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June 2003

ERP app vendor says users can homestead

MANMAN provider gives 3000 sites option to stay “until the nuts and bolts fall out”

Homesteading customers got the first advice from a major application provider to stay on their HP 3000s last month, when SSA Global Technologies (SSA-GT) showed that some enterprise-grade vendors understand why 3000 sites want to avoid costly transition changes.

The option to “support you until the nuts and bolts fall out of your systems” was the first one given to attendees at the Computer Aided Manufacturing Users Society (CAMUS) meeting in Dallas. SSA-GT also told HP 3000 users they could trade in their MANMAN ERP suites for another SSA-GT product. But the company won’t offer MANMAN on HP-UX unless it can get 150 customers to sign five-year On-Going Support contracts for the port by Dec. 31.

SSA-GT purchased the customer base and software assets of MANMAN during 2002, and the company has taken its time deciding on the future of the most widely installed ERP application in the 3000 customer base. Last fall SSA-GT reported it won’t be providing major enhancements to MANMAN for the HP platform. But a Statement of Direction for the app surfaced at CAMUS which shows a vendor that can still see revenue coming from its 3000 customers.

“Those clients that are not sure of their long term direction can be assured that we will continue to support their use of MANMAN/HP past the 2006 deadline for HP support of the MPE environment,” the statement read.

Sue Peyton of SSA-GT told customers at the meeting that the company is confident in the 3000 community’s ability to develop its own resources independent of HP.

“Everybody is going to have the same kind of problems that we will have then, if we have those problems,” Peyton said. “Support goes past 2006, and I couldn’t begin to tell you what the end date will be. We are committed to supporting our clients. We didn’t say we’d stop support. We did say we’d stabilize the code.”

SSA-GT will “stabilize” MANMAN/HP on Release 12, but it wants to sell software such as the Cognos Business Intelligence software, and Tradepaq’s Enable for Web-enabling, to the MANMAN customers. The Cognos-based products are called Jumpstarts, a pre-defined solution that includes reports, a dataset with consolidated rows of data and categories, and catalogs. SSA calls such software “extension products” for MANMAN, an application that’s been in constant use around the world since the 1970s.

SSA-GT will also “provide customized support, through our professional services organization” for older releases of MANMAN. 3000 customers are running enterprises with releases that go as far back as Version 6 of the app; SSA understands these customers “want to advance the level of product that you’re on.”

The MANMAN community could run as large as 2,500 sites, according to SSA-GT’s estimates, making it the largest group of companies running a packaged application on HP 3000s. SSA-GT announced an initiative to locate as many of those customers as possible; company officials haven’t acknowledged contact with more than 400 sites in the HP end of the business.

After surveying more than 2,400 MPE customers this spring, SSA concluded it doesn’t have enough interest yet in HP-UX to proceed with a MANMAN port to HP’s Unix platform. The company’s mission lies along the path of less change, according to CEO Mike Greenough.

“ERP systems are like brain surgery — never to be repeated unless the patient is dying,” the CEO said in a keynote speech at CAMUS. “Once you’ve got a system, there’s no reason that system shouldn’t be extended.”

Manufacturing is the strongest single segment of the HP 3000 installed base, with thousands of companies having started using the computer for MRP and then ERP since the 1980s. Such applications get improved as businesses change processes, but SSA-GT could only guarantee that a ported MANMAN would arrive in the Unix environment with the Release 12 functionality. Like most application vendors, the ISV wants to change as little as possible in the application if it commits to making a port.

Customers at the conference couldn’t see much point in making a commitment to move their application to another platform with frozen features.

“I can’t imagine that anybody would want to go to another platform, and say they want that same old green screen,” said Carol Hoinski, IT Director for Teleflex Marine, Inc. Teleflex is homesteading on its HP 3000 and testing the extension products for SSA-GT.

From a business perspective, CAMUS president Warren Smith said the best value for HP sites who want to initiate a change is to avoid the port to Unix, and “to move to a package that’s already developed today, with additional features beyond the HP environment. But my lowest near-term risk of the three options is to stay right where I’m at; the lowest long-term risk is to stay where I’m at, probably through 2010.”

SSA-GT said it’s offering an option that gives its MANMAN/HP sites free software and basic database conversion if they take up with another of the SSA ERP products. Smith said that moving to a Unix MANMAN port — SSA-GT has invited MANMAN sites to put down $25,000 deposits to participate in such a program — looks to him like it represents “the lowest net value, because you freeze the code. The highest ROI I could get would be to stay where I’m at, and pull the plug at some time in the future.”


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