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Geac Hopes To See System21 Shine Again Like 'Aurora' Part 3: Challenges and User Recommendations

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: September 18 2002

Geac Hopes To See System21 Shine Again Like 'Aurora'

Part 3: Challenges and User Recommendations

P.J. Jakovljevic - September 18, 2002

Event Summary

Lately, Geac Computer Corporation Limited (TSX: GAC), a large and until recently struggling Canadian supplier of enterprise management software, has indicated it might have finally gotten its ducks in the row not only has it posted a few stable and profitable quarters, but the company has also shown the intent to move away from its all but failed business model of selling maintenance and services for outdated applications. As a result, it has a number of recent new contract wins.

This note covers the following recent Geac announcements:

  • The Extensity and EBC Informatique acquisitions

  • A contract with ZPC Mieszko

  • A contract with Ghim Li Holdings Co Pte Ltd

  • Delivery of three new System21 products for automotive manufacturers

  • Further details on Project Aurora

  • Industry response to AnswerLink

  • Financial Results for fiscal year 2002

This is Part Three of a three-part note on recent announcements by Geac. Part One detailed the announcements. Part Two covered the Market Impact.

Challenges

However, beyond this, although it is functionally strong, System21 has, until recently, lacked some of the technology and buzzword must haves' that have been natively provided by many of its rivals such as SAP, Intentia, IFS and J.D. Edwards. Contrarily, Geac has so far mostly talked to the outside modern collaborative world through a plethora of open APIs (application programming interfaces) and remained content (or forced) to talk in terms of best-of-breed' connectivity. Additional function suites, like CRM, advanced web-based product configuration management, business intelligence and e-commerce are largely provided through partner alliances such as with Cognos for business intelligence (BI), Applix for its iCRM solution and with Frontstep for its SyteLine APS and SyteCenter solutions.

By intending to further expand the range of partnerships, Geac might partially allay some customers' fears that System 21 functionality will increasingly lag that of its major competitors. To that end, however, Geac also will have to create a rock solid strategy for integrating its product suite with multiple partners. The company may benefit from picking J.D. Edwards' and Siebel's brains, and closely partner with a major enterprise applications integration (EAI) vendor in order to ease integration with its partners (see J.D. Edwards Chooses Freedom to Choose EAI and Siebel Rallies Its Integration Alliance Troops). To that end, the vendor has strong technology partnerships with IBM and Jacada (for hardware and middleware).

The partnerships are also intended to enhance Geac's StreamLine Windows NT/2000-based ERP solution for 5 to 150 users, starting at around the $100,000 price tag. Geac's customers will benefit from being able to use Eden Origin, a tool that enables product configuration/product search engine via a Web-enabled interface. Through Geac's partnership with Preactor International, small to medium (SME) manufacturers might benefit from advanced planning and scheduling (APS) and finite capacity scheduling. However, given that the above functionalities have become all but commodities nowadays, Geac will have to work much harder on StreamLine's enhancements if it is to match the functionality from many competitors, as most of the e-business and CRM components are still lacking. The product's scope still remains within managing the flow of production through the supply chain, from purchasing of raw materials to sales and distribution of finished goods.

The proverbial problem for Geac has been its preference for acquiring new products rather than pursuing in-house product development and/or true strategic alliances. While the strategy might have worked in a number of esoteric industries with a low penetration of competitors like hotels & restaurants, real estate and construction, it is indisputably, a completely different ball game in the global enterprise applications market in the mainstream industries.

Modern enterprise applications must be able to support dynamic business requirements, and every vendor is compelled to add much more value to its products and services portfolio to attract and retain customers, rather than mainly investing in the existing bundle of disparate core products and hoping for endless support revenues. Geac's fierce competitors mentioned earlier have long grasped the reality and acted accordingly. Realizing the crying need to change its faltering business model, Geac seems to be finally addressing its strategic options, with the above product strategy announcements showing it is serious about appeasing and shoring up its large customer base. One is only to hope that the Geac's renewed interest in alliances and acquisition will be to the point of effectively enhancing prosperous product lines as required by its large installed base.

The Extensity and EBC Informatique purchases should seemingly provide Geac with enhancements to its multiple core ERP systems for a modest price tag. The companies have technological compatibility (a J2EE-based product architectures of Geac and Extensity, and IBM iSeries support for Geac and EBC), which should bode well for the applications integration. While it is still unclear how the acquisition will affect current Extensity users and/or its competitors, it should certainly provide important employee-facing financial tools to Geac such as a portfolio of travel and expense management, time and attendance, and basic procurement applications.

In times when everybody is keeping a close eye on all IT investments, financial management products that help companies achieve better control of spending should prove strong value propositions and quick Return on Investment (ROI). Even Geac's industries of interest such as construction, apparel, automotive suppliers, financial institutions, and government agencies have the need to streamline processes involving the procurement and reimbursement of employee expenses and time. In addition to cross-selling more products to its existing customers, the acquisition holds the potential of generating new customers. Given the "once bitten, twice shy" one should believe Geac will have carefully thought out the rationale for the above two acquisitions. Although there is still a sizable work ahead of winnowing out the remaining under performing units/product lines, there is an opportunity too provided Geac can regenerate new growth strategy.

User Recommendations

While Geac's balance sheet was boosted by recent events, more positive sign is the company's intent to become a true software-developing vendor, not simply a software collector and dealer. The "catch 22" for current and potential users is to discern Geac's corporate strategy viability within the product line/industry in question.

Users will benefit from approaching Geac and informing themselves about what the company plans for future service & support (or divestiture and/or product stabilization?) of its individual products are and what would the ramifications of migrating (or not) to its new product offering be. Users should vigorously question Geac on its future options and investigate alternative solutions now to fully understand their situation and options.

The E (Expert) and M (Millennium) series, which are IBM S/390 mainframe-based, will likely not receive major functional enhancements owing to aging technology. The SmartStream suite that supports client/server-based Unix and NT systems, the StreamLine series of NT-based back-office products, and System 21 are the most likely recipients of R&D funds. However, overlapping modules in SmartStream and StreamLine will likely be rationalized as to minimize duplicated R&D costs. System21 and StreamLine are the likely core systems, both providing scaleable and flexible ERP and e-business systems built on IBM middleware technology.

Mid-market manufacturing companies in a number of Geac System21 vertical industries of focus, including apparel, electronics, food and beverage, and automotive supply, which are considering a new ERP system should evaluate the offering, while observing closely Geac's future plans. Although Geac's partnership strategy is justifiable given the company's current state of affairs and as it results in offerings that it may have otherwise never happened, it places a burden on the company of having to rely on its partners' update schedules, is problematic in terms of integration issues and potential support difficulties

If vertical-specific solutions are all the customer needs and are near a perfect fit, Geac System21 is worth evaluating, but new customers looking to implement a comprehensive extended-ERP system outside of Geac's traditional focus of ERP vertical industry applications software may benefit from considering other options. In any case, make sure that you are feeling comfortable with Geac's declared product strategy for your industry and keep a close eye on the future developments.

Existing Extensity customers looking to expand well beyond its financial spending packages into ERP/supply chain planning should consider evaluating appropriate Geac's products. Conversely, Geac users with a need for a strong ERM product should consider Extensity as a high-priority contender although questioning the level of integration between the products goes without saying.

 
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