Should interBiz Mean Intelligence And Prediction Beyond ERP? - Part 2: Challenges and Market Impact

Should Should interBiz Mean Intelligence And Prediction Beyond ERP?

Part 2: Challenges and Market Impact
P.J. Jakovljevic - December 10, 2001

Event Summary 

In October and November, interBiz, the eBusiness applications division of Computer Associates International, Inc. (NYSE: CA), expanded its back-office solutions with the announcement of product enhancements and a free benchmarking service. The announcements were:

  • A free benchmarking service for businesses in durable goods industries

  • General availability of MK Manufacturing version 8.4

  • Premium Services Plans which provide maintenance for modifications and the migration of modifications to new versions of interBiz software applications

This, Part Two of a two-part note, discusses the Challenges faced by interBiz and makes User Recommendations. Part One discussed these announcements and their Market Impact.


However, while espousing a prudent e-business strategy in line with post- ERP inter-enterprise realities and the need for interconnectivity, and while adding new functionality, interBiz has had an uphill battle to allay the perception of poor marketing owing to problems stemming from ongoing re-branding of the collection of older generation ERP products that includes MANMAN, PRMS, CAS, and MAXCIM.

While the BizWork initiative has breathed a fresh air into venerable but almost antiquated applications, interBiz must rebuild somewhat lagging momentum by attracting new users. Playing to its strengths by capitalizing on CA's huge investment in enterprise infrastructure management and business intelligence component, including predictive and pattern matching intelligent technologies makes sense. Additionally, BizWorks ability to integrate both interBiz and third-party applications across the supply-chain becomes a compelling extended-ERP tack. Unfortunately, the effort of tying these technologies back to a fragmented set of ERP applications has been colossal, likely marginalizing CA's ability to become a prominent market player.

Continuation of an unfocused, multi-product and multi-technology strategy in the markets with diverse dynamics typically multiplies and overstretches sales, R&D, and service & support resources jeopardizing the chances its products could stand a chance of long-term success in their respective niches. Geac, Epicor, Ross Systems are examples of companies where this strategy has failed: all have had to resort to divestiture and to a focus on core competencies.

While the announced premium service plans certainly give customers peace of mind and raise the bar for competitors' service & support value propositions, interBiz should consider making some bold decisions on the level of integration of the applications, possibly with a plan for developing a cross-application backbone (foundation set of common components). The market typically prefers a total solution to a "sum of the parts".

On the Postive Side

Nevertheless, InterBiz remains one of the most widely used of the upper-mid-range ERP vendors. Although it could have leveraged much better its infrastructure customer base to promote its enterprise applications (like Oracle or IBM have done in their respective database, server and middleware strongholds), interBiz has done much more to rejuvenate its acquired enterprise applications arsenal than, e.g., Geac has done to its. The job of disseminating a clear message which market the combined set of products has been targeting, as well as of delivering a strong CRM and private trade exchange (PTX) offering remains notwithstanding.

User Recommendations 

InterBiz's ERP systems are basically more suited for discrete manufacturing companies with versatile manufacturing styles (mixed-mode), although PRMS and MANMAN exhibit a good fit for some process manufacturing enterprises. The company targets high-tech/electronics, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, mechanical engineering and distribution industries. Multi-national companies needing software to address mixed-mode manufacturing (Engineer-to-Order through Repetitive), projects and contracts, and service management, with strong logistics and warehousing requirements may want to include interBiz on an initial list of vendors for a particular ERP software selection.

The companies that may benefit the most from evaluating interBiz are upper mid-market companies with over $75 million in revenues that are not seeking to implement a strong CRM product, but are in need for SCM, e-procurement, workflow, business intelligence and key performance indicators (KPI) reporting capabilities.

Existing interBiz customers with installed financial management, logistics, HR, manufacturing, or banking applications should review the above-mentioned enhancements, as well as the BizWork framework with their local representative in order to extend the value of existing applications. interBiz customers with custom systems or products from other vendors should exercise the privilege of the offered premium service & support contracts in order to preserve data integration between their various systems and future painless migrations.

We also encourage existing and potential users to familiarize themselves with the company's e-business products offerings, since we believe that they will be in a position to better leverage their negotiating position with all vendors involved in a particular selection exercise. One should inquire with interBiz which 'wrappers' for which popular business applications are available. Adding new interBiz applications to an enterprise that already uses Unicenter TGN infrastructure "plumbing' will likely require no significant effort. Users will benefit from approaching interBiz and informing themselves about what the company plans for future service & support (or divestiture and/or product stabilization?) of its individual ERP products and what the ramifications of migrating (or not) to its new product offering and service plans would be.

The customers that need information visibility within the value chain should carefully define what they need -visibility of exceptions only, of all events, or of entire business processes, in real-time or batch mode, and from what data sources (internal, external, or both). If fully automated resolution is required, question whether the product has a business process integration system embedded. Otherwise, look for one that can reach people through multiple communication channels and has a built-in escalation process.

As for Neugents, some artificial intelligence (AI) sources warn that they work well but are limited in accuracy by the amount of historical data available to 'train' the neural network. As long as there is a representative sample of data containing all the possible fault conditions then the detection engine should work satisfactorily. Also, as these can only detect problems that have been present in the past, new problems could go undetected or unclassified, requiring occasional user intervention.

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