Months Late, PeopleSoft to Release ERP Upgrade

FRAMINGHAM (07/07/2000) - Almost a year after unveiling the planned contents of its next-generation enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, PeopleSoft Inc. is finally getting ready to release the software.

The Pleasanton, California-based vendor plans to showcase its soon-to-be-released PeopleSoft 8 suite of ERP applications next week in New York. Due out by the end of the quarter, the software has been a long time coming: PeopleSoft's original development schedule called for the upgrade to be ready last year.

For users, the successor to the current PeopleSoft 7.5 release is expected to improve the software's ease of use and add tighter Internet integration and a host of other e-commerce features.

And for PeopleSoft, which has been hit by hard financial times, layoffs and management changes since early last year, the impending release of PeopleSoft 8 is seen as a critical step in the company's attempt to regain some momentum in the market for ERP and other business applications.

Though the company took its time developing PeopleSoft 8, the new suite should solidify its standing among ERP vendors from a technical standpoint, said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Berkeley, California. PeopleSoft 8 doesn't add any market-shattering features but is "going to give them a lot of headway in terms of catching up with the competition," Greenbaum said.

PeopleSoft declined to comment on the planned launch. But the upgrade is expected to transform its flagship software into a fully Internet-enabled application with a new browser-based user interface that can be linked to back-office ERP systems via Web servers.

That will let end users work through standard Web browsers without having to install the full Windows Client version of PeopleSoft's applications on their PCs, according to previous statements by the company. Users will also be able to access the software through PCs, wireless devices and even cellular phones.

Kelli McGonigal, a senior systems developer at PeopleSoft user Green Mountain Coffee Inc., said eliminating the need to install client software on every desktop PC should reduce the Waterbury, Vermont, firm's application deployment and technical support costs.

"What that means for [information technology] departments is that there will be zero client-side maintenance," McGonigal said. Green Mountain Coffee has been beta-testing PeopleSoft 8 and is pleased with its Web integration, she said, adding that the company hopes to upgrade its ERP system to the new suite by early next year.

Change of Plans

Philadelphia-based Reliance Insurance Group originally wasn't planning to upgrade its PeopleSoft 7.5-based finance system until the next release after PeopleSoft 8, said John Martines, vice president of the insurer's financial systems group. But that strategy was scrapped after Reliance learned more about the Web-enabled features in the upcoming version, he said.

Martines, who is also president of PeopleSoft's international customer advisory board, said he now hopes to upgrade to PeopleSoft 8 by early next year. The new suite "will allow us to use our data more strategically" and to share information more easily between departments, he said.

David Dobrin, an analyst at Benchmarking Partners Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said PeopleSoft 8 should bring PeopleSoft's applications up to speed with rival ERP suites that already include Internet capabilities. "This is one of the best products on the market, and it's really odd that [PeopleSoft] can't find customers," he said.

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