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December 2003

SSA stokes Baan fires for MANMAN sites

CAMUS conference call unveils migration plan for manufacturing alternative

SSA Global Technologies wants to light a fire under its MANMAN customer base, hoping to spark a migration onto Baan ERP software and away from the venerable ERP application which runs on hundreds of HP 3000 systems.

SSA purchased the Baan application suite and customer base during 2003, after buying the MANMAN software and customer contracts in 2002. Now the vendor is encouraging the MANMAN sites to migrate to Baan as an interim step on the way to a new SSA ERP for Open Systems, expected to be ready in 2006.

Some preliminary details on the plan emerged during a nationwide US conference call set up by the CAMUS manufacturing user group. Sue Peyton, the solutions manager for SSA, ran through a prepared set of PowerPoint slides and then took questions from six regional CAMUS gatherings.

Peyton fielded those questions while waiting for a flight at an airport, so the customers only had 25 minutes to get clarification on the “MANMAN Futures” part of the presentation. The briefing set up for CAMUS also included advisories for the MK and MANMAN/DEC customers who were attending the CAMUS RUG meetings.

SSA has been in acquisition mode for the last two years, and the company believes it has purchased enough companies to emerge as a survivor in the ERP field, which is undergoing consolidation. The Baan purchase, according to Peyton, has let SSA expand the number of industries which its solutions serve, while maintaining a software solution which can serve more general manufacturing requirements.

“It’s our objective to turn the ERP systems themselves into the central hub for the enterprise,” Peyton said. “We will focus our future development activities on workflow processing, process management, event management and alerts, elevating the process up out of the transaction base of the specific sessions.”

This improvement to SSA’s ERP solutions will happen over a two to five-year window, “in an evolutionary manner.” Even though the advice about Baan was the primary news out of the call, the company wanted its HP 3000 customers to understand that migrating to Baan ERP 5.0C, expected to be ready in mid-2004, is optional.

“By no means are we mandating that people move to the Baan solution,” Peyton said. “Of course, if they have a focus on process manufacturing, or industry drivers to migrate, then it’s all based on specific issues.

“MANMAN clients can stay on the 3000 and homestead,” Peyton added. “We will continue to support you beyond 2006. They also have a choice of moving to an iSeries solution, or a smaller footprint environment.”

Birket Foster, HP Platinum migration partner and an attendee at the CAMUS meeting in Austin, commented that customers “would have to be migrating twice in four years” if the 3000 shops moved to Baan, and then onward to SSA’s new ERP suite afterward.

“I would wait until they get the Open SSA done in two to five years, and then take a look at it,” Foster said. His firm sells software and supports MANMAN HP 3000 sites which build data marts for the information inside MANMAN modules.

SSA hasn’t given those 3000 sites any hope of seeing more features in the MPE/iX version of MANMAN. Support will continue indefinitely for the application, but customers at the meetings were left wondering how much support contracts might cost in a few years. Several customers on the call were asking Peyton about how Baan and MANMAN source code licenses will be handled in the coming years.

License questions were handled carefully by the SSA official, who referred such questions to the customers’ sales and contracts channel. These customers want source code under their control to be able to continue customizing the application on their own, outside of SSA’s future plans.

Customers who want to follow SSA’s integration plans don’t have much advantage to begin early. “Whatever the integration points are today, they will be the same tomorrow,” Peyton said. Baan software didn’t have a healthy reputation among attendees in the Austin CAMUS RUG meeting. Several managers said they’d had experience with Baan as a company or an application that wouldn’t encourage them to switch.

Of two minds

During the same conference call, Peyton said that SSA is preparing a “homesteading fact sheet” for 3000 customers who don’t want to move away from their ERP application. The company also will offer extension products that will work with the latest release of MANMAN, and “we have begun discussions with HP to try to come up with some equally interesting programs.”

In May the company announced it would poll its users to find out how many wanted a port of MANMAN to HP-UX. Only two sites have expressed interest, and Peyton said in May the company would need 150 sites committed to such a project by Dec. 31.

“Since we are only five weeks to the deadline for that decision, I have a very strong feeling this is not going to take place,” she said.

SSA has told the customers it will let them trade a MANMAN license, user for user, for any other product in the SSA ERP lineup on another platform. The company will do data conversion on any standard data structures as part of this no-cost switch — although customers at the RUG meeting said few sites now have standard data structures, after years of customization.

SSA located 467 customers to survey in July about the sites’ plans to migrate. A little less than 20 percent responded to the survey, and 36 percent of those companies plan to stay on their HP 3000s with MANMAN beyond 2006. Another 29 percent will make a decision about their transition by the beginning of 2005, and 27 percent of the respondents plan to replace MANMAN and their HP 3000s. Fewer than a third of the migrating customers had even chosen an alternative package.

Peyton said that a spring SSA survey of a different set of customers showed more than half were planning to stay beyond 2006. “The tendency seems to be that more people are planning to replace their applications,” Peyton said.

At the same time SSA is offering replacement software for MANMAN, the company is working with HP “to look at other emulators that will allow you to run MANMAN on another platform.” Details on the emulation choices should be available by the CAMUS conference in May, 2004.

While IT managers at ERP sites usually work to minimize application changes, at least one at the Austin meeting said he’s welcoming the push away from the HP 3000. Dale Long of RhinoPak, a Houston firm which packages automotive fluids such as antifreeze and oil, said HP’s sunset of the 3000 gives him a chance to improve business processes at the company.

“I want to move, but I need to make my case,” Long said. “It will force us to change the business processes. Right now, our processes are set up so every invoice is manual. An invoice doesn’t occur because we made something for our customers. An invoice should be a system event, but it’s not for us.”

Customers at the Austin RUG meeting decided that at the least, SSA had given them a negotiation point with other ERP vendors by offering a no-cost license switch. While that is an advantage in shopping for a replacement product, HP’s decision to stop supporting the 3000 is making customers leave applications like MANMAN, programs which were working well enough to leave alone. Valerie Stillwell, systems support manager at San Marcos, Texas-based Thermon, said the HP decision will spark such moves.

“When they announced the 3000 was going to go away, I think there were a lot of companies whose management jumped on that as a chance to change applications,” she said. “Their IT staffs had been putting it off for years, saying the system was stable. This kind of forced our hands.”


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