At its BaanWorld 96 conference and exhibition in Berlin this month, Baan Co NV, the Ede, Netherlands-based Enterpise Resources Planning software vendor, spent a lot of time and effort to steal a march on its rivals, by letting its public know it has seen, and has a handle on, the future of Enterprise Resource Planning. […]
At its BaanWorld 96 conference and exhibition in Berlin this month, Baan Co NV, the Ede, Netherlands-based Enterpise Resources Planning software vendor, spent a lot of time and effort to steal a march on its rivals, by letting its public know it has seen, and has a handle on, the future of Enterprise Resource Planning. It took the opportunity to make several new announcements, all revolving around what it calls Dynamic Enterprise Modeling, the next generation of Enterprise Resource Planning. This, it said, enables companies to deploy and automatically configure BAAN applications rapidly as their businesses change. It also disclosed plans to expand into Enterprise Resource Planning for smaller companies. According to Baan, Dynamic Enter prise Modeling means continued business process improvement: support for on-going incremental business processes, as opposed to ‘Big Bang BPR and software implementation.’ Coupled with this, it said, was the treatment of software components as business objects and the use of Services Partners for reference models from which business process templates could be built. Central to Baan’s strategy to take Enterprise Resource Planning into the 21st Century is its focus on the desktop. Given this, Baan felt the need to re-emphasize recent strategic agreements with Microsoft Corp and the launch of the BAAN IV BackOffice suite for the current version of its client-server manufacturing software (CI No 2,901). Microsoft’s involvement is essential to Baan’s desktop strategy, and will include the implementation of Windows95, Windows NT and the ActiveX Object Linking & Embedding technology for developing desktop applications, as well as the integration with Baan applications of existing Micros oft products, such as SQL Server, Word, Excel and Internet Explorer 3.0.
Just in case this began to sound like a forsaking of Unix, from whence Baan came, Laurens van der Tang, senior vice-president of research and development was eager to make it clear that despite the extensive pact with Microsoft and the consequent in -roads being made into the desktop arena, Baan was still committed to the Unix world completely. A measure of this commitment was given in the announcement that Baan and Digital Equipment Corp are opening a jointly-funded Co-operative Technology C enter, based at Baan’s Barneveld, Netherlands facility, to develop technologies revolving around Windows NT and Unix environments. It will be staffed by engineers from both firms using DEC’s 64-bit AlphaServer RISC systems. In addition, Baan and IBM Corp are to extend BAAN IV’s database server to IBM’s DB2 for AIX, and the application server is to be converted for the OS/390 system’s Unix interfaces. Delivery of the database will be by the year-end, with the application component sometime in 1 997. Ernst & Young LLP, one of Baan’s Service Partners, has an Engineering-to-Order Enterprise Reference Model module for Baan’s Orgware methodology and development system (CI No 2,867). Orgware’s Enterprise Reference Models component is a library of best practice business processes derived from developing systems by Baan and partners for many of Baan’s customers. The Models are used as templates, intended to enable firms to develop their business systems rapidly using Baan software, to match a firm’s particular processes as they change. The Engineering-to-Order Model in particular is intended to provide a starting point for such development as well as to guide the management of the business re-engineering process, and can be continually updated. Ernst & Young plans other Enterprise Reference Models.
While Baan’s emphasis is definitely on the future, it also has an eye on the past, in the form of Enterprise Resource Planning’s predecessor Materials Resource Planning: Baan has also integrated BAAN IV with Menlo Park, California-based BA Intellige nce Networks Inc’s MANTA Materials Resource Planning software to form BaanPDM, an engineering and manufacturing system. The tool is claimed to be able to bridge companies’ disparate materials and Enterprise Resource Planning and Product Data Managem ent systems. BaanPDM, according to the companies, will provide document management, versioning and change control and product structure and workflow management capabilities. It is up under Windows, Windows NT and Solaris, HP-UX, AIX and Digital Unix es. Baan also discussed its Internet-intranet strategy, indirectly declaring its own interest in the Network Computer, in the form of Internet Terminals that would connect to internal or remote servers, enabling the user to download information and applictions from the Web. The company may have made sure there was no conflict of interest with partners like Microsoft, with which it has wide-ranging desktop-based agreements, but there seemed to be an in-house difference of opinion over the actual usefulness of the thing. Doug Sellen, vice-president of corporate communications, said Internet Terminals are something worth supporting, but was not sure they were viable. Explaining his skepticism, he pointed out that since memory and disks are relatively cheap, it was hard to envisage a time when users would forfeit these without a significant drop in the price or physical size of their machines. Sellen responded to the suggestion of conflict of interests between Baan’s essentially desktop-based agreement with Microsoft and intentions to enter the Network Computer business by speculating that even Bill Gates could change his mind about the idea of a desktop computer with no applications of its own to speak of. Microsoft’s mission is basically to have its operating systems on every machine on the planet. Plus we all know what they first thought about the Internet. Van der Tang thought that because there are some processes that do not require desktop software to run, particularly within manufacturing, this sector automatically presents itself as a market for the Internet Terminal. He did however dismiss the idea of Baan working with other Network Computer vendors, saying the company intends to work on its own, in getting the architecture ready. But what makes it all worthwhile for Baan, says founder and chief executive Jan Baan, is that it already has the technology in place for today’s data, in the form of ASCII terminals. The rest of Baan’s Internet-intranet strategy hinges on plans to develop a browser user interface for BAAN applications, which would enable the use of the Internet Terminals; ready-to-use applications that would be built using Java, ActiveX and OpenScape and integrate with Internet Explorer; Web Function Server to enable BAAN IV Dynamic Link Libraries to be activated from the Web; Supply Chain Connection enabling Electronic Data Interchange over the Web, and pacts with Internet content providers. Finally, Baan unveiled details of a new company, Baan Business Systems Ltd, established to address the small-to-medium enterpise sector of the Enterprise Resource Planning software market.
Where Baan Co addresses the needs of the larger, multinational chain masters like Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, Baan Business focus on their suppliers further down the chain, which it says make up two-thirds of the Enterprise Resource Planning market. Baan Business was formed out of a merger between Baan Investment BV, a capital investment firm that has a 48% stake in Baan Co, and also holds other Enterprise Resource Planning vendors, and Ditech Informationstechnologie AG of Munich, Germ any. Baan Business is headed by Paul Baan, also managing director and vice-chairman of Baan Co. He sees it as a gateway for Baan into the global small-to-medium enterprise market, with the eventual aim of being its number one. Presumably, this is where Baan’s NT strategy work will have the most impact. But before this happens, Baan Business must contend with the likes of Woburn, Massachusetts-based PivotPoint Inc, already established in the Enterprise Resource Planning market for smaller man ufacturing and distribution firms and with Point.Man, also styled a next-generation client-server offering, since 1994. Baan ultimately sees its future in its ability to provide products for specific vertical mark-ets (CI Nos 2,726, 2,783). These include the automotive, electronics and project industries, as well as food and beverage processing. The company has already forecast that its vertical markets business would account for up to half of its total by the end of this year. By the millennium, it hopes to see annual revenues climb to $1,000m from $216m last year (CI No 2,938).
By Wale Azeez