PeopleSoft in real time mode

PeopleSoft Inc.’s second annual Leadership Summit in Las Vegas last month was jam-packed with announcements, but the company’s real focus was on its real-time enterprise solutions.

Addressing an audience of close to 3,000 C-level attendees, PeopleSoft’s president and CEO, Craig Conway referred to the movement of business processes to an online architecture as a stunning transformation.

“You couldn’t have written a movie script with a more exciting plot,” he said.

According to Conway, what was merely a vision 18 months ago has become a reality, and is changing the way that companies are doing business. The real-time enterprise has three major implications, Conway said. The first implication revolves around business processes above software applications.

“It doesn’t make sense anymore to think about individual software applications,” he said. “You can no longer evaluate software as standalone applications.”

The second implication is a higher level of integration – which Conway said needs to be online within a portal framework – and the third implication is that the business process has to be always on.

The Pleasanton, Calif.-based company made six announcements around its customer relationship management (CRM) suite, launching products for the high-tech, energy, insurance, government, financial services and telecommunications industries. It also released three solutions under the human resource management umbrella, two under supply chain management and two under enterprise portals.

While these announcements created a lot of buzz around the conference, it is the message of the real-time enterprise that PeopleSoft endeavoured to leave its attendees with. The delivery of this message was particularly important for the company as a large percentage of the conference’s attendees were not current PeopleSoft customers, and last year’s Leadership Summit generated US$15 million worth of revenue from new business, Conway said.

According to Toronto-based Peter Smith, regional vice-president of PeopleSoft global services in Canada, this message came through loud and clear.

“Customers get it,” he said. “In my conversations with customers, they really understand that a lot of the work that they’re currently doing is not value added, and they’re struggling with priorities.”

Another focus of the summit was PeopleSoft’s continuing effort to maintain strong relationships with its customers. According to Toronto-based IDC Canada research analyst, Warren Shiau, this focus resonated throughout the summit.

“PeopleSoft – under David Duffield – was a very people-oriented company, and I think that influence still shines through,” Shiau said. “The purpose of this event wasn’t for media or analysts, but for customers. In PeopleSoft terms, it was a very successful conference.”

Part of the company’s attraction for customers is its different approach to marketing, Shiau said. He pointed out that PeopleSoft is not as professionalized, as slick or as media-trained as other vendors are, but in many ways that can be a better approach.

“They use the business process approach to reach a higher level audience for potential clients – the C-level executives – but haven’t lost sight of the fact that a lot of the decision-making process comes down to departmental people evaluating a product’s functionality. They’re able to deliver that in their marketing as well,” he said.

Michael Gregoire, senior vice-president, PeopleSoft Global Services in Pleasanton, Calif., attributes the company’s success in this area by initiating a real effort to listen to its customers. According to Gregoire, PeopleSoft has established both formal and informal ways for customers to be heard, including surveys, one-on-one discussions and the company’s annual user’s conference.

“People are guarding their cash these days,” Gregoire said. “We’ve got to give them what they want, or they’re not going to buy the technology.”

PeopleSoft customer Clint Mahlman, vice-president of human resources and distribution for London Drugs Ltd. in Richmond, B.C., has witnessed this effort within the organization, which he said comes from Craig Conway on down.

Mahlman described approaching PeopleSoft with a request for implementing its supply chain management solution, and having the company reject the request because it wouldn’t be the proper fit.

“I think that speaks to the integrity of the company,” he said.

According to Smith, this sort of approach is simple common sense.

“It’s not worth it to make a sale if things don’t fit,” Smith said. “The amount of energy that a bad sale takes out on both us and the customer in the long term is too stressful, and can result in a bad reference in the marketplace. We understand the high cost of not doing the job properly, and will never sign up for a piece of bad business or an expectation that we’re not going to be able to meet.”