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Jan Baan the software man

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Jan Baan is a fascinating personality. When Baan ERP software was at its height he was on a paper a multi-billionaire and when he sold his share - someway off the top - he became very, very rich. He appears to be a very happy man: he has used the money to look after his family, give to charity, indulge in his passion for 17th century Dutch painting and buy a castle as a home and as the corporate headquarters of his new company.

When Baan was sold in 2000, Jan put a significant sum aside to start a new company called Cordys. The company must be unique as:

  • It has deep pockets, sufficient to keep it going for many years even without any sales
  • It has no shareholders looking for short-term returns
  • It has no legacy of old software to maintain, extend or remain compatible with
  • It has retained staff with enormous experience both in Europe and in India (not least Jan himself)
  • Its experience includes how to build successful software, but also lessons learnt from developing less successful products

It is important to understand all this as it creates an environment that is ideal for developing new software, excellent people, given the time, resources and freedom to do things right first time. Starting in 2000 the product is in extensive beta in 2004 with an expected launch later in the year. The beta is unusual because it will finish with examples of customers in full production.

The product supports application integration and application development. It includes its own portal and XML repository technology. It covers the development lifecycle all the way from value chain modelling through to operational monitoring. It built based on open standards including BPEL and XForms.

The developers have eaten their own dog food, in that, wherever possible, they have bootstrapped the production environment to create the development environment. For example, they use the end user portal technology to develop the developer's workbench, and the XML repository is used for storing user data as well as application metadata. I am a great fan of the "eating dog food" paradigm as it proves the technology works and it has been tested by a set of critical users (the developers themselves). Further during the beta the team has developed pre-packaged sets of components for specific business domains that will accelerate the take-up of the product after general availability.

The news coming out of the beta customers is positive so I await with interest the full announcement after the Summer.

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Unholy row as Baan shareholders sue firm
Baan revives, but MS bid is probably smoke
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Jan Baan: Calvinistic man with attitude

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

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