PeopleSoft enters services automation field

PeopleSoft Inc.’s rollout of services automation software could be a benefit to users faced with managing and accounting for field personnel and temporary and contract users, analysts said.

At its annual user conference known as Connect 2001, the Pleasanton, Calif.-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendor announced a major push to offer what it called its enterprise service automation (ESA) lineup. The software will help companies streamline the processes and reduce the costs of procuring and managing services, PeopleSoft said. The firm also announced a new development tool kit to enable mobile access to PeopleSoft applications and a new catalog-management software. PeopleSoft also touted the benefits of its flagship PeopleSoft 8 collaborative Web-enabled suite, which was released last year.

The move to offer an ESA line is a good idea, said analysts, who said this is an underserved area that other major vendors, such as SAP AG or Oracle Corp., have barely touched, if it all.

“Procuring services is a huge part of company spending,” said Alister Sutherland, an analyst at IDC Canada Ltd., a marketing research firm in Toronto. While the traditional supply chain management software market has matured, limiting room for growth, the potential for expansion in ESA is huge, he said.

This sort of service offering also plays to PeopleSoft’s historic strength as a human resources software provider, said Joshua Greenbaum, analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Daly City, Calif. Other ERP companies have more extensive experience in manufacturing processes, but services are an area where PeopleSoft can be especially strong, he said. While PeopleSoft is ahead of other ERP vendors in entering this area, “the competition will be catching up very quickly,” he said.

One user who expressed interest in exploring the ESA offering is Todd Bridwell, assistant general manager of IS at Erlanger, Ky.-based Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America Inc. While services procurement isn’t an area in which the company has an immediate interest, Bridwell said that he’d still like to explore it. “It’s probably something we need to look at, but it’s not a focus area,” he said.

Currently, Toyota has six plants across North America running various PeopleSoft modules, including human resources and financials. The company, which runs PeopleSoft 7.5 now, has plans to upgrade to PeopleSoft 8 during the next year, starting with a new human resources application, which is scheduled to go live next month.

Bridwell said that so far, the upgrade hasn’t been difficult and that Toyota wanted “to take advantage of the collaborative stuff” in PeopleSoft 8, and let employees use the self-service tools to get greater access to company resources. Eventually, Bridwell said he’d like to be able to push the content directly to workers on the plant floor, possibly using a kiosk.