Baan Continues Its B2B Comeback

Baan is trying to regain some of its past glory with new software for automating supply chain processes in manufacturing, financial services and customer service. It has dozens of customers to show for the efforts.

Officials at erstwhile ERP software player Baan have a message for potential customers: Were back.

An independent software company for more than 20 years, Baan fell on hard times several years ago as some competitors in the enterprise resource planning software business experienced their biggest boon in decades. Its been in a turn-around mode since Invensys plc purchased it in August 2000 and the efforts – and cash infusion – appear to be paying off with new products and new customers.

Today, Baan launched an new module for its iBaan business-to-business e-commerce software. iBaan for IM&E (Industrial Machinery and Equipment) will streamline business processes by linking information from sales, engineering and production groups, officials said. Specifically it will put engineering and pricing data in the hands of the sales reps, resellers or customers to help provide greater order accuracy.

The software also enables manufacturers to manage engineering changes internally and with supply chain partners. A self-service portal and automatic change propagation capabilities can be used to minimize supplier coordination costs.

Baan also announced today that it would add to its iBaan solutions support for IFX (Interactive Financial Exchange), an XML specification that provides a common format for exchanging electronic communication of financial data. It is expected to be used by banks and other financial institutions to achieve quicker and more cost-effective fund information transfers.

On Tuesday, Baan introduced its iBaan Service Scheduler 2.0 for equipment-related service and maintenance management. The software allows companies to better manage their customer service and maintenance functions by extending the visibility of customer preferences and scheduling complaints.

The company followed up with the announcement on Wednesday of 51 new contract wins in North America during the fourth quarter of 2001. New customers include Systrand Manufacturing, JLM Industries, Ilens Logistics and Perfection Bakeries.

In the 17 months Baan has been part of Invensys, it has also signed more than 300 new customers, seen a 50 percent growth in license revenue and been profitable for five quarters in a row, according to Susan Heystee, Baan Americas president.

"Weve been strongly profitable since weve come through our downturn," said Heystee in Herndon, Va. "Weve really emerged as a strong company with quite a few new customers and we see strong potential growth."

A production technology and energy management conglomerate headquartered in London, Invensys has undergone some recent changes of its own. The company announced last month a major restructuring where it shed a third of its girth and reorganized into three business divisions.

Carrying on its comeback kid theme, Baan will host its inForum conference in Rome next month, where officials will announce product enhancements to Baans CRM (customer relationship management), SCLM (supply chain and logistics management) and PLM (product lifecycle management) suites.

"You will not see us go outside those markets," said Heystee. "We are staying very focuses, delivering from CRM to supply chain and our iBaan offering to link it all together."

Heystee said she no longer considers Baan an ERP provider, though thats where the Netherlands-born company has its roots. It, like its competitors SAP AG, PeopleSoft Inc., Oracle Corp. and JD Edwards & Co., has distanced the ERP moniker for more of an e-business, collaborative software slant.

At the same time, those companies present stiff competition for Baan, particularly in the areas of CRM and SCM.