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Deltek (NASDAQ:PROJ) filed an IPO with the SEC on May 8. That’s May 8, 2007, not May 8, 1997. I’m reading the S-1 quickly, and it takes me back to the heyday of ERP when Baan, J.D. Edwards and so forth were debuting their IT offerings.

I am reading so quickly that perhaps I am missing something. I see no mention of open source software or SOA. Deltek says, “Our software products depend upon operating platforms and software developed by third parties such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Oracle (NYSE:ORCL), Cognos (COGN), Actuate (NASDAQ:ACTU), BEA Systems (BEAS) and Sun Microsystems (SUNW).”

There’s no diversion from the facts to tout the benefits of the SaaS licensing model. Deltek says SaaS is “a model with which we have little experience.” There is not even a tip of the hat to the concept of professional services automation [PSA], from which Deltek sprung. Instead, this company took a tack in its SEC filing that I admire: no buzzwords. Deltek says:

  • It makes integrated enterprise application software that automates the services rather than the product supply chain (my terminology, not theirs).
  • It sells the software to users for a fee in return for a perpetual right to use license and charges an annual fee thereafter to maintain the software at the user’s premises.
  • It says it also consults with those users in the product’s implementation and will also run related training classes for the user’s staff.
  • And it says, “Our business model depends, in part, on the success of our efforts to increase sales to our existing customers,” and that it “generated less than 5% of our total license revenue in 2006 from international markets.”
The straightforward approach is breathtaking. Unfortunately, going public would have been a good idea for Deltek in the 1990s when Baan and other then newly public application suppliers concentrated on the product supply chain. At the time, software suppliers with the same concept as Deltek’s — Niku and Evolve (actually IPOed in March 2000) — took advantage of a market flush with dot-com money and rolled out large IPOs before flaming out.

What the PSA players of the late 1990s found, and what I saw in research at the time, is that “project-focused organizations” tend to automate by the project (“defined, discrete, customer-specific engagements or activities” per the Deltek S-1) because they can pass the cost on to the client. I doubt if that mentality has changed much. In professional-service providers’ IT spending, clients take precedence over the automation needs of their own enterprise — for the same reason; retailers spend more of their IT budget on point-of-sale software than backroom applications. Deltek’s timing is especially unfortunate because the competition is very different today than in 1997.

Even back then Edwards received almost as much of its revenue from the services industry (and government) as from manufacturers. And other hot names from that era — such as PeopleSoft and Lawson Software (NASDAQ:LWSN) — received more than half their revenue from the services supply chain right from the start. Today:

  • The remnants of Edwards and PeopleSoft are a big part of No. 2 ERP supplier Oracle’s services industries story.
  • Although Baan is a part of No. 3 ERP player Infor, which is manufacturing centric (the home of Marcam and Mapics for example), even Infor has its NxTrend construction applications, Infinium hospitality software, and GEAC products for banks and insurers.
  • No. 7 ERP player Lawson lost its dominant services industry personality gene through its acquisition of Intentia but Lawson is still is a major factor in the services supply chain.
  • Even lacking any particular industry-specific strength, No. 4 ERP player Microsoft does well in the services supply chain.
  • And No. 1 ERP supplier, SAP (NYSE:SAP) offers ERP products aimed at more than 25 specific industries, more than 20 of which are services supply chain centric.
Despite the IPO’s inference, at least SAP and Oracle — and possibly Lawson — are more the leaders than Deltek among “project focused organizations.” The growth opportunity of the late 1990s has gone. And being up against Microsoft, Oracle and SAP is a lot more daunting than swatting aside Niku (now part of CA (NASDAQ:CA)) and Evolve (now part of Primavera). Bidcom and BluelineOnline (both now part of CTSpace along with a few other PSA strays), Changepoint (now part of Compuware (NASDAQ:CPWR)), Portera (now part of Exigen), and a dozen others from that golden time when investors were betting billions on cute names are gone.

Major infrastructure software supplier BMC (NASDAQ:BMC) is also nibbling around the edges of this applications market opportunity through its Remedy division’s business service management concept. Almost all remaining remnants of that era have been reborn as IT portfolio management software suppliers aim their functionality at the IT staff rather than other professional services workers. The big names mentioned above have big positions in “government contracting, aerospace and defense, information technology services, consulting, (and) discrete project manufacturing,” which Deltek identifies as its second through fifth most important industries.

I have not yet ranked Deltek in my 2006 market-ranking research but a quick guess is that its reported $160M in software revenue might get it into the Top 25 (all the mergers and acquisitions in the saturated enterprise applications space helps a lot of independent companies move up the leader board). Deltek’s almost doubling of software revenue in 2006 was impressive albeit helped along by the 2005 acquisition of Wind2 and the 2006 acquisition of Welcom and CSSI.

I have not yet figured a backcast 2005-2006 growth rate for Deltek, but Wind2 alone increased Deltek’s user count by almost 50%. There is another Baan-like ring to the S-1. Deltek says, “… you will not have the same protections afforded to shareholders of other companies that are subject to all of The NASDAQ Global Market corporate governance requirements as long as the New Mountain Funds own a majority of our outstanding common stock.” New Mountain acquired a 75% share of Deltek in 2005. Thanks for the walk down memory lane, Deltek. Your offering and governance structure make your IPO a bet on the rapid share-price appreciation we used to see in the late 1990s. But that coming-out ball was over long ago.

Source: Deltek IPO: Arriving A Decade Late To The ERP Debutante Ball