PeopleSoft Forges Ahead With Product Plans

At Connect conference, customers will hear about the progress of its Total Cost of Ownership initiative, as well as upgrades to its HR and J.D. Edwards' manufacturing software.
Less than two weeks after U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker gave Oracle an important victory over the Justice Department, PeopleSoft Inc. is determined not to let the court decision in the antitrust trial get in the way of its business. The software vendor plans to make a series of product announcements at its Connect user conference in San Francisco this week to what it says will be a crowd of customers who want to know what to expect next.

"What they've said is, 'I've got a business to run,'" says Rick Bergquist, chief technology officer at PeopleSoft. "In some ways, it's business as usual."

The company will report on results customers are getting from its Total Ownership Experience project, unveiled 15 months ago and aimed at delivering tools to reduce the time and expense related to application rollouts, upgrades, and maintenance. It also will introduce enhanced upgrade tools and a new Web-services repository. Additionally, PeopleSoft will unveil a new version of its human-resources software that will make it easier to track contractors and temporary workers, in addition to full-time employees. And it will detail a tweaking of the manufacturing software it inherited in last year's acquisition of J.D. Edwards & Co., adding support for increasingly popular demand-driven manufacturing.

Despite the specter of Oracle's takeover attempt, customers say they remain interested in PeopleSoft's technology advances. Howard Love, IT manager for AGCO Corp., a maker of agricultural equipment that became a PeopleSoft customer following the J.D. Edwards acquisition, says his company has made a point not to factor Oracle's takeover attempt into its technology decisions. Love says AGCO is open to expanding its investment in PeopleSoft products, which it uses to run its manufacturing and financial systems. "We can't run our business out of fear of what might happen," he says. "We have to deal with what is happening."

Ron Danielson, CIO of Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley, says some of his staff will be at Connect to learn more about the new HR module, as well as a similar update to PeopleSoft's student-administration app. But the school, which uses PeopleSoft software for running student administration, human-resources, and financial systems, isn't planning any new investments in PeopleSoft products. One thing Danielson doesn't expect to get at Connect is a lot of insight into the fate of PeopleSoft. "Why would customers expect that anyone's going to give them a better answer than they've been getting for the last year?" Danielson asks. "I don't think PeopleSoft knows exactly what it's going to do."

With the Justice Department hurdle cleared, and the poison pill PeopleSoft adopted likely to be ineffective, PeopleSoft's fate is sealed, to an extent, says Josh Greenbaum, an analyst with Enterprise Applications Consulting. The best chance it has to deflect Oracle's tender offer is to find another buyer that would keep the company independent. "They need a white knight, and they need one fast," he says.

Maybe as much as Oracle needs PeopleSoft. On the heels of its landmark victory, Oracle last week reported first-quarter earnings that, while exceeding estimates, were dragged down by disappointing applications sales, highlighting the strategic importance of its acquisition attempt. But even Oracle was espousing a business-as-usual philosophy, with president Chuck Phillips telling analysts on a conference call that hopes are high for the vendor's pending 11i.10 E-Business Suite release, and that salespeople are being asked to focus on articulating the benefits of Oracle's E-Business and collaboration suites rather than think about PeopleSoft.

AGCO's Love says PeopleSoft's handling of the J.D. Edwards acquisition has made him less fearful of a potential Oracle takeover. AGCO expected to be all but forgotten by PeopleSoft, but Love says the vendor worked to make the transition as smooth as possible. "I was very outspoken that this was bad for business, and that customer service is going to suffer," he says. "I have never been more wrong about anything in my life."