Baan users go public over poor support

Middle East user group accuses enterprise resource planning vendor of providing unskilled support, no training and poor Arabic functionality.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  July 1, 2004

|~|ssatrevor_m.jpg|~|SSA Global’s Trevor Salomon refuses to discuss the local user group’s issues in the press.|~|Saudi end users running Baan’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) app are suffering from poor local support, a lack of training and under performing Arabic features, according to the Baan Middle East User Group (BmeU). The accusations come three months after its first meeting, which took place on March 9, and saw a number of issues presented to Baan’s parent company, SSA Global. “We don’t believe the support in the Middle East is worth what we are paying for… We don’t have things like the automatic delivery of support patches and we don’t have a proper link between customers and the Baan support team in the Netherlands,” says Khalid Hulan, chairman of the BmeU and group IT manager at Obeikan Industrial Investment Group. “[Also,] there is no proper training in the area... We believe SSA Global has to implement Middle East-wide training so our own staff can do their job in the right way,” he adds. The need for skilled inhouse staff is paramount for many members of the BmeU as Hulan believes the consultancy skills currently available in the Kingdom are not up to the mark. In fact, Hulan says some local projects have failed due to a lack of technical know-how. “There is a reseller for Baan [in Saudi], ACS, and its consultants… have almost no functional knowledge... When they get to the customer site they cannot deliver the project,” he adds. While unwilling to name specific projects that have failed, another member of the BmeU called Krishna says the company he works for has also faced problems. However, he refuses to name the firm he works for. Sources in the analyst community also report rumours of dissatisfied end users and poor implementations, but are unable to confirm the specifics. In terms of Arabisation, Baan 4 already has Arabic support while Hulan claims later versions do not. He also believes Baan’s decision to put the onus for Arabisation on to resellers — a strategy adopted by many global ERP players —means Arabic features lack support. “We believe Arabisation has to be done by SSA Global so that they own it and maintain it. We need to put pressure on them to get a resolution, especially as there is a need for Arabised financial statements in Saudi… They promised us they would come back to us, but we know that this will not happen,” says Hulan. Eric Smith, regional manager for Baan Middle East, confirms that the BmeU has presented a list of recommendations. However, rather than ignoring them, he says the appropriate parties within Baan and SSA are working on resolutions. “We have a list of items we have to handle and we are doing this, both through the user group and directly with customers,” says Smith. “Of the list we have to do, some things can be handled locally, some have to go back to a support group and some to solutions management. We are part of SSA Global and our users know where our office is. They can contact us anytime,” he adds. While preferring to leave the specifics to SSA Global, Smith reports that the Baan ERP suite is being Arabised and that the bi-directional facility in Baan 5 is already available. He also says the service packs mentioned by the BmeU are available to users with support contracts. “If a user has a support contract then they are entitled to a service pack… They have to order them, but this is standard for industry patches. We have over 100 sites [locally] and we would probably get as much hassle if we just sent them [the service packs] un-requested,” Smith says. While Smith believes BmeU’s issues are being addressed, SSA Global and ACS refuse to discuss the situation. ACS’ group general manager, Ibrahim Al-Zeer, will not talk about the alleged lack of skills and simply says “we are probably the best and largest support company in the region.” At SSA Global, Trevor Salomon, regional marketing director for EMEA, is equally as reticent. “Customers who go to the press clearly feel they have a grievance and feel the best way to raise it is in the public domain. I don’t know the details but serious customer issues need to be addressed between the customer and the vendor, not through the press. I am not going to comment. Eric [Smith] is on top of the situation,” he says. Looking forward, the Baan Middle East User Group is expecting a number of its issues to be addressed by the end of June. In particular, its web site states that an update on the Arabisation situation is due by the 30th. While the vendors and reseller involved may deliver by this deadline, Hulan is less than convinced. “We contacted SSA Global and told them we were suffering... Philip Gray [president of SSA Global for the EMEA region] promised to reply to our issues when he was at the event, which you can see on BMEU.org, but we are not happy about the reply from SSA Global so far,” he says. ||**||

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