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Baan returns to roots with new CRM offering

Baan, an early player in the CRM space, is trying to regain its footing in the market. It's launched iBaan CRM, an offering one analyst hails for its increased emphasis on analytics, among other features.

Len Chermack

One of the companies that first defined the CRM space, manufacturing ERP specialist Baan, is recasting its presence in the market with a new product set.

The Netherlands-based software and services giant, an arm of automation company Invensys, released its latest offering into the highly competitive CRM space on Monday. Dubbed iBaan for CRM, the product aims to reestablish the company as a leader in the field of providing end-to-end enterprise software to manufacturing companies.

While Baan has been entrenched in the CRM arena since it bought up software maker Aurum in 1997, the company's strategy had become something of a mystery of late. Up until recently, Baan muddled its CRM market presence by selling its flavor of CRM offerings under two names, each with its own marketing efforts.

"This is sort of a re-launch but it really isn't," said Len Chermack, president of Baan's CRM Business Unit. "We saw an increased opportunity to take advantage of some things that we've been building on in the last year. We've been quiet but we weren't hiding. The focus has been on integrating products."

The software upgrades

Baan's major upgrades with iBaan for CRM revolve largely around applications integration and improved analytics.

The company is set on competing with enterprise players like Siebel and Onyx in the manufacturing space, where it also offers ERP software. The offering includes iBaan E-Configuration Enterprise, which utilizes a deduction method to help streamline manufacturing processes by identifying problematic designs before they reach production. iBaan is also engineered to provide organizations with interactive, real-time guided configuration models to support all aspects of product manufacturing, Baan said.

The company declined to speculate on pricing for deployments of the software.

"We're operating under a fairly simple strategy," said Chermack. "You've got to walk the talk. Our whole organization looks at the [CRM] proposition from an enterprise angle. Unless you integrate deeply throughout, it's hard to get solid analytics."

The new offering is actually part of a larger suite of products, all bearing the iBaan moniker. Among the clients the firm has already signed-on as CRM customers are Hitachi Data Systems and Flowserve.

A "strong move"

For at least one industry analyst, the release serves as a resurrection of sorts.

"Baan was one of the early entrants in the CRM space and really the first ERP company to realize how incredibly important it is to have CRM integrated with your back office," said Sharon Ward, vice president of enterprise applications and CRM for Framinghmam, Mass.-based Hurwitz Group. "But they lost focus and lost their awareness and had undertaken a really strange strategy over the last year," she said, referring to Baan's practice of selling iBaan CRM and Invensys CRM, basically the same product.

"Having now put this together under a single effort and having added some of the additional collaborative capabilities is a strong move for them," Ward said. "It's a return to their roots, which is a good thing."

Among the features that Ward likes about the iBaan for CRM package are its increased emphasis on analytics, better Web-enabled tools, the option of using role-based portals and improved integration overall.

Another possible strategy for Baan in building its presence going forward may involve a merger or acquisition in the CRM space. With industry watchers predicting major consolidation in the market this year, Baan may open its sizeable wallet to help thin the competition and add to its own set of skills.

While Chermack declined to comment on any particular dealings, he said Baan would consider making acquisitions or forming partnerships in areas where the company has a specific need.

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