Wednesday, June 29, 2005

How not to outsource IT

Nic Harvard, in a message on ITtoolbox, called my attention to two articles giving diametrically opposing views regarding the IT outsourcing initiative at Sainsbury, a UK supermarket group.

First, this long breathless piece in Supply Chain Management Review, dated May 7, 2004, about Sainsbury's near completion of its $1.8 billion five year effort to transform its supply chain under leadership of its new CEO, Sir Peter Davis.

Realizing that many of the business initiatives he wanted to initiate were hampered by Sainsbury's IT systems, Davis authorized an end-to-end overhaul that led to outsourcing of the entire IT function to Accenture. The primary goals: halve IT operating costs and introduce powerful new applications that would ease introduction of crucial new business initiatives, such as loyalty programs, while producing accurate and timely business intelligence for senior management. "Sainsbury's is a business undergoing transformation," says supply chain development director Andy Banks. [emphasis mine]
Then read this article from The Register, just five months later.

Sainsbury's, the UK supermarket group, is blaming Accenture for the disastrous state of its new logistics system. It is recruiting 3,000 shelf stackers to fix the damage manually.

The new system is unable to track stock properly and Sainsbury's is taking a £550m charge to its profits. Writing off IT assets which are now useless will cost the supermarket £140m, writing off the cost off automated equipment in its distribution centres will add another £120m. The failed systems have also cost Sainsbury's £30m in stock lost or damaged by the new system.

The four-year "Business Transformation Programme" has cost £3bn was the pet project of previous chief executive Sir Peter Davis.
What went wrong? Although the outsourcing firm has to share responsibility, the ultimate blame should be placed on Sainsbury itself for believing that it could solve its IT problems by outsourcing them.

Under new CEO Justin King, Sainsbury is now rebuilding its internal IT staff and systems. It's not giving up on outsourcing, but it is renegotiating the contract to give its own personnel more input into system selection and implementation.

So far, the firm's move to "backsource" some IT functions appears to be successful. The most recent financial report from Sainsbury indicates that sales have grown for two successive quarters due to price-cutting and better availability of products.

IT outsourcing is no doubt the right strategy for many companies, but generally I see more success when companies selectively outsource specific IT functions rather than turning over the entire IS organization, top to bottom, to an outside service provider.

Related posts
Outsourcing: what would Wal-Mart do?
Risks of offshore outsourcing

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Grow or sell? Deltek hires former PeopleSoft CFO

Kevin Parker, PeopleSoft's CFO and co-CEO in the final days, has taken the top job at Deltek. Deltek is a firm of about $120M in annual revenues, compared to over $2B for PeopleSoft. In other words, Parker going from being the big toad in a big pond to big toad in a small pond. So why did he take the job?

First, some history. Founded in 1983, Deltek has been around for a long, long time. It started as a supplier of accounting systems to the Federal government. It has evolved over the past 20-plus years to become a niche vendor of project-based ERP systems, primarily to the architectural, engineering, and construction industries and government contractors.

I spoke with Deltek recently on behalf of a client in the aerospace industry. Although I found that Deltek had strong project management functionality, it lacked integrated product data management (PDM) integration and the field service/repair features that this client required. In other words, for many prospects, it is still not a complete solution.

In Deltek's press release, Parker noted that Deltek had 20% growth in software license sales last year. I'm not impressed. At $120M in annual revenue, Deltek is either suddenly on a strong growth spurt or it was coming off a disastrous 2003. Because Deltek is a privately held company, it's hard to tell. I would suggest that if Parker wants to increase sales he might look at partnering or acquiring solutions to fill those gaps in PDM and after-market service.

On the other hand, maybe Parker is being brought in to prepare Deltek for eventual sale. Deltek is a specialist in project management, which as I pointed out recently is a sector that has been the target of acquisition interest for major players. Deltek is 75% owned by private equity firm New Mountain Partners, and the family of founder Donald deLaski and the management team own the rest. Competitors in the project management space, such as Niku, which was bought recently by Computer Associates, have commanded good valuations. I find it hard to believe that Deltek's shareholders didn't notice.

Related posts
IT governance is hot as CA acquires Niku
Oracle takes control of PeopleSoft

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Oracle hires former Microsoft CFO

A few days after SAP boasted that it lured several of its key development and marketing executives, Oracle has announced that it has hired Gregory Maffei, current CEO at telecom provider 360networks Corp., to fill its CFO spot. According to the Wall Street Journal, the 45 year old Maffei is "known for his aggressive deal making" when he was CFO at Microsoft from 1997 to 2000.

Maffei will also assume the position of co-President, which he will share with Charles Phillips and Safra Catz. Catz has been serving as temporary CFO since the departure from Oracle of Harry You, who left after only eight months on the job to take the top spot at BearingPoint (formerly KPMG Consulting).

The hiring of Maffei is prompting speculation that Oracle is about to kick it up a notch with its acquisition program.

Putting Maffei into the three-way co-President role is also prompting speculation that one of the three may be a short-timer. Interestingly, back in April Charles Phillips wasn't very vigorous in stating his intention to stick around at Oracle. According to CNET,
When asked in April about his thoughts on working with CEO Larry Ellison as a No. 2 and whether Oracle was a good place for him to stick around, Phillips noted that Oracle has produced several notable chief executives in Silicon Valley.

"He's produced several CEOs in the Valley--Tom Siebel, Craig Conway, Ray Lane. Some pretty famous people have worked at Oracle as No. 2s," Phillips said during a quick interview at an Oracle customer event. "He's had some good No. 2s that have worked out for both him and for other companies."
The San Jose Mercury News has more.

Update, Jun. 28. So, which of the three co-President's might become Larry Ellison's successor? Forbes has the best quote:
Says Jeff Christian of Jeff Christian and Co., [an] executive placement firm that has placed Oracle executives at other companies, "I don't see any of these people being CEO of Oracle unless Larry dies and the stock goes to $3."
Related posts
SAP luring top talent from Oracle and Siebel
Oracle loses You

Sunday, June 19, 2005

SAP luring top talent from Oracle and Siebel

Just a week after Oracle announced its "OFF SAP" program, SAP is getting ready to strike a counter-blow. SAP will announce this week that it has hired some top developers from Oracle, as well as some from Siebel. According to CNET,
Bill Wohl, SAP's communications chief, said late Thursday that the German software company has attracted some new talent, specifically in the area of applications development, including several "high level" people from its rivals. While Wohl declined to name the executives coming to SAP, he indicated that the software developers are from companies including Oracle, PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems, three of the software maker's closest competitors in the business software arena.
This might also explain why Siebel felt the need to put an employee retention plan in place last month.

Update, June 20. SAP has released the names of its new hires. Ouch! It doesn't look pretty for Oracle or Siebel. Here's the list:
  • Richard Campione, most recently Siebel's group vice president & general manager for Siebel's financial services and public sector businesses. He is now SAP's Senior Vice President, Industry Solutions Marketing.

  • Mike Mayer, a 10 year Oracle veteran, most recently senior director, International Projects, where he drove major projects in developing countries. He is now taking a similar position at SAP.

  • Nimish Mehta, from Siebel Systems where as group vice president, Customer Data Integration, he led Siebel’s highest-growth division, growing revenue from virtually nothing to $70M in 18 months. Prior to Siebel, he was a 10 year Oracle veteran, where he reported directly to Larry Ellison. He's now responsible for SAP’s Enterprise Information strategy and products, including both structured and unstructured data.

  • Doug Merritt, from Quest Software and, prior to that, VP/GM in charge of PeopleSoft's Human Capital Management (HCM) products, a $1 billion dollar product division. He's now leading SAP's efforts to lower total cost of ownership across SAP’s applications and industries and to provide better product portfolio management and product life-cycle services within SAP and to SAP customers and partners.

  • George Paolini, from Borland and formerly Sun, where he directed a partner "ecosystem" for Sun's Java development efforts. He's now doing the same thing for SAP, driving SAP's expansion of its NetWeaver partner program.

  • Dan Rosenberg, another 10 year Oracle veteran, where he was in charge of usability and user-interface design for all Oracle product lines, ranging from database and development tools to applications. He's now doing a similar job at SAP, in charge of the user experience for all SAP products, including application user interfaces as well as SAP NetWeaver design time and platform administration user interfaces.

  • Gordon Simpson, from BEA Systems, where he was the defacto CTO for the WebLogic integration division. He's now overseeing SAP's Enterprise Service Architecture (ESA)/Business Process Platform (BPP).

  • Bob Stutz, from Siebel Systems where he was responsible for 21 vertical product lines as well as base horizontal products. He's now SAP's Senior Vice President, Product and Technology Group.

  • John Zepecki, formerly of PeopleSoft, where he was VP in charge of developing PeopleSoft's well-regarded Enterprise Performance Management product line and its Financial Management Portal solutions. He's now responsible for SAP's xApps, its composite application initiatives.
Concerning Oracle, what is striking is that two of the names are not disgruntled ex-PeopleSofters, but are key development and marketing executives from the Oracle side.

Related posts
Brawl continues between Oracle and SAP
Siebel shaken by new shareholders

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Brawl continues between Oracle and SAP

There's no end to the entertainment value of the Oracle/SAP feud.

SAP picked the fight back in January, with a pitch for PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards customers to jump ship from Oracle, with a so-called "Safe Passage" program for SAP customers that are also running PeopleSoft or JDE. As part of that program, SAP acquired a third-party PeopleSoft/JDE maintenance and support organization, TomorrowNow.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison responded in February with a threat to SAP, regarding Oracle's intellectual property rights.

SAP's Leo Apotheker answered back two weeks later, referring to Oracle's Project Fusion (its initiative to merge its three product lines) as "Project Confusion."

Then, rather than backing down, SAP in April expanded its Safe Passage program to extend the offer to all PeopleSoft and JDE customers, whether or not they are customers of SAP.

In this middle of all this, SAP announced its friendly takeover of retail software vendor Retek and Oracle promptly launched an unsolicited counter-bid and started a bidding war with SAP, which Oracle eventually won.

The latest round
Which brings us to today. The latest attack is from Oracle, which is now offering a new program, Oracle Fusion for SAP, or "OFF SAP." Under this program, Oracle will offer SAP R/3 customers a license credit of up to 100%, to switch from SAP to Oracle apps. Furthermore, Oracle's consulting organization is offering a free SAP migration workshop to help clients plan the migration.

In the press release, Oracle's President, Charles Phillips, talks some trash about SAP.
Ninety-four percent of Oracle E-Business Suite customers are running on the latest applications -- Release 11i. SAP, however, seems to be requiring customers to re-license their applications to upgrade to SAP's latest technology. Only 6% of SAP's customers have upgraded to mySAP ERP, according to a leading analyst firm. Now they have a low cost alternative to stop paying for upgrades and get OFF SAP.
Phillips makes an interesting point. If true, it is not a good sign for SAP. I've put in an inquiry to Oracle to find the source of these statistics.

What it means for customers
Apart from the entertainment value, there is a serious fight for customers going on here. Many large enterprises have committed to either Oracle or SAP as their standard applications platform. This battle is not really for those customers. The fight is for those large organizations that run both Oracle and SAP--often because of a history of acquisitions and mergers. Such companies are up for grabs, and many are in the position of trying to decide, long term, which platform to favor. The stakes are high for both vendors, as the current battle shows.

Companies that are still in the process of deciding on a strategic platform should take advantage of the offers of both vendors and strike the best deal that they can now. Name your price. Your leverage will never be stronger than it is today.

Related posts
SAP expands grab for PeopleSoft and JDE customers
SAP slams Oracle's strategy as, Project Confusion
Ellison threatens SAP regarding PeopleSoft support
SAP to provide maintenance for PeopleSoft products
Bidding war: Oracle fighting SAP over Retek

Monday, June 13, 2005

Is IT hiring easier or harder this year?

A new poll is up at Computer Economics. We want to know how difficult it is to recruit IT staff this year compared to last year.

If you are a hiring manager, please hop over to the Computer Economics home page and take the poll. It's in the right hand column. It will take you all of about five seconds.

Last month's poll results on offshore outsourcing will be posted shortly, as soon as we write the analysis.

Friday, June 10, 2005

IT governance is hot as CA acquires Niku

Computer Associates announced this week that it is buying Niku, a small provider of systems that support IT management, IT governance, and portfolio and project management.

The segment
Software to support IT governance is a small but growing segment of the enterprise systems marketplace. However, it has suffered from the lack of a common moniker to define this segment. Historically, most of the solutions fell within the segment known as professional services automation (PSA). But that term was too closely aligned with consulting firms, whereas these solutions were also targeted at internal IS organizations in general. Other labels include project and portfolio management (PPM), services relationship management (SRM), and business technology optimization (BTO). I'm sure there are others.

Whatever they are called, these are software products that are aimed at optimizing the management of information systems. To some extent, IS departments have been cobbler's children going shoeless--building and implementing systems for the rest of the organization while business processes within IS itself are managed with spreadsheets and email attachments. But the situation is now changing for many IS organizations.

Market drivers
There are several reasons that companies are attracted to tools to support better IT governance:
  1. Spending constraints. The free-spending days of Y2K and the dot-com boom are over--organizations expect IS to do more with little or no budgetary increase. Every dollar wasted internally in the IS group is a dollar not available for the delivery of new systems to the organization. Because personnel is almost always the largest expense item in the IS budget, anything that can be done to better manage the productivity of IS personnel is an important initiative.

  2. Quality initiatives. Many organizations are implementing quality improvement initiatives such six sigma and lean thinking. Such initiatives were originally focused on business operations, such as product development, manufacturing, and distribution. But they are now being rolled out in administrative and supporting functions, such as the IS group. Furthermore, process improvement programs that specifically target the IS group, such as CMMI from the Software Engineering Institute, and the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) are gaining in popularity. In response, CIOs are looking for systems and tools to better manage the many activities and relationships between projects, people, and processes. Tools such as Niku provide such capabilities.

  3. Government mandates. Finally, regulatory requirements such as Sarbanes-Oxley are putting the spotlight on internal controls throughout the organization, including information systems. IS groups that got by in the past with informal controls are now finding it necessary to formalize systems and procedures that track project approvals, justification, and delivery. Systems like Niku provide those tools.

IT governance systems are beginning to show their worth, and I expect the market to continue to grow for the next 3-5 years at a minimum.

The players
The vendor landscape for these systems is highly fragmented. In 2001, I did a vendor evaluation for my own consulting firm, Strativa, which was looking for a PSA system. At the time, I started with a long list of at least 30 vendors, and even after we had selected the winner I was still discovering new players.

Since then, there has been a vendor consolidation underway, with many of the niche players being purchased by larger players that are looking to enter this market. For example, Lawson Software bought Account4, Compuware bought Changepoint, Exigen bought Portera, and Mercury Interactive recently bought Kitana. CA's acquisition of Niku simply continues the trend. In addition, there are a number of standalone vendors which remain independent, such as Primavera, which has strong credentials as a high-end project management vendor.

The Tier I ERP vendors, namely Oracle (and PeopleSoft) and SAP, claim to support requirements for IT governance, but their offerings are largely built by redeploying, repackaging, and enhancing their existing functionality for project management, time and expense capture, and procurement. They are still a few steps behind the best-of-breed vendors such as Niku in functionality. Of course, the integration of the ERP suites is going to be better, but there's a price to be paid for it.

Bottom line
In many IS organizations, the track record is poor for delivering projects on time and within budget. In larger IS shops in particular, there may be hundreds of large and small projects competing for resources and with interdependencies that are not well understood. Some may carry high ROI, while others are included with questionable payback. Systems for IT governance will not solve the problem of weak internal controls by themselves, but if implemented within a framework of internal process improvement, they can be an important part of the solution.

Related posts
When CRM means "Client Relationship Management"

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

SSA's IPO comes up short

SSA Global Technology has been working hard over the past several years and looking forward to the time when it would become a public company. That point came on May 26. However, while there may have been champagne flowing in its Chicago headquarters last week, I don't think there were many smiles. The word is that SSA's investors were waiting, hoping, for the IPO market to improve, but ultimately felt that this might be as good as it gets.

To get the IPO launched, SSA had to scale back the number of shares and the price per share--to nine million shares at an estimated $11 per share, down from its original plan to offer 14.3 million shares at $13-$15 each. Trading opened on May 26 at $11.50 and closed at $10.96, disappointing anyone that was hoping for the next Google.

As a result, SSA got only $99 million in new capital from the IPO. But to raise even that amount, SSA had to eliminate a $100 million special dividend payment that was hoped for by its major investors, which include General Atlantic and Cerberus Capital Management.

The common explanation is that the market these days is not looking favorably on investors trying to cash out during an IPO, and I'm sure that's true. But I'm wondering whether, in addition, there's just a lack of investor excitement about SSA's story.

In the enterprise software market today, the only real excitement among investors is around the software on-demand model (also known as "software as a service" or SAAS), as typified in firms such as As I've written previously, software on-demand offers the possibility of breaking the cost structure of software for both buyers and sellers. Whether or not it proves to be true, it's a compelling story.

But SSA's story is that of a consolidator of traditional software vendors that operate on a software license model--a business in which it is becoming more and more difficult to make money. There are signs that SSA is doing a good job in breathing new life into some older, venerable products, such as Baan, that have well-established and long-neglected customer bases. But it doesn't seem to be enough for SSA to command a premium share price.

Related posts
Software on demand: attacking the cost structure of business systems
SSA delivers long awaited next generation version of Baan
SSA's strategy: acquire customers and technology on the cheap
SSA adds Arzoon and Marcam to its deck of cards

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Saying no to software upgrades

John Edwards, writing for CFO Magazine, has an article on a trend toward customers going slow or refusing to accept software version upgrades. He writes, " customers seem to be responding to software upgrades the way toll-booth attendants respond to large bills."

Edwards focuses largely on corporate resistance to Microsoft's recent Windows XP SP2 upgrade, but implies that the trend can also be seen in business applications. He writes that there is "an increasingly foul mood among purchasers of business software."
Makers of such products don't have far to go to figure out who to blame for this vitriol. Years of endless — and regular — software re-releases have soured many corporate executives on the virtues of upgrading. In some cases, corporate customers have found that much-ballyhooed releases are hardly upgrades at all—merely tweaks and fiddles to perfectly good programs. In other instances, upgraded programs have offered an overabundance of new features.
I'm not sure this is a new trend. Since the beginnings of large-scale packaged business software in the 1980s, there has always been a segment of the user population that resists vendor upgrades. Such customers may never upgrade from the initial version they install. Eventually such customers lose support, as vendors refuse to continue maintenance on older versions.

Certainly a case can be made for going slow on version upgrades. Oracle's version 11i of its E-Business Suite a few years ago was notoriously buggy, and customers that delayed the upgrade had fewer problems than those that took the new version when it was first released.

But, in principle, one of the reason that businesses go with packaged software instead of custom development is to take advantage of the vendor's R&D effort in maintaining and enhancing the application. If you are going to forgo version upgrades, then I have to question why you made the decision to go with packaged software to begin with. Refusing vendor upgrades increases the likelihood that you will lose support and will ultimately need to re-select and re-implement the application.

Related posts
High software maintenance fees and what to do about them
Customers pushing back against enterprise software maintenance fees
Software customers learn to just say no
Customers pushing back against Microsoft licensing program
Customers to Microsoft Licensing 6: thanks, but no thanks
Microsoft Software Assurance: no bang for big bucks
Software buyers turn cheap

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Lawson acquiring Intentia

Another enterprise software vendor consolidation is in the news this morning: Lawson Software is acquiring Intentia.

The rationale
I'm familiar with both companies and find the deal an interesting combination for at least three reasons:
  • There is little product overlap. Lawson is well-regarded for its financial and HR applications in healthcare, retail, education, government, and other verticals. Intentia's MOVEX is a hard-core industrial ERP system, with specific focus on fashion and apparel, food and beverage, wholesale distribution, and asset-intensive industries.

  • There is little geographic overlap. Intentia, based in Sweden, has strong international coverage in Europe with some presence in Asia-Pacific. Lawson serves markets primarily in North America, a territory that Intentia has tried and failed to penetrate over the past decade.

  • There is technology compatibility. Both vendors are strongly aligned with IBM and base their development platforms on IBM technology. Intentia was the first full ERP vendor to introduce a 100% Java ERP suite. Lawson's recently announced service-oriented architecture (SOA) framework, code-named Landmark, should work well with Intentia's code base.
There have been rumors for about a month concerning a Lawson/Intentia acquisition, but I was unable to obtain confirmation. Bottom line: on the surface, at least, the deal makes a lot of sense.

Management changes
Along with the acquisition, there are major personnel changes. Jay (it's Oracle's fault) Coughlan is out as Lawson's CEO, to be replaced by Harry Debes, a software industry veteran who ran Geac's Asia-Pacific region and J.D. Edwards U.S. sales and services organization.

Bertrand Sciard, Intentia's CEO, will become COO of the combined company. Sciard is another Geac veteran prior to taking over at Intentia. As I've written previously, Sciard has been looking for an acquisition for Intentia as part of his turnaround strategy. In this case, the deal was to be acquired. I suspect it was probably Sciard that introduced Debes to Lawson, although it's interesting that Sciard is effectively reporting to Debes.

Richard Lawson, Lawson's founder, and Romesh Wadhwani, Intentia's chairman, will serve as co-chairmen of the combined entity.

The new management team will have their work cut out for them. Neither Lawson nor Intentia have been stars lately in terms of financial performance. Lawson has been struggling and has been cutting costs for months. Intentia has been on a losing streak for years. For Lawson, that means the assets of Intentia could be acquired at a good price--about 1.2 times Intentia's revenue.

The new management team will need to score some early wins to demonstrate the synergy of the deal. The primary opportunity will be to quickly develop the necessary integration to push Lawson financials into Intentia's installed base and Intentia's manufacturing modules into Lawson's.

But, if Lawson is successful in selling Intentia's apps in the U.S., I would be concerned about Lawson's ability to support them. There are few trained Intentia implementers in the U.S. Intentia has been trying for about 10 years to build a U.S. sales and services organization, but it doesn't have much to show for the effort.

Both Lawson and Intentia have adopted a strategy that is highly focused on specific industries, which in my opinion is the only way to compete these days against SAP and Oracle, who dominate the top tier. This strategy could be successful, and it would give customers in those industries another choice. The challenges are significant, but I hope Lawson is successful.

The press release is on the Lawson website.

Update. The financial markets are not thrilled with this deal. Lawson is down over 11% in very active trading.

Update, Jun. 4. ARC Advisory is pointing out that one immediate opportunity for the combined entity is the J.D. Edwards World installed base. Lawson has been actively soliciting these customers to leave Oracle, but Lawson's pitch is limited because Lawson, to this point, has lacked manufacturing and asset management functionality. The Intentia acquisition addresses both needs. The majority of Intentia's customers run on IBM's iSeries platform, which also fits with JDE World customers.

Related posts
Blogging from the Lawson user conference
Intentia, MAPICS, SSA, and Geac--what's the deal?
Second thoughts on Geac and Intentia
Intentia reaches for revival
Lawson fires 100, blames Oracle