something I often find lacking in the enterprise software market.