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Baan's new strategy is simple: e-commerce

Enterprise application software maker Baan is rolling out the first stage of a Microsoft-based e-commerce strategy that analysts say will suit companies' less complex Web business needs.

Enterprise application software maker Baan is rolling out the first stage of a Microsoft-based e-commerce strategy that analysts say will suit companies' less complex Web business needs.

Called E-Enterprise, Baan's plan includes separate applications that help companies set up Web-based storefronts, online procurement, and product configuration.

Besides Baan, rival ERP vendors including SAP, PeopleSoft, and Oracle are testing the e-commerce waters as well, scrambling to expand their business beyond their customers' walls. The goal, through partnerships and the building of new applications, is to link front-office Web-based sales applications--including catalogs, purchase orders, and online approvals--to back-end accounts receivable, shipping, and receiving applications.

Baan's new applications will initially be sold to the company's installed user base, though there are plans to market the applications as standalone products next year. Baan has built its own e-commerce applications, tapping product configuration technology from its Aurum product line. Baan acquired front-office software vendor Aurum in 1997.

The Dutch firm has built all of its e-commerce applications to run on the Microsoft platform and for now there are no plans to support the Sun Microsystems or IBM platform, said Steve Bonadio, analyst at Framingham, Massachusetts-based Hurwitz Group.

Baan's E-Enterprise includes three components:

  • E-Collaboration, which is an alternative to electronic data interchange (EDI), that companies can use to exchange documents with suppliers using Baan's Business Object Interfaces (BOIs) and the eXtensible Markup Language (XML) for integration. XML lets developers easily create information formats, and share data contained in those formats--as well as the format itself--across the Web and on corporate networks. General availability of E-Collaboration is expected this quarter.
  • E-Procurement, which can be used for the procurement of maintenance, repair, and operational (MRO) goods. This component will be generally available in the third quarter and will include a simple workflow engine, which Baan plans to replace later with a more sophisticated procurement engine.
  • E-Sales, used for building Web-based stores, will include storefront templates, links to external catalog applications, and product configuration technology as an add-on. General availability is planned this quarter.

    Meanwhile, German software titan SAP last summer announced its Internet-based procurement module, which allows users of its core R/3 system to link directly to vendors of operational supplies. SAP also made an equity investment in Commerce One, a Walnut Creek, California-based company that specializes in online cataloguing of supplies. Now, SAP R/3 users can purchase from Commerce One's site.

    PeopleSoft last year also announced an e-business program, which melds content from a variety of sources such as healthcare companies, retirement plan administrators, and suppliers into a Web-based package that's intended to be as easy to use as any Web portal. The software firm is also partnering with e-commerce vendors to set up Web-based store fronts.

    Oracle has also rolled out the Oracle Strategic Procurement module, a Web-based application which helps companies acquire goods and services at the lowest total cost by automating the entire purchasing life cycle from planning to procurement to payment. Most of the major Internet stores run on Oracle databases, and the company has worked to leverage that with e-commerce tools and applications.

    "They're all testing their feet," Bonadio said. "I see ERP as the backbone for e-business."