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May 2002

MANMAN market hopeful over new owner

ERP-focused buyer SSA Global open to new prospects

With its purchase of MANMAN’s owners, SSA Global Technologies has sent a shiver of hope through the community using the venerable ERP package on HP 3000s. SSA’s April acquisition of InterBiz puts the manufacturing suite back into the stable of a firm whose core business solutions serve ERP needs.

Mike Greenough, CEO of the $130 million privately held firm, said his company will meet all promises extended to MANMAN customers by InterBiz. But he expects to offer the sites more than free license swaps for the other solutions in the InterBiz solution lineup. A change, however, isn’t necessarily what Greenough imagines all his MANMAN customers need.

“Changing your ERP solution is like getting a blood transfusion,” he said a few weeks after announcing the deal to buy InterBiz and its customers from Computer Associates. “You’ve got to make sure you get the right match, or the patient’s going to die. We recognize the customers have significant investments, and one size probably does not fit all.”

Thousands of SSA Global customers are wearing a single suit, however: BPCS, a solution that has sold many an AS/400 IBM server over the years. Greenough estimates about two-thirds of the company’s 10,000-customer base is using BPCS, which is also offered on Windows NT and Unix platforms from HP and IBM.

The combined product lineup at SSA swelled with the acquisition, but as Greenough said, “I didn’t buy this customer base with a view to killing any products. I want to extend the life of products.” The CEO said SSA was aware that the InterBiz HP 3000 customers had already received end of life advisories from HP as his company completed the deal.

Such moves by vendors have been a part of SSA’s history, Greenough said. “If a technical barrier is raised and I can no longer support [such customers], then I want the customers to feel their migration will be smoother within our family of products than anybody else’s.”

The InterBiz offers to move MANMAN customers to other InterBiz products PRMS and KBM, MK Manufacturing and the DEC version of MANMAN “are still good, because we haven’t provided any better alternatives,” Greenough said. “But we believe we’re going to.” PRMS and KBM also run on the AS/400 servers, now known as the iSeries.

MANMAN suppliers of add-on software and third-party support said in the early days after the deal the acquisition had sprinkled some hope around the community. “The people I have talked to range from hopefully optimistic to waiting on the fence,” said Julie Brisker-Haymons, CEO of Quantum Software.

The maker of add-on products for MANMAN on HP 3000s said that the sale of the MANMAN’s owner means “MANMAN is still a marketable product, and it is proof that it is still a player in the manufacturing community. We believe that this change will bring a new perspective and vision to the MANMAN community. It is our hope that the new team will focus on the strength of the MANMAN system as well as its future.”

Moving off MANMAN can provide a revenue stream for SSA, she noted. But Brisker-Haymon believes a better alternative doesn’t exist for much of the MANMAN base. “Maybe there’s something that’s newer technology, but does it really do what MANMAN does for these companies? If there was something else out there, they wouldn’t still be on MANMAN.”

Terry Floyd, founder of third-party support agency the Support Group inc., said moving MANMAN away from CA could improve the future for the product. “It will be better, because everybody’s got a positive attitude and wants [the future] to be better,” he said.

Floyd gives a speech called “10 Big Things Wrong with MANMAN, and What to Do About Them. There’s many things to be done,” he said.

SSA’s Greenough said the company expected to decide about porting MANMAN to HP-UX by early June. Floyd said a better timetable for the decision might be two or three years, and hopefully the answer on migration would be no.

“What’s the hurry?” he said. “If I want to run MANMAN, I need to buy a new N-Class HP 3000 and run MANMAN. Why would I go to Unix with a 25-year old application? You can’t change the basement underneath MANMAN.”


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