Baan shakeout raises doubts

The shakeout continues at Baan with the announcement that chief financial officer James Mooney is leaving the company, and analysts warn of the vendor's uncertain future will affect users.

Mooney, a former chief financial officer for the Americas at IBM, spent less than a year with the company.

His departure comes only two weeks after former chief executive officer Mary Coleman left Baan and the move may further tarnish the company's image.

Merv Langby, senior analyst at IDC, told Computerworld: "Customers are very concerned about the long-term sustainability of their business partners with application service providers -- more so than ever before.

"[And] when you've got two key parts of the corporate management hierarchy leaving, it does have relevance.

"It raises questions of the future direction and commitment, customers' investment, service and the sustainability of the partnerships," Langby said.

Neil McMurchy, research director Gartner Group, agreed that any issues within a vendor that suggested uncertainty tended to be unsettling for customers.

"The company might have good products, good technology and customer base, but changes in senior executives have an unsettling effect because people acquire ERP (enterprise resource planning) products as a strategic choice.

"They envisage having them for five to seven years so the relationship is a long-term one."

Mooney will be replaced by Robert Ruijter, a former chief financial officer of Philips Lighting, a division of Philips Electronics.

Katrina Roche, Baan's chief marketing officer, said Ruijter's first priority as CFO will be to focus on more aggressive cash management to restore investor confidence in Baan's cash and equity position.

Langby agreed this was important.

"[Baan] has to restore shareholder value, get the books looking better and reposition the company in a way the market approves of."

Baan is staying on the course that Coleman set out for the company, moving into the business-to-business electronic commerce market, with an emphasis on manufacturing.

McMurchy said if Baan is trying to reinvent itself as an e-commerce vendor, "the name of the game is market share".

"If it expands its product range the first target is its existing customers. To do that it needs a reasonable customer base," McMurchy said.

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