PeopleSoft seeks to narrow CRM gap

PeopleSoft Inc. is planning to ship two upgrades of its customer relationship management (CRM) software during the next four months in an effort to match market leader Siebel Systems Inc. on functionality.

PeopleSoft got into the CRM market by acquiring Vantive Corp. early last year. This past June, it released a Web-based version of Vantive’s applications as part of its PeopleSoft 8 product line. Now Pleasanton, Calif.-based PeopleSoft is looking to put itself in a better position to compete head-on with Siebel, Oracle Corp. and SAP AG for CRM installations.

Rick Bergquist, PeopleSoft’s chief technology officer, acknowledged that analysts have identified some areas in which the company’s CRM applications fall short of San Mateo, Calif.-based Siebel’s technology. But once the two promised upgrades ship, he said, “we don’t think we’ll have any large competitive gaps out there.”

At a customer event in Boston last week, Bergquist said PeopleSoft plans to ship an initial CRM upgrade late this month, with more flexible relationship and data modelling capabilities and other new features. A more substantial upgrade will follow in March.

PeopleSoft said 125 customers have bought the CRM software since June and about 10 of those companies are actively using the application.

The Thomson Corp.’s Thomson Financial subsidiary is one such user. Toronto-based Thomson Financial’s portfolio solutions group, which develops investment management and accounting software, rolled out some of the PeopleSoft 8 CRM applications for 160 employees earlier this year in the first phase of a project that could eventually involve 2,000 end users.

Craig Berkson, CIO at the portfolio solutions unit, said PeopleSoft’s Web-based client software significantly reduces desktop support issues because no code needs to be installed on PCs. But Berkson added that there are some functional differences between PeopleSoft 8 CRM and the last release of Vantive’s applications, which he had initially installed at one division.

For example, Berkson said, the PeopleSoft 8 product has less-sophisticated relationship modelling capabilities because it was based on an earlier Vantive release. As a result, he said, users may have to customize the software in order to set up a real-world data model.

Tim Getz, an analyst at Prudential Securities Inc. in New York, said PeopleSoft is still in the early stages of its CRM strategy and doesn’t have the same breadth of functionality that Siebel does at this point.

But Getz estimated that PeopleSoft has been able to increase its customer win rate against Siebel from less than one in five users to about one in three since PeopleSoft 8 CRM became available.