The lazy, crazy days of summer


Summer is here at last. Nothing like doing nothing, even if it’s only for a long weekend.

Normally everything slows down as the holiday season approaches. But in this industry, if June is any indication, the holidays have definitely been postponed, if not called off.

For starters there’s that Bugbear thing floating around, specializing in extracting sensitive financial data. Then there’s Sun, which recently announced plans to unify its multiple Java platforms, and SCO, which continues its threats to outlaw Linux, take legal action against users and cripple IBM’s Unix division. Corel’s corporate decision-making, meanwhile, will soon not have to account to shareholders, due to its recent purchase by a U.S. investment firm.

Finally, there’s that small matter of the potential end of, not one, but two major enterprise software vendors as independent entities.

Check out our News section for the details on the PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards and Oracle story thus far. Suffice it to say that with the supply of new customers drying up, and increasing pressure from shareholders, it’s clear the vendors will do what it takes to maintain their market share. It’s also a juicy story that continues to dazzle the IT media and analyst community alike. And no wonder, since the potential ramifications of this deal touch so many of you, our readers.

If you’re paying attention, you’ve noticed that there’s a lot of advice for customers out there right now, and a lot of experts presuming to speak on your behalf. As much as PeopleSoft and Oracle users would like to get some clarity on this issue, no one should be more confused than J.D. Edwards customers, who, regardless of how this plays out, appear certain to watch their vendor lose its independent status.

But Gord Thompson, manager of IS for Emerson Electric Canada Ltd. in Markham, Ont., and president of the J.D. Edwards Quest Central Ontario User Group, is keeping a cooler head. When he first heard about the PeopleSoft merger proposal, he was somewhat surprised, but “didn’t have too much feelings one way or the other,” he said. His one major concern, namely continued support for his mix of J.D. Edwards WorldSoftware financials and distribution modules designed for IBM’s AS/400 server, has been addressed to his satisfaction.

The subsequent Oracle move introduced “a whole lot of questions…a little more uncertainty,” but Thompson is still not fazed. “We’re not going to make any quick decisions one way or the other.”

Thompson helped to oversee the purchase of J.D. Edwards software at Emerson five years ago, primarily because it worked well and fit the company’s needs. That hasn’t changed.

I admit that half of me was hoping to hear from a confused customer, full of worry or invective. Instead, Thompson reminded me of the level-headedness that is a necessary ingredient to running an IS department. Customers who attended the company’s Quest user conference in Denver in June, and spoke to our reporter, demonstrated the same reasoned patience.

In the end, the only people in a “lurch,” as one analyst referred to ERP customers, as a result of the boardroom wrangling are those who choose to put themselves there. The rest will watch and wait, and take the best course of action.

When the dust clears, one thing will be certain. Nothing that Larry Ellison, Craig Conway or Bob Dutkowsky do will prevent people from voting with their feet.