Almost Open For E-Business

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software providers may fancy themselves as e-business players, but most admit they need the channel's help to get them there. The ERP stalwarts, late to the e-commerce dance, are scrambling to integrate their software with e-biz processes and portals.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software providers may fancy themselves as e-business players, but most admit they need the channel's help to get them there.

The ERP stalwarts, late to the e-commerce dance, are scrambling to integrate their software with e-biz processes and portals. To help pave the way, the vendors are actively recruiting channel partners with e-business know-how.

The moves come as investors begin to take a second look at ERP players on Wall Street.

The Baan Co., for one, recently parted ways with under-performing channel partners, dropping about a quarter of its authorized resellers in North America. While such housecleaning is typical in the channel, Baan hopes to fortify its 30 remaining VARs with at least 12 more partners that are skilled in business-to-business e-commerce, supply-chain management and customer-relationship management.

"These are the directions Baan wants to go," says Jeff Hunsaker, Baan's director of western U.S. channel sales.

J.D. Edwards also says it banks on sophisticated e-commerce integrators to guide the company into e-business scenarios. "The ERP market players are gravitating to their integrator partners for help in moving into e-commerce and other leading-edge markets," says Carl Farrell, managing director of U.S. channels for J.D. Edwards.

Typically, says Farrell, these partners tend to be small, nimble channel players, rather than top-tier integrators, because the upstarts can move quickly and usually boast a deeper understanding of e-commerce.

Channel partners, still wary of heightened channel conflict coming from added resellers and the vendors themselves, are nonetheless prepping for an upswing in ERP/e-business integration work.

ERP integrator SolutionBank, for one, recently snatched up an IBM e-business integrator to better position itself for these jobs. SolutionBank marketing VP Coleman Barney says he has seen most of this demand coming from a couple of vendors. "Oracle and i2 want to make sure that we're aware of what they have in the areas of CRM and e-commerce," says Barney. "[They] are really pushing those solutions and looking to us to drive it, because we've got the client relationships they need."

Still, the top four ERP vendors-Oracle, Baan, SAP and PeopleSoft-have considerable work to do, says Ron Exler, senior research analyst at the Robert Frances Group. "Most of them focused too much on existing clients and didn't see the new wave coming as fast as some of their smaller competitors."

So far, says Exler, Baan and Oracle have been somewhat successful in mapping out their e-business strategies, including specific modules that tie in with their ERP software lines.

He says PeopleSoft and SAP, however, still have a ways to go.

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