Look mom, no code

If there was one point PeopleSoft executives wanted user-conference audience members to take home, that was “There’s no code on the client,” a message they declared again and again.

“This is the year that the Internet began to impact enterprise applications,” said president and CEO Craig Conway in a keynote address at PeopleSoft 2000 Conference: Americas, which was held recently in Los Angeles. Until now, the Internet has been affecting mostly consumers, he said.

A year ago, dot-com companies were in full swing, and they said big companies would go out of business, Conway said. But those companies didn’t go out of business.

“You are the companies that can most benefit from the Internet, not the dot-coms,” he said to the audience.

E-business is about improving front- and back-office processes. The Internet allows companies to extend business applications so they can directly touch customers and suppliers. It’s all about collaboration, and PeopleSoft adopted Internet technology early on, he continued.

From an architecture point of view, PeopleSoft 7.5 is virtually the same as Oracle 11 i, Conway said.

“PeopleSoft 8 is the most advanced e-business suite in the world,” Conway claimed of the latest release of the company’s ERP software. “There’s no code on the client.”

Oracle and SAP have code on the client, he said. But with the XML-based PeopleSoft8, the only thing end users need to access information is a browser.

“We are really proud of PeopleSoft 8, in case you can’t tell,” Conway said.

The latest version includes 59 new applications, including a CRM application, which PeopleSoft acquired from Vantive.

“I would say that their approach to it is unique – and their architecture and the way that they’re doing their middleware is unique, and we give them pretty high scores for that – that it’s well designed and well thought through. But at this point, in our mind it’s still unproven, but it is significant,” said Jenni Lehman, a vice-president of research at the Gartner Group in Stamford. “There just hasn’t been real hard implementation evidence yet of how well it’s going to go or anything like that.”

While Oracle claims to offer an all-in-one solution, PeopleSoft’s approach is more components-based, Lehman said.

“I think that both approaches are valid, but organizations need to start selecting based on which approach is appropriate for them,” she said.

If you’re a large organization that has a high level of consistency around the world and consistent demands in terms business, the Oracle approach is going to provide benefits, she said.

“The problem is that there are a lot of organizations out there that are very diverse. They don’t have a high level of consistency, and/or they also have really specific business application needs that the core vendors, the ERP vendors, don’t deliver. They have to have a speciality product for that. So companies have to be realistic about how much benefit they can get from the single instance if they are going to have to do a lot of integration points anyway.”

If a company has a lot integration needs, then an application that’s specifically designed for integration is going to provide some extra benefits, Lehman said.

“Now it’s not to say that you can’t go with a components-based (system) with Oracle. I mean Oracle has a high level of openness as well, but that’s just not the Oracle positioning right now,” she said.

It was PeopleSoft’s ability to run on multiple platforms that drew the Government of Alberta to the software, said Marsha Capell, the acting executive director for the Alberta Government Integrated Management Information System.

The government is in the process of implementing PeopleSoft 8 and is building a self-service human resources portal called AGent, the Alberta Government Employee Net, for its 24,000 employees which will be built in part with the help of PeopleSoft’s HRMS software. Capell hopes to roll the implementation out in seven phases over the next two to three years. The first phase has already gone live and gives employees a view-only access to its information.

“People are very interested in looking at their information on-line, making sure that it’s right. The payroll people are feeling already that some of the questions have gone away,” Capell said. “It’s increasing our data integrity – people see their phone number is wrong, and phone and say so.”

The government hopes to save $1.3 million a year once the implementation is complete.