Whatever happened to Baan?

A year after announcing it was close to being back in black under new owner Invensys, Baan is putting its CRM cards on the table.

The 25-year-old company launched its iBaan for customer relationship management (CRM) strategy during the

Frost & Sullivan Summit on CRM and PRM in Scottsdale, Ariz. this week, with particular emphasis on its sophisticated analytics capabilities.

Included in the strategy are Baan CRM, ERP, supply chain logistics and service applications, as well as a new analytical application, Cross Enterprise Analytics.

While the company may be formalizing its CRM vision later than other major vendors, its history in the CRM space goes back as far as its 1997 acquisition of Aurum software, a sales force automation firm founded in 1990. In May 2000, Baan was acquired by London, England-based Invensys plc, which incorporated BaanFrontOffice products along with its Invensys CRM brand offerings.

Baan is aiming to distinguish itself from other large CRM vendors such as SAP and Oracle by focusing on vertical markets it has been traditionally strong in – aerospace and defence, automotive and industrial manufacturing, and at the same time, deliver a message that CRM is more than just technology, but a strategy as well.

“We have taken the whole IT around enterprise applications away from a feature and function comparison towards offering a market a strategy,” said Henk de Ruiter, senior vice-president of marketing and alliances for Baan.

“We have really componentized the iBaan suite,” he said, adding that some customers are taking the solutions they want from Baan and connecting them to competing systems from vendors such as SAP instead of going with one monolithic suite of products.

“Since we’ve been acquired by Invensys, we’ve really focused the business and continued significant investment in areas such as support and product development and innovation,” said Susan Heystee, president of Baan Americas, who hails from Toronto and works there quite frequently. “We’ve also continued to return to profitability and return to year-on-year growth.”

Baan is now in the process of growing the business, she said. “We’ve got a number of new customers. We have over 15,000 customer sites worldwide and we have over 600 CRM sites worldwide. We’re seeing a very significant need from companies that manufacture and have complex logistics.”

A year ago some analysts were suggesting that Baan needed to nurture and better support its existing customers, something Heystee believes the company has succeeded at. “We’re very happy to see areas such as customer satisfaction at an all-time high and continuing to increase.”

Baan actually launched its iBaan suite, which included CRM and a number of components, a year ago, but Heystee said the company has been too quiet about its CRM efforts, which has created a perception that the company is linked more heavily with supply chain logistics management and ERP.

“”We felt it was the time for us to go to the market with some of the solutions that we had.”

Heystee said it was also time to launch three very focused strategies that built upon the iBaan suite: iBaan for CRM, as well as iBaan for PLM (product lifecycle management) and supply chain logistics management.

She added that Baan would distinguish itself by focusing on its vertical market strengths. “Where Baan is a leader is really in providing enterprise solutions from front office to back office specifically geared to manufacturing companies.”

While Baan does offer financial solutions as it relates to manufacturing verticals, Heystee doesn’t see the company broadening its scope to offer pure financial solutions. “Our strength is our domain expertise.”

Baan’s unveiling of its CRM approach could be perceived as a little, said, Joanie Rufo, analyst with Boston-based AMR Research, “but I also think that as the market has continued to evolve and as it has become a much more well-known entity by customers, in some regard, it’s not late,” she said. “Whereas some of the early movers at the enterprise level have been selling CRM suite solutions for some time, the mid-market where Baan primarily plays is always a little bit of a slower adopter.”

Despite its tardiness, Baan is well positioned because it has a long history with CRM, said Jon Derome, senior analyst with The Yankee Group in Boston. “It’s a very strong technology company,” he said, even if it has had financial trouble in the past and has not always been able to articulate a strong marketing message.

Rufo said it has taken a while for Baan to pull its CRM strategy together. “They’ve had multiple brands in the market, and I encourage their adoption of a single brand.” (Invensys CRM is being discontinued in favour of the Baan product.)

Baan has done a good job of listening to its customers, she said, “and developing solutions that specifically drive home the needs the verticals they address.”

Baan still has some challenges moving forward, Rufo added. “It’s definitely a crowded market space. In fact, the bulk of the mid-market ERP players have announced CRM strategies.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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