Baan's Nice Guy Image

Rome -- Battling on major fronts -- CRM, SCM and PLM -- enterprise software vendor Baan wants to take the gloves off. But executives grumble that it's tough to shake the nice guy image nurtured over the years by the Dutch firm. Still, if Baan hopes to win deals against the likes of Siebel, SAP, Oracle, i2 and others, then "our sales people need to execute better and be more proactive," says Don Brower, vice president of marketing and strategic alliances for Baan CRM. It's a critical time for the company as hard-selling ERP rivals, sexy 'pure-play' vendors and even boutique software shops jockey to carve out a place in the promising world of e-business. Somewhere among them sits Baan. Call it the quiet-guy syndrome. While Baan has been known for having strong technology chops, many people perceive the company as an oft-latecomer to hot markets. Consider iBaan SCM announced only yesterday. Never mind that Baan has been pioneering an integrated extended supply chain solution since 1996, according to the Aberdeen Group. Indeed, Baan hasn't done a good job at telling its story -- until now. At its inForum conference in Rome, Baan finally outlined a clear strategy of offering an integrated enterprise system that touches products, customers and suppliers. Baan also seeks to execute in a variety of markets: electronics; automotive; aerospace and defense; industrial equipment and machinery; logistics; and process manufacturing. On the other hand, minor details show that Baan still hasn't figured out all the nuances when marketing to American customers. For instance, Baan announced that it has broken out SCM, CRM and PLM into separate business units, unknowingly stirring images of silos. It undermines, at least to some degree, the message of a single solution for enabling knowledge to pass freely throughout an enterprise. "One of the fears is the message of separate business divisions," says Katherine Jones, analyst at Aberdeen Group. "This may sound disjunctive to the buying community, although it's probably not." Ernie Eichenbaum, vice president of marketing business-to-business at Baan, counters that these business units are actually centers of technical excellence that will work closely together. Nevertheless, history continues to dog Baan as it gears up to compete with flashier rivals. "Baan was always the little brother hanging out with the big boys," says Sharon Ward, vice president at market researcher Hurwitz Group. "And I don't think that's going to change." Tom Kaneshige also writes for Line56.com
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