ERP Vendors Target Niches

As midmarket vendors of enterprise resource planning software, Geac and Lawson aim to offer an alternative to Oracle.

Oracle Corp. defends its bid for PeopleSoft Inc. against charges that it would violate antitrust laws by saying customers could go to second-tier vendors for ERP software. Midmarket enterprise resource planning software vendors Geac Computer Corporation Ltd. and Lawson Software are both looking to take advantage of this spotlight.

Like the big ERP vendors, Geac and Lawson are targeting niches with their enterprise software offerings. Primarily a financial business solutions provider, Geac has a number of irons in the fire to expand its product line. In April or May, the company plans to launch a thin-client version of its Geac Expense Management software that will give employees, customers and partners better access to data across the suite, said Timothy Wright, Geacs chief technology officer and CIO.

At the same time, the Markham, Ontario, company is hard at work increasing its integration capabilities to expand beyond core ERP offerings. Last year, Geac launched its System21 Aurora software, which brings messaging and integration capabilities to Geacs back-office applications. Three years in the making, Aurora also provides a front-end process modeling engine that enables mapping and streamlining of business processes, officials said.

With $100 million in cash on hand, Geac is on the acquisition hunt to expand its portfolio—for example, in the areas of treasury management, contract management, electronic invoicing, and electronic bill presentment and payment, according to Wright.

"The dirty little secret in ERP is nobody is growing their ERP revenue year over year selling their core applications," Wright said. "There are not [as many] big, blockbuster sales of back-office applications as there were in the [pre-year-2000] frenzy. Thats not happening. So all the ERP players, Geac included, are diversifying their portfolios and competing on a broader level."

Ralph Hromisin, chief financial officer of Banco Dental Co., in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., said he chose Geac software because it addressed areas other ERP products didnt. "I am not sure that an Oracle or PeopleSoft are really in the same market [as Geac]," he said. "In terms of budgeting and analysis, none of them [has Geacs] capability."

Jay Coughlan, president and CEO of Lawson, in St. Paul, Minn., is also happy to be in the public eye. Lawson, like Geac, is focused on vertical markets, including health care, retail, professional services and the public sector. Lawson does not plan to add expertise in manufacturing, where the three ERP players have a presence, said Coughlan.

However, Lawson will continue to grow and morph from a midmarket player to an enterprise provider through internal development and acquisitions. Coughlan will also expand the companys vertical reach to include additional service sectors. "We will fill that void [left by PeopleSoft, should it be acquired] because our customers will take us there; I think well get there anyway," said Coughlan.

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