Baan to add Web capability to existing ERP software

Business applications vendor SSA Global Technologies Inc. this week committed not only to push ahead with the next generation of its recently acquired Baan software line, but also to beef up existing legacy applications.

Last June, Chicago-based SSA bought the troubled Netherlands-based Baan from its parent, London-based systems maker Invensys PLC. Subsequently, SSA committed itself to rolling out the already planned Baan ERP 6, or Gemini, the next generation of Baan's technology.

This week, the ERP software maker announced that it is not only still committed to Gemini's rollout, but also will offer enhancements to its existing Baan ERP IV and Baan ERP 5 suites. The move, said Cory Eaves, vice president of solutions management at SSA, reverses a previous decision to cease support and development on Baan's legacy suites.

That decision had been made when Baan was still a part of Invensys.

The improvements, due for release by the first quarter next year, will include a Web interface for Baan IV, said Eaves. The interface will include full read-write and transaction support, as well as improved remote access.

In addition, customers using both IV and 5 will be able to integrate with and exploit other parts of SSA's portfolio to handle things such as plant maintenance and warehouse management, said Eaves.

Ultimately, this will give users a gradual migration path. "Our approach is to put out the carrot and not the stick," he said. "If the customer sees value in ERP 6 and an easy migration path, they'll choose to upgrade. We want that choice to be theirs, not ours."

"This is very good news, not necessarily the browser interface itself, but the fact that they are supporting and offering new functionality for previous versions," said Keith Bearden, CIO at A-dec Inc., a maker of dental equipment in Newberg, Ore.

His company currently runs Baan ERP IV, which Bearden plans to use with the new browser interface. He called a pledge by SSA President and Chairman Mike Greenough in September that the company will never sunset a product "the best news I have heard from Baan in ages."

SSA Global's commitment is a cautious if practical move to help customers do gradual upgrades, said analyst John Moore at Dedham, Mass.-based ARC Advisory Group Inc. Previously, Baan often moved too fast for customers by bringing out new platforms with questionable upgrade paths. The Web front end will at least allow customers to more easily share information internally and with partners. "For many, that is enough for now," Moore said.

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