BEA woos nontechies with new software

The company takes aim at ordinary businesspeople--and bigger sales--with new product line.

Facing slowing sales to its traditional customers, BEA Systems is trying a new route: pitching its software to nontechnical businesspeople frustrated by the slow pace of IT change.

BEA plans to introduce a new product line that will be sold under a separate brand and released in stages over the next several months, BEA executives told CNET The software is designed to let businesspeople create and make changes to Java code without the need for programmers.

BEA sells server software and development tools for building and running business applications. Its usual customers are Java software programmers and higher-level technology executives such as software architects and chief technology officers.


What's new:
BEA is planning new products to let businesspeople sidestep programmers in the IT department and modify systems themselves, without spawning costly, time-consuming software development projects.

Bottom line:
BEA faces a sales challenge: Letting a marketing director, say, alter the company's business processes may be technically feasible, but not necessarily advisable--a simple change could trigger technical problems. Also, BEA may be playing catch-up: Several specialized software companies as well as larger firms already have similar offerings.

More stories on BEA

The company's new product line will target businesspeople, such as a purchasing director or a business analyst, who don't have technical training but understand how new software should work. BEA's goal is to expand its sales beyond the limited pool of technical professionals and Java programmers, executives said.

"This will be addressing the significantly larger business user market," said Alfred Chuang, BEA's CEO. "Ultimately, users will have control over the applications."

From a sales standpoint, bypassing IT departments to sell directly to business unit heads has become an increasingly common method to coax more money from corporate customers. With the approach, software vendors hope to accelerate the sales process and find new sources of revenue.

Though the new product line is unlikely to generate a major cash windfall for BEA in the short term, its launch is a significant milestone for the company.

BEA has seen its license revenue slip for four straight quarters and in the past year has had to retrench after a number of high-level executive departures.

The company's core business is under fierce attack from different directions. Industry heavyweights Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and SAP are

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