Moving from black and white to colour

Ah, June in Las Vegas. The Elvis impersonators and showgirls. The brides and the blackjack. The ching-ching of the slot machines and the buzz about CRM.

Well, maybe this wasn’t such a typical June for the City of Sin. Las Vegas was the place and June 4th was the date for the launch of PeopleSoft 8 CRM, PeopleSoft’s newest enterprise software.

According to PeopleSoft’s senior vice-president and general manager of customer relation management, PeopleSoft 8 CRM’s features are to other CRM products what colour was to black and white television.

“The key feature is the combination of three value points,” Santa Clara, Calif.-based Stan Swete explained, referring to its pure Internet architecture, embedded analytics and its ability to openly integrate with other products.

“All three are important to the solution. If you take other solutions from other vendors, they’ll anchor their approach around one or the other,” Swete said. “If you take pure Internet, for example, I’d say that start-up companies like dot-coms embrace the Internet as the way to do it. With embedded analytics, I think you have vendors that got into the CRM space purely from analytics. You need that, but you also need the pure Internet stuff. And you need to be openly integratable to other products. The combination of those three values, along with our approach to starting with rich functionality, and how we deliver it in the most cost effective way makes us very different.”

The move in to the CRM space was a lucrative one for PeopleSoft, according to Fenella Potter, IDC Canada’s Toronto-based director of CRM solutions research.

“According to our research, [a CRM solution] is the number one application software spend planned for this year, ” Potter explained. “Companies are really looking for ways to leverage their customer information and find a unique competitive differentiator that is sustainable. Companies are realizing that customer intimacy is a primary source of competitive differentiation over the long term, and the focus is very much now in business on looking at ways to engender customer loyalty. One way of being able to do that is to have enough information and insight about your customer to not only meet their needs now, but to anticipate their needs. I think that CRM software is one of the means by which they can begin to fuel that customer intimacy,” she said.

“In terms of PeopleSoft 8 CRM, the real advantage from the customer point of view comes from the software not having to reside on the desktop,” Potter continued. “This is more cost efficient, and provides easier access – basically all you need is a Web connection to sign on and have access to whatever information you need. PeopleSoft is playing catch-up to some extent to other competitors that are Web-based, but that is the case of a lot of ERP vendors who are now playing in the CRM space.”

It is this Web-based application that has prompted Foad Foridani, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Ottawa-based help desk manager, to install PeopleSoft 8 CRM’s Help Desk module. A long-time customer of Vantive (acquired by PeopleSoft in 2000), Foridani is preparing to install the PeopleSoft applications, and is pleased with the fact that their current customized applications can be retained.

According to Rick Bergquist, the CTO and senior vice-president of PeopleSoft in Pleasanton, Calif., a feature of the product that will prove to be beneficial for the Canadian marketplace is its flexibility in terms of language.

“If you’re at a call centre in Amsterdam or Ireland that’s supporting all of Europe, and you have a caller coming in who is speaking Italian, you can flip to the language of the caller for the script portion of it, while you’re still seeing everything in your preferred language,” Bergquist described. “This will be very important in Canada, where you’ve got English and French requirements. Actually, it was the first country we built the support for.”

According to Andy Aicklen, the North York, Ont.-based managing director for PeopleSoft Canada Co., the launch of the product is extremely important to the Canadian market.

“We’ve invested over the last year in terms of infrastructure, right across the country in all of the provinces,” Aicklen said, referring to the Canadian operation. “PeopleSoft’s on a big roll, and there’s no indication that things are going to slow down.”

“It is an interesting time in the economy right now in high tech and with the crash of a lot of these niche companies and the dot-coms, the market place is looking at us and saying, ‘Wow. Here’s a company that I can rely on. It’s solvent, it’s stable, and they supply a broad range in this sphere of niche suppliers,'” Dave Ruuskanen, the North York, Ont.-based regional director for PeopleSoft Canada added. “In Canada, there’s a lot of fear with all of these niche players.”