SAPPHIRE - TomorrowNow CEO sees life after Oracle

Andrew Nelson, president and chief executive officer of third-party maintenance and support company TomorrowNow Inc., isn't the kind of guy who appears to be surprised by the maneuvering of business application vendors for greater market share. His own company was acquired by SAP AG, the world's largest business software company, in a move to lure customers away from rival Oracle Corp.

On the sidelines of SAP's Sapphire customer event in Paris last week, IDG News Service interviewed Nelson, who was accompanied by his colleague Nigel Pullan, vice president of TomorrowNow's operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia-Pacific regions.

Nelson talked about the company's support offer for users of J.D. Edwards, PeopleSoft and, more recently, Siebel business applications, which were acquired by Oracle, and about the database manufacturer's own support and maintenance offer for SAP applications.

What do you think of Oracle's plans to offer support and maintenance for SAP's R/3 business software? Surprised?

Nelson: It wasn't a surprise to us. We've been hurting Oracle pretty badly. It appears as if they're offering more of a consulting type service, compared to a comprehensive program. They're talking about partying with someone in India. I don't think they understand that the idea of third-party maintenance is not to find -- no offense -- cheap labor, but rather to find the most experienced senior labor. Our customers are in mature and stable environments. They don't call us often but when they do, they need someone very senior to help them with a very serious problem. There is a skill set developing in India but it's still a bit like the wild, wild west.

Haven't you also outsourced staff?

Nelson: We outsource our operations to SAP. That's it. We don't outsource a single, primary resource engineer. Our service delivery team is in-house, as well as our sales and marketing teams. We've outsourced finance, payroll, legal and tax operations to SAP.

Have you had to tweak your structure internally because of Siebel?

Pullman: Many Siebel implementations have a high degree of configuration and customization. We have to deal with issues related to both.

What does that mean -- more people?

Pullman: Yes, we'll need Siebel experts. We have eight at the moment and are still hiring.

Nelson: We brought on John Tanner,director of global support at Siebel. But let me point out that one of the biggest differences in supporting Siebel compared to our other lines is that we will certify and support customizations as a matter of our standard contracts.

Any customers yet?

Nelson: No.

How many Siebel customers are out there?

Nelson: There are around 4,000, of whom half are candidates for third-party support.

Today, your primary target is customers of Oracle acquisitions. Is this your business model?

Nelson: Our strategy is not to go after Oracle, but rather to serve the widest possible enterprise software community wherever third-party maintenance makes sense.

How big is the global software maintenance market?

Nelson: We estimate it to be between US$8 and 20 billion annually.

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