What On Earth Is Going On With SSA?

What On Earth Is Going On With SSA?
P.J. Jakovljevic - December 1, 2000

Event Summary

According to the October release of LiveWire, a public electronic newsletter of SSA Global Technologies (formerly SSA Inc.), once a leading mid-market ERP vendor, the company has set out on "a major push around the world to reestablish itself as the key supplier of integrated enterprise and e-business enabling solutions for the industrial sector." SSA Global Technologies cites its commitment to returning to long-term profitability to benefit all stakeholders. To accomplish this the company plans to return to its core competencies, re-focus on the demands of established customers in its key industrial sector and deliver new offerings through its Open eRP approach and strategic partnerships.

"Our flagship eBPCS enterprise solution will serve as the core product and springboard for enhanced capabilities and strategic partnerships," stated Vic Shepherd, Chief Executive Officer. "Our initial focus involved looking at the needs of our customer base and building a strategy that takes our clients and new business into the next phase of solution development. As enhancements in key areas of eBPCS functionality are introduced, together with extended solution capabilities, we will aggressively target the industrial market."

Developments that SSA claims to have currently been involved with include vertical industry enhancements for automotive and engineering, consumer packaged goods, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, a browser front end for eBPCS and eBPCS NT. Strategic relationships and tighter product integration with leaders in business-to-business (B2B), and supply chain management will underpin SSA Global Technologies' delivery of added value to its customers. SSA Global Technologies has also set its sights on a new frontier with business modeling and knowledge management solutions due for general availability later this year.

Market Impact

The good news is the notion of resolving the company's past viability issue and the continued commitment to development of the eBPCS product. On the other hand the glossies cannot conceal the fact that SSA does not yet offer much more than its core unfashionable ERP product in conjunction with assistance integrating extended-ERP software components from third-parties. So much for any differentiation in the market!

Much has been published regarding SSA's troubles that led to its demise (for more information, see Another One Bites the Dust - SSA Gored to Death, and SSA: Evolving Into Systems Integrator To Survive). In brief, the company's all-out attempt in 1996 to rewrite BPCS as an object-oriented system was ill timed and badly executed. From this vantage point, the critical period from 1996 - 1999 should have been used to deliver a mature product and preserve its market share, while introducing the new product architecture and new extended-ERP functionality in a more controlled, phased manner.

Consequently, SSA has suffered, over the past three years, a tremendous loss of market share, money and customer confidence. The Y2K-induced market slump certainly didn't help. The company's channels, both direct and indirect, were also all but crushed during the same period of time. As a result, the market has witnessed an array of competitors preying on its large, perturbed customer base. There are indications that many of SSA customers are at least considering migration to another provider, while many have already opted for it.

However, the damage has not necessarily been irreparable. We favorably regard the release of version 6.1 of eBPCS, which features long-awaited stability and better performance of eBPCS 6. Also, SSA's established global infrastructure and customer base, strong core-ERP functionality with a sharp industry focus, strong multinational product functionality, and a relative ease of implementing eBPCS are some of the company's bargaining chips in the game of averting its customers from jumping the ship. SSA may have difficulties leveraging its existing client base though. Companies interested in "e-business" may need to move faster than SSA is currently able to do. SSA, plans to offer Web-based, portal-style access to eBPCS during the next 12 months. We believe SSA is at least a year behind its competition regarding e-business capabilities. It will need to provide feature rich and tightly integrated solutions of best-of-breed market movers if it wishes to maintain its existing client base.

We endorse the SSA initiatives announced above, but won't hazard a guess about the outcome of these endeavors.

User Recommendations

The Gores Technologies involvement in SSA's business enforces our belief that the operations of existing users may not be put at risk. While we cannot advise SSA's customers to completely relax, neither do we recommend abandoning ship in a hasty manner. Due diligence and development of case scenarios, either for a system change or for remaining with SSA, are, however, recommended.

Less technologically aggressive companies may be better off by staying with SSA for a while. Nevertheless, be on high alert and develop medium- to long-term alternative plans for moving to a new technology. Identifying and approaching your local SSA sales representative and asking for assurances and firm commitment to future service and support would be the best course of action at this stage.

Until the new product strategy, particularly within CRM, e-business and Internet trade exchanges, is crystal clear and has been publicly committed to, we advise potential users to evaluate the product warily even within its automotive, consumer packaged goods, pharmaceutical and chemical industries sweet spots. Learning about new features would be beneficial, at least for information and leverage against other vendors. We also suggest evaluating the bells-and-whistles, price, reference sites within your industry, and corporate viability of other vendors before making a selection.

For existing SSA clients, we suggest you determine what functionality you're interested in and investigate what the company can offer. Identify the requirements and related costs to upgrade your systems to support the added functionality. If you are interested, perhaps your existing relationship could be leveraged to dramatically reduce the cost of the suite. Consider negotiating a pilot or trial period at no cost to you and use it to negotiate a lower price with competitors. An upfront implementation guarantee from SSA and a list of recent customers would certainly alleviate many anxieties.

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