German ERP upstart eyes expansion

Gaermany's C.I.S. Cross Industrie Software has an ambitious plan, including a partnership with a local IBM unit, to capture a slice of the European midmarket.

A small German vendor of ERP software has laid out an ambitious plan, including a partnership with a local IBM subsidiary, to capture a bigger slice of the European midmarket. But the software upstart has to fend off rivals including SAP and Microsoft.

C.I.S. Cross Industrie Software offers a suite of ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications for small and midsize businesses, including programs for accounting, inventory management and customer relationship management. Called Semiramis, the suite is built entirely in Java, allowing it to run on most platforms including Windows, Linux and IBM's OS/400 and i5 operating systems.

At the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany, this week, C.I.S. announced versions of its software in English, French, Italian, Hungarian and Slovakian. Polish and Spanish will follow in the coming months, said Reinhold Karner, the company's founder and chief executive. It was available previously only in German.

C.I.S sells its software exclusively through partners, including value-added resellers and systems integrators. Currently, they are primarily in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but over the next two years it hopes to find partners across Europe to sell the localized versions of its software, Karner said.

Founded in 1995, the Hanover, Germany-based company is privately held and won't reveal its sales figures. Semiramis is currently deployed at about 230 customer sites, making it a relative minnow in the software industry, but its license sales increased almost 150 percent last year, according to Karner.

C.I.S. targets small and midsize companies with up to 5,000 employees. Switzerland's Victorinox AG, which makes the Swiss Army Knife, is among its customers.

C.I.S.'s efforts got a boost this week from IBM Deutschland, which has agreed to offer Semiramis as a hosted application from its data centers, Karner said. In addition, SerCon, an IBM midmarket consulting subsidiary in Germany, has agreed to offer Semiramis as an option to customers.

Semiramis is priced at about Euro 2,000 (US$2,690) to Euro 2,500 per user for an indefinite license, depending on the volume purchased. Customers can pay on a monthly basis, adding or removing users as they go, and choose from several vertical industry suites. Users access the applications from a browser; there is no client component.

The deal with IBM may help C.I.S to boost its profile, but it still faces the challenge of making itself known to Europe's thousands of small businesses. "Of course, we have to do a lot in terms of visibility," admitted Karner, who also founded C.I.S.'s parent company, IT consulting company the KTW Group.

It will also have to fend off rivals including market leader SAP, which has made SMBs a focus lately and is recruiting its own European channel partners to push a midmarket version of its applications. SAP is also a close partner of IBM's SerCon consulting division.

Additionally, Microsoft is targeting the ERP midmarket in Europe, with its Navision family of products, and C.I.S. will also compete with an army of smaller vendors. Abas Software, for example, also targets the ERP midmarket and announced support for 64-bit platforms here at Cebit this week.

C.I.S. claims to be undaunted. Unlike SAP and Microsoft, C.I.S. is a midsized company itself, which allows it to understand its target customers and provide a level of personalized service that its bigger rivals cannot match, Karner argued.

"I think we will give them a fight," he said.

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