SSA GT Beefs Up BPCS V8 Through Partnerships' Spree
Global Technologies (SSA GT), the reincarnation of the erstwhile high-flying and
subsequently bankrupt ERP vendor (see Another One Bites the Dust - SSA Gored to Death), Systems Software
Associates (SSA), has been focusing its internal development and astute partnership
striking and/or renewing activities to address collaborative commerce, e-procurement,
customer relationship management (CRM), factory optimization and business intelligence
(BI). The company also intends to increase these efforts in its traditional industry
markets, including automotive supply, consumer electronics, consumer goods/food and
beverage, pharmaceutical/chemical and general manufacturing.
note concerns the following recent announcements by SSA GT:
agreement with Logility
with REALTime Data Collection Solutions
partnership with Applix
agreement with Digital Union
of BPCS enterprise Performance Analytics
support of BPCS versions CD (4.05), BPCS V6, and BPCS V8
provide backward compatibility to BPCS eCommerce, ERM and collaborative commerce solutions
announcements are part of a new solution strategy for the BPCS product.
Part Two of a two-part event note. Part One contained the announcements. This part discusses the Market
Impact of these announcements and makes User Recommendations.
from the verge and on a comeback trial' tune - a dj vu scenario of some once
high-flying and then almost deceased ERP vendors, brings to mind the following articles
concerning other vendors:
one should hold his/her horses in the SSA GT's case. It may seem cynical to object to SSA
GT's returning to profits by severely trimming fat and milking revenue from the existing
client base only; the fact that the vendor had reached its near extinction point lends its
positive results more than mere a psychological gravity. The face value of the
indisputably impressive SSA GT's marketing rhetoric must be seen in the light of the
recent demise of many other software companies.
To be fair,
SSA GT has mostly achieved its most imminent and important goal of enticing existing BPCS
customer base to stay on their maintenance contracts. With over 1,700 accounts having
signed up for continued support so far, SSA GT has secured a sound revenue base, although
that might not sustain it while keeping BPCS abreast of the latest technology and
functionality scope. Therefore, the above product strategy blueprint is sound given the
hiatus the company has been in for some time, provided the new management team continues
with an established good track record for on-time delivery of promised functionality.
has established partnerships to expand the BPCS footprint to envelop the vastly more
comprehensive applications' functionality scope beyond core ERP, which is however
available nowadays as a matter of course by many. The company seemingly intends to achieve
its all-round product portfolio and implementation approach through in-depth strategic
partnerships with specialized application providers. The result should be a functionally
rich core manufacturing ERP product, with best-of-breed, industry specific add-ons, and
systems delivered by professional service teams drawn form its target industry sectors.
announcement indicates SSA GT's determination to shore up its customer base, as it has
been focusing on keeping its large install base content by offering them incremental value
proposition extension through its SSA GT Portfolio (a.k.a. 'Open eRP') marketing strategy
- surrounding BPCS with a slew of horizontal and vertical industry software, and with SSA
GT's lean manufacturing methodologies toolkit. Dealing with a single point of contact for
most IT needs could indeed be attractive to some manufacturers at the higher end of the
SSA GT's established global infrastructure and customer base (over 6,500 installations and
operations in more than 70 countries), strong core-ERP functionality with a sharp industry
focus and regulatory compliance, strong multinational product functionality (support for
20 languages), and a relative ease of implementing BPCS are some of the company's
bargaining chips in the game of averting its customers from defecting and of giving other
intruding competitors run for their money. Actually, vendors vying to be replacement
solutions for the BPCS ERP system could be in for a bigger hurdle than expected as the SSA
GT strategy might resonate with manufacturers that have been happy with BPCS and that are
reticent to replace functioning ERP system deeply embedded in plants worldwide,
particularly in these days of reduced budgets.
these positive developments should be backed up with the continued more aggressive
commitment to expanding the native BPCS product scope internally. Although BPCS V8 is an
ERP suite that can accommodate different manufacturing environment such as discrete lean
manufacturing, assemble-to-order (ATO) and make-to-order (MTO) operations, and process
manufacturing too, the fact remains that SSA does not yet offer much more than its
traditional ERP product in conjunction with bundling extended-ERP software components from
In terms of
product scope, it is mainly in the realm of manufacturing management (MRP II, JIT,
repetitive discrete and some process industries), supply chain management (configurable
order management, logistics and warehousing), financials, quality management, business
intelligence (through Cognos) and some e-commerce. Supported platforms are the IBM AS/400
(now eServer iSeries), HP Unix/Oracle, and also from very recently, Windows NT on IBM
contrary to Baan and Ross, SSA GT has not been able to cite a slew of new customers,
except for some minor new accounts in the Asia-Pacific market. The management's rhetoric
might even suggest that SSA GT is banking its future solely on its installed client base.
The possibly insufficient revenue stream might, therefore, require some additional
downsizing in the future as well as the R&D cutbacks. Any attempt to increase revenue
by, e.g., bloating significantly support & maintenance fees, may backfire in
customers' defections to preying competition.
contrast to Baan or Ross, SSA GT has an inordinate scope of functionality to cover through
external partnerships, as seen from the above press blitz. While the best-of-breed
approach has its merits and is a necessity for some plant-level applications that ERP
vendors do not typically provide (e.g., data acquisition), it inadvertently leads to
additional integration costs and complicates service & support arrangements.
Interfaces between disparate applications like ERP, CRM and/or e-business usually require
significant tailoring. This can be a barrier to future changes as further modifying
already modified code is notoriously time consuming, costly, and risky. Also, the profit
margins for third-party products are typically lower than for natively provided
functionality, which again lessens the bottom line.
importantly, except for Cognos and SynQuest or Manugistics
(for an advanced planning & scheduling (APS) product add-on), the above partnerships,
which have certainly made a splash, are either in their infancy or are just another bite
at the cherry. For partnerships to solidify and result with a true commitment and solid
products, one needs time and significant user acceptance (read sales), both of which have
yet to happen in earnest. There are the indications that SSA's sales force has sternly
resisted some previous management's attempts to sell partner products in the past, which
has resulted with faltered alliances.
embracing the IBM WebSphere platform for e-procurement, CRM, and other components
integration strategy cannot be debated, the caveat lies in the fact that the company has
done it only very recently. To that end, much more aggressive interaction with the analyst
community and more perspicacious explanation of positioning of its Semantic Message
Gateway (SMG) and Direct Data Gateways (DDG's) interconnectivity technologies would be
important. There have been indications that SMG's had exhibited poor performance, hence
the addition of DDG's. However, the DDG's have reportedly only been tested once for an
adapter for SynQuest integration. There are no performance statistics available, and there
have been no other DDG's officially announced.
GT plans to keep previous BPCS versions (e.g., V4.05CD) alive was prudent and necessary as
to avoid an adverse revenue shortfall, the need to make any new functionality backward
compatible and to devise an enterprise architecture to tie multiple versions together with
a common portal (and even as a commercialized Private Trading Exchange (PTX) further in
the future) will likely impede the speed of delivering these. The story seems to be quite
compelling although one should be cognizant of the magnitude of the efforts to execute it.
This may also mean that users of the most current product versions will see their annual
maintenance revenues being dissipated to enhancements for V4.05CD and not to the current
SSA GT is
also burdened with the immaturity of some products and/or low traction issues. The V8
product could have used a longer beta testing phase, while the NT product released at the
end of 2000 has reportedly resulted only in a handful of new licenses. Furthermore, the
company's silence about MAX product it acquired not so long ago (see SSA Acquires MAX Hoping To Leap From Its MIN) might indicate that it
was an impulse purchase and that the company has not many ideas as what to do with it,
since MAX essentially competes with its own BPCS NT product.
challenges may impede SSA GT's ability to leverage its existing client base and channel,
as illustrated in the fact that more than 3,000 BPCS users have yet to be possibly
reinstated within maintenance contracts. Also, SSA GT has only recently delivered a Web
Browser Interface that is not fully browser-based, which makes it quite behind its
competition regarding e-business capabilities, and consequently vulnerable to their
attacks. As a summary, while the company's gallant attempt to regain credibility in the
industry is noteworthy, unlike Baan, it seems to have much more catching-up to do, with
the market keeping a close eye on its execution..
SSA GT's moves should be welcomed by existing BPCS customers that have been yearning to
rejuvenate their almost outdated technologies in place. Less technologically aggressive
global companies and/or their divisions with an inclination towards lean manufacturing
philosophies may be better off by staying with BPCS for the time being. Nevertheless, keep
a close eye on the company's moves and develop contingent plans for moving to a new
technology if need be. Identifying and approaching your local SSA GT sales representative
and vigorously negotiating assurances and firm commitment to future product roadmap, and
service and support would be the best course of action at this stage.
new product components, particularly through the above-mentioned partnerships, have been
officially delivered and put through their paces by reference customers, we advise
potential and current users to evaluate the product cautiously even within SSA GT's
automotive, consumer packaged goods, electronics, pharmaceutical and chemical industries
about BPCS V8 features would be beneficial, at least for information and leverage against
other vendors, but bearing in mind the product's maturity. There are the indications that
the real benefit and maturity of the Lean Manufacturing module will likely come with its
next release presumably in version 8.1, scheduled for release only some time in 2002. We
also suggest evaluating the bells-and-whistles, price, reference sites within your
industry, and corporate viability of other vendors before making a selection.