Baan Joins Enterprise Portal Battle - InformationWeek

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Baan Joins Enterprise Portal Battle

Baan, in an effort to compete with integrated corporate portal products from rivals SAP and J.D. Edwards & Co., will market an enterprise information portal product from TopTier Software Inc. that ties Baan's enterprise resource planning applications into a browser-based corporate desktop that is customizable for the role of each user.

Baan alliance manager Rolf Diepeveen said today that TopTier's Enterprise Information Portal--in combination with Baan Data Navigator--will integrate Baan applications version 5.0 and later into a browser-based interface. The portal also will integrate products from vendors such as PeopleSoft, Siebel Systems, SAP, Microsoft, and Lotus. Other applications can be integrated using Baan's Enterprise Application Integrator. For Baan versions 4.0b and 4.0c, the portal and Data Navigator combination will let users view information from various applications, including non-Baan apps, but integration will not be tight enough to allow users to add, change, or delete data, Diepeveen says.

Diepeveen says Baan and TopTier engineers have worked together on the portal to ensure that Baan's products are tightly integrated and that it will provide customers easy access to data from across their enterprise. "Customers will be able to access data in a much more flexible and intuitive way," he says.

TopTier senior VP Joe Zarb says his company had marketed its Enterprise Information Portal to Baan customers, but Baan did not sell the product. As part of a new agreement between the two companies, TopTier will market the Baan Data Navigator, which provides a drag-and-drop interface for aggregating information from different Baan applications in a way that isn't normally available within the applications themselves. For example, portal users will be able to pull information from Baan applications to create reports that exist only on the portal, not in a particular Baan application.

Martin Brodigan, CEO of office machine maker Ricoh Canada Inc. says the portal will result in "a fundamental change in the way we do business." For example, the portal will allow Ricoh to use service information to tell a customer where a high-capacity machine is underused or a lower-capacity machine is overused. "Both of those situations cause maintenance problems. Balancing the load between machines saves money," Brodigan says. The portal will be used by all of the company's 650 employees, including 250 service technicians and 150 direct-sales staff, as well as more than 100 dealers and a network of field service contractors.

Because many Baan applications do not share a common data structure, AMR Research analyst Jim Shepherd questions whether the TopTier portal can integrate data from Baan 'sand other companies' applications as tightly as mySAP.com's Workplace portal or J.D. Edwards OneWorld portal integrates data from their ERP applications. Still, he says, Baan "desperately" needs a role-based portal product with a modern look and feel. "TopTier is a good partner for them," he says.

The portal announcement may be one of the last Baan makes as a separate company. Stockholders will gather Thursday in Nijkerk, Netherlands, to get information on a proposal endorsed by Baan's board of directors for British software and electronic-controls company Invensys plc to acquire all of Baan's stock at $2.65 per share--a total of $709 million.

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