ERP revamp gives PeopleSoft claws

In a city known for attitude, enterprise application software vendor PeopleSoft last week showed plenty - along with a new face: People-tough. The company announced a complete architecture revamp of its 108 existing products and presented an additional 59 newly developed e-business applications.

All, according to Craig Conway - the company's president and CEO, provide a "pure Internet solution". Abandoning the client/server model, the PeopleSoft 8 suite of applications is based on HTML and XML and eliminates the need for software on the "computing device other than a standard Internet browser".

References to chief competitors Oracle and SAP peppered Conway's presentation. Taking off the gloves, he disputed Oracle's claim of its product line being 100 per cent Internet enabled.

"In a pure Internet application no code should reside on the client. The user should have application access from any Web-enabled device. Oracle doesn't do that; it requires Java on the client. That's not exactly 100 per cent Internet," Conway said.

Andrew Clay, director of e-business at Oracle, said: "PeopleSoft's arguments are irrelevant in today's environment. "They reflect an arcane technology argument that may have had a place three years ago."

Clay went on to say Oracle Web uses a Java-based architecture for usability in complex applications where this is appropriate, and an HTML-based format in other areas.

"This allows the best of both worlds in providing the most appropriate Web-based interface for each user," he said.

Later, taking a swipe at SAP, Conway said: "SAP has a very troubled introduction of mySAP. MySAP is a fractional introduction of a product line that is even by their customer base - that have 18-gauge steel chains around them - not being adopted."

But Len Augustine, director of marketing at SAP Australia, hit back at those claims, saying "in a week's time there will be some significant customer announcements that will show mySAP is being adopted". Augustine cited Thomas Cook Australia as one customer that has adopted SAP's Workplace as its enterprise front end.

He added the company has had a year's head start on PeopleSoft in "pure Internet play", and that SAP is able to deliver syndicated workplace functions from enterprise resource planning modules to specific roles within the enterprise.

"We don't care about modules any more, which is why we changed our pricing structure," Augustine said. "We are now about delivering specific role functions to people via the Web." Meanwhile, PeopleSoft claims to have rewritten each application from scratch, funnelling 27 per cent of revenues to R&D for the undertaking. The suite of applications includes Customer Relationship Management, Supply Chain Management, Human Resource Management, Financials and Professional Services Automation, as well as other industry-specific solutions.

Along with the new product suite, Conway insisted that PeopleSoft had transformed itself as a company.

"In 1999 we faced adversity," he said. Until last year, "we'd led a pretty charmed existence". Conway pointed to three contributing factors: an industry-wide slow-down of purchasing, the retirement of co-founder David Duffield (who still sits on the board) and the company's internal processes "not being up to running a $1+ billion company". A raft of new senior managers, a rebuilt sales force, a new management team in the consulting arm, the acquisition of CRM vendor Vantive and adoption of the ASP model have metamorphosed PeopleSoft, according to Conway.

PeopleSoft 8 is scheduled to ship this year in the third quarter.

* Linda Kennedy travelled to New York as a guest of PeopleSoft

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