Haht has taken critical steps to ensure success, Archer said. It hired Tom Thomas, a computer industry veteran with experience building brands at Vantive Corp. and 3Com Corp., as president-CEO. Thomas will lead the expansion of Haht products across vertical markets, Archer said. Also, Minolta Business Products Group has made public its use of Haht to enable 400 of its dealers to access real-time product information and order status.
Whit Andrews, research director of Internet and e-business technologies at Gartner Group Inc., said Haht’s move from infrastructure to SAP to enterprise digital marketplaces is a liability but not insurmountable. The vendor has managed to become involved in each new market when it was most promising and changed to face a new market before the bottom dropped out.
"Either they got very lucky and pursued three separate strategies that proved to be strategic stepping stones, or they just happened to get very lucky," Andrews said. "We still have clients who see them as Internet infrastructure or SAP, so changing their marketing message three times has caused a unique problem."
Haht’s task will be to differentiate itself from its broad set of competitors. Ironside Technologies Inc., Comergent Technologies Inc., NetVendor Inc., InterWorld Corp., InfoNow Corp. and SpaceWorks Inc. are all under the gun to strengthen their brands through marketing in 2001, Andrews said.
That’s because Internet generalists BroadVision Inc., Intershop Communications, Art Technology Group Inc. and Blue Martini Software Inc., as well as computer stalwarts BEA Systems Inc., IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp., all are believed to be developing major business plans to market new software to b-to-b vertical industry buyers this year, Andrews said. "Marketing is going to be the next important thing in the next year because larger players with larger sales forces and more generalized products are entering," he said.
One competitor was unimpressed with Haht’s latest foray.
"We’ve already built a strong franchise within this community," said Derek Smyth, COO of Ironside. "And with a best-of-class e-content solution already in place, Ironside provides a single source for both strong transactional capability as well as content creation, management, search and syndication."