'Collaborative Commerce': ERP, CRM, e-Proc, and SCM Unite! A Series Study: Baan and Parent Company, Invensys

  • Written By: Randy Garland
  • Published: September 20 2001

'Collaborative Commerce': ERP, CRM, e-Proc, and SCM Unite!

A Series Study: Baan and Parent Company, Invensys
R. Garland - September 20, 2001


In the early 90's, ERP came of age. Everyone had to have the functionality ERP packages promised. Since then, as Web and Internet technologies have matured, CRM on the front end, and e-Procurement and Supply Chain Management on the back end, these packages have come into their own.

Now in 2001, the catchphrase is "Collaborative Commerce," where we unite all of the above elements into one coherent system within and between organizations. This is the Big Kahuna, the zero latency, fully transparent, 360 degree exposure that is the stuff systems integrators dream of. Is it here? Are the technologies mature enough? Simple enough? In this part of the series, we take a look at the effort Baan and its new parent company, Invensys, are making in the push.

This, the third of a series of articles on Collaborative Commerce (C-Commerce) takes a look at the effort Baan and its new parent company, Invensys, are making in the push.

The first examined what it is and can be.

The second looked at J.D. Edwards.

A Look at Baan and Invensys 

During much of 2000, in a series of TEC articles written by P. J. Jakovljevic, we all got the sense that Baan was in serious trouble. Mr. Jakovljevic noted that Europe's number two ERP vendor had been encountering sagging revenues and experienced seven quarterly losses in a row, all stemming from a seeming inability to properly digest and synthesize the corporate acquisitions it had made in the previous several years. These acquisitions were: Berclain, a Supply Chain Management (SCM) vendor, 1996; Beologic, a product configurator vendor, 1997, Aurum Software, a Sales Force Automation (SFA) vendor, 1997, and Caps Logistics, a transportation and distribution planning and management vendor, 1998. For more info see Baan - What Will The Future In Invensys' Stable Bring? Part 1: About Baan.

Mr. Jakovljevic particularly noted Baan's acquisition of Aurum, and suggested that if it wanted to survive as an independent ERP and e-Business force, or if it were to position itself for a takeover, it would be best to, among other things, divest itself of Aurum and its holdings (only at that stage when they did not have an imminent buyer!). With both the CEO and CFO of Baan gone in abrupt resignations, it seemed that Baan had some critical strategic thinking and moving to do to turn the ship around.

Note: You can access these articles by doing a search on "Baan".

Invensys Sweeps in and Clears out the Cobwebs 

Invensys plc, long focused on automation and controls for manufacturing and industrial companies, made a surprising cash offer for Baan in June 2000. With what they were calling a 'Sensor to Boardroom' move, Invensys envisioned being the provisioner of automation and productivity tools from "web site to factory floor." They established a new division called ISS (Invensys Software and Systems), swept Baan under their arm, and started running at full tilt to show the world how they could bring the Baan and Invensys universes together.

Strategic Decisions and Acquisitions

Both Baan and Invensys moved quickly. Baan made a couple of moves around the same time as the takeover bid was happening: they negotiated a strategic alliance with Seagate Software (now known as Crystal Decisions) to make that company's Seagate Info their enterprise reporting solution, and they established a reseller and development alliance agreement with Top Tier, a maker of Enterprise Integration Portal (EIP) software.

In August 2000, Robert Karulf was named to lead a new CRM division, to be based in Golden, Colorado. Bruce Henderson, division chief executive of ISS, noted: "Mr. Karulf's appointment demonstrates Invensys' commitment to growing the customer relationship management (CRM) segment of Baan's e-enterprise business." Baan's president, Laurens van der Tang, said, "This appointment creates a dedicated CRM business unit that sharpens our focus on this important e-business market segment. We continue to be committed to delivering integrated enterprise solutions from front office to back office."

Additional moves in the ensuing months solidified the notion that Baan was in the C-Commerce game. In November 2000, Baan announced the establishment of a strategic partnership with Business Objects for E-Business Intelligence (management reporting and decision support tools).

In January 2001, Baan unveiled a suite of products, called iBaan, which is fully web-based across the entire integrated Baan. They released iBaan OpenWorld 2.0, including a new XML-based framework as "the embedded integration technology for its new generation iBaan suite of Internet-enabled value web collaboration solutions." The suite includes multiple components, with the aim of delivering Business Object Interfaces (BOI's) to integrate Baan solutions with 3rd-party solutions via graphical data mapping.

They established iBaan Portal, designed to provide employees with customized views of Enterprise-specific, web-based information. They also announced a new suite called iBaan Collaboration, a set of Internet-enabled tools designed to support "rapid configuration of open, flexible components to support emerging collaborative commerce business models." Pre-designed "collaboration templates" focus on collaboration efforts in the Supply Chain and Logistics spaces.

In February 2001, Baan added iBaan E-Service Remote, a web-based solution that enables a company's field force with the ability to document field actions and results on a laptop, PDA, or desktop computer for later synching with the main database.

The Vision 

Baan is now iBaan, fully focused on the Internet via Portals and web technologies, across CRM, ERP, and SCM spaces. Every product has been renamed with a leading 'i'. The list includes:

  • iBaan Sales - Including ERP, Product Configurator and Pricing Modeler, Sales, and Marketing pieces

  • iBaan Procurement - Including ERP and E-Procurement modules

  • iBaan Planning - Including ERP and SCM pieces iBaan Distribution

  • iBaan Finance

  • iBaan Service - including multi-channel contact center, a knowledge base, the ability to accept, track, and intelligently route service requests, and iBaan E-Service Remote, as mentioned above.

    In addition:

  • iBaan Portal - Enterprise portal for corporate information for employees

  • iBaan Business Intelligence - Including "Enterprise Reporting" from Crystal Decisions and "Tactical" Reporting from Business Objects.

Not to be left out of the mix are the pieces that support the outside world; to help the universe of third-parties work in tandem with Baan (or should I say, iBaan):

  • iBaan B2B Server - XML and Document Repository. Can either be used EDI-style (like a mailbox where messages are stored between partners), or in "push" or "pull" mode for information sharing;

  • iBaan Collaboration - Streamlined application links along the Demand and Supply Chain

  • iBaan OpenWorld - Business process and application integration levels of inter-communication.

How Complete The Vision? 

What seems to have happened is that Baan, more than anything, has been organized and motivated by Invensys to "go for it," to go for the half-vision they were trying to promulgate in the press and the industry through the half-hearted and not-so-warmly received product rollout of Baan FrontOffice. It's quite possible that the top guard were, themselves, unsure of stepping beyond the safety net of Baan's stronghold in ERP. But Tender Feet were shown the door, and Men Who Walk Over Hot Coals came in with the Invensys wind. Refocused, re-energized, and going for the 'Net. (see, Baan Achieves A Speedy Recovery Despite The Tough Times).

Now, that's all well and good. But the add-on products are not fundamentally changed from what they were a year ago. Baan still has Aurum at the core of their Sales Force Automation pieces, Apropos Technologies at the core of their customer service and support offerings, a fairly weak, non-real-time field force solution, Berclain at the heart of their SCM tools, and not one but two Business Intelligence tools from two different vendors, Crystal Decisions and Business Objects. TEC doesn't sense that all systems are assimilated into Baan R&D hands and are being given equal treatment. And, still no native HR/payroll solution, a surprising and lasting gap in their product line that prevents them from stamping the "One Stop Shop" logo on their iBaan suite.

We applaud, however, their aggressive move to allow third-parties to come to the iBaan show through iBaan B2B Server, Collaboration, and OpenWorld. These pieces are welcome and necessary in the C-Commerce world of interconnectivity. See, It Is Possible - SAP And Baan Strange Bedfellows.

User Recommendations 

Baan scores a 'B-' on the C-Commerce scoring charts - not bad considering where it was a mere year ago. I think the kick is back in its step. Now, there are some clear things Baan should do from here. Specifically, on the CRM front:

  1. In its iBaan Service module, iBaan E-Service Remote is lacking a real-time, wireless component, something that is being driven hard by other CRM vendors and is seen as important technology in being able to make a large step up in Field Force effectiveness. In addition, iBaan E-Service Remote is, well, focused on Service, and does not include a Sales component, enabling Salespersons on the road to do such things as access/modify account information, create new quotes on the fly, etc.

  2. The iBaan E-Service is good as far as it goes, but it doesn't offer true interactivity. Users can diagnose problems, submit new issues, and view status of existing issues. But it doesn't enable the customer with such interactive tools as Call Me Now buttons, web chat facilities, Voice over IP (VoIP), or even the ability to add comments to existing issues, or update its own account information (e.g., contact information).

We need some evidence that all the many pieces in the iBaan puzzle play nicely on the Internet together.

We need to see Baan place more emphasis on and give more technological support for industries other than Baan's stronghold (manufacturing and distribution).

Finally, Baan needs to create, or, more expeditiously, acquire a top tier standalone HR/Payroll system, to complete its package.

So, Baan survives for now, much to the surprise of many. It needs to move quickly and match functionality with the leaders in the C-Commerce movement, to keep its competitiveness, and its revival, intact.

Look for future articles in this series on SAP, IFS, Oracle, and PeopleSoft.

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