Make Some Noise
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The CRM world has always been close to Len Chermack's heart. Chermack, who was involved in the early days of CRM with PenUltimate Inc., a sales force automation software firm, has stayed involved in the sector, helping start-ups and CRM firms get their footing.
With one year under his belt this month as president of Baan CRM, Chermack has been active in helping the company find its CRM legs. Chermack, who speaks in energetic fast-clipped sentences, is often on the road evangelizing how Baan CRM is all about the enterprise, specifically in the manufacturing sector.
Baan, considered as one of the early players in the CRM arena with its 1997 acquisition of Aurum, lost its CRM focus after being acquired in August 2000 by Invensys plc, an automation-software company. Baan confused the market when it sold both its own and Invensys' CRM solutions. Invensys recently restructured the company and now has Baan's applications leading one of its key divisions.
Chermack's role is to get Baan CRM on the customers' and solution providers' radar. And that has been a formidable task, he says. "The biggest challenge was to get Baan CRM repositioned back into the market. And not to come out as a me-too," he says. "Baan never took full advantage of its enterprise play."
To do this Chermack has brought in several seasoned salespeople, and consultants who had helped Clarify in its early days, to devise strategies to leverage the enterprise strength of the company. "We had to do a lot of heavy lifting to get the name out and help put this thing together. We knew we could bring value there to serve the customer's need in CRM," he says.
One of the main problems was that while Baan had good technology, it failed to get that message across, Chermack says. "We had the premier configuration in the world and nobody knew about it, and those who knew about it were customers who found that no one could touch this. Being quiet doesn't help you," he says. "I'm here to bring marketing back into this operation, and direction, because we have products that are best in class."
On the technical side, Baan has built more integration into SAP, Chermack says, adding that few CRM players have deep experience with integrating into back-office systems. "We are getting that message out. Companies are telling us they want a single vendor that will carry them across the enterprise. It's been validated with PeopleSoft and its being validated with SAP. We are in the world of enterprise play," he says.
Having worked with Baan chief executive Laurens Van Der Tang and Invensys CEO Rick Haythornthwaite to map out a strategy to get Baan CRM back on track, Chermack seeks to expand Baan's channel relationships and continue playing the role of evangelist. "Challenges are fun. That is the reason I came to Baan, to help turn it around," he says.
Name: Len Chermack
Title: President of Baan CRM, Baan
Education: B.S., Loyola Marymount University
Biggest Career Blunder: Joined former start-up Computer Depot and failed to leverage relationships with resellers and distributors.
Favorite Music: Classical
Favorite sport: Football
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