Software tools for every job in SA
Baan SA, the local arm of the international IT giant, is growing its business by 100% a year. The company's outlook is certainly rosy, writes GREG GORDON. JEREMY GLYN took the pictures
RISING information technology star Baan SA grew its business by 100% last year - proof that providing the right technological tools to companies reaps good rewards.
Baan operates in 64 countries, has 5 000 employees worldwide and revenues of $700-million. The company's year-on-year revenues are growing at 75%.
Gary Lawrence, MD of Baan SA, is bullish about Baan's local prospects because, he says, SA companies are aggressive adopters of technology.
"Our company provides the software tools that allow businesses to see where they are going," he says. "These products give managers a snapshot of their operations and lets them optimise the resources in a business or supply chain."
Founded in the Netherlands in 1978 by Jan & Paul Baan, the Baan Company shipped its first information systems in 1982. It now has dual headquarters in Putten, Holland, and Reston, Virginia, and direct and indirect sales channels operating in 80 countries.
Since 1995 the company has significantly expanded its sales and service presence in North America, Latin America and certain European and Asian markets. To date, more than 2 800 of its enterprise systems have been implemented at about 4 800 sites around the world.
The company's net revenues have increased from $226.7-million in 1995 to $679.6-million in 1997. The number of employees has more than doubled from 1 618 at December 31, 1995 to 4 254 at December 31, 1997.
Baan is clearly a company that is going places. In SA it was represented by the Q Data Group from 1981, but was recently bought out by Baan in the Netherlands.
Not long ago technology was often used for technology's sake - companies would install computer systems to speed up some processes and automate others. What they were missing was a way to make the knowledge contained in those systems available to the people who needed it.
Baan identified this and is one of the leaders in the field of delivering knowledge to executives that can be acted on.
"Decision makers in companies are beginning to recognise that if they manage the data in their organisations effectively, this can have a positive effect on meeting strategic objectives and can save a lot of money," Lawrence says.
"Technology is an important business enabler and having systems that can get the right information to the right people at the right time can mean the difference between success and failure."
Baan, known for selling software applications, is diversifying. The company's core technology is being moulded to cater for the financial, retail, government and utility sectors. Already the company has big-name clients in manufacturing, wholesaling, sales force automation and distribution.
"Part of the reason for our success is the way our software can be changed to meet the evolving needs of business," says Lawrence. "If business processes remain static, something is wrong. Our software can change along with a business and it automatically configures itself to match a company's evolving needs."
There is, adds Lawrence, great demand by SA companies for sophisticated technology.
"Local companies are innovative and, in many cases, lead the way in their implementation of IT," he says. "The great challenge we face at Baan SA is managing the growth of the company."
Baan SA is doubling turnover every year. Managing that kind of growth is good business.