PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards user group at odds

The relationship between business applications maker PeopleSoft Inc. and the independent user group it inherited when it purchased J.D. Edwards and Co. appears to have gotten a bit chilly, with the software maker this week bowing out of a 600-customer strong conference it had previously been slated to attend.

Thursday, Lexington, Ky.-based Quest announced to its members that PeopleSoft had withdrawn support from the Midwest regional conference, slated to begin on Monday in Chicago. “We’re all disappointed that PeopleSoft made this choice,” Quest executive director Delaine Perkins said in an interview. “We also recognize there is a tremendous amount of value at a user-driven event. I don’t think their lack of participation negatively effects the conference. We’ve already replaced all their sessions.”

Quest had originally made its event plans with the now-defunct J.D. Edwards, she said. PeopleSoft officials had been scheduled to hold 16 sessions, as well as deliver a keynote and exhibit at the event.

A couple of Quest members were unhappy with the turn of events. “In the short term, having this happen just one week before the Midwest conference does cause some negativity,” said John Mitelski, deputy CIO for the city of Orlando, Fla., and a Quest board member. “From a customer perspective, I am very disappointed that a key vendor has chosen to pull out of user group activities.”

The split, said Perkins, has to do with PeopleSoft stipulations issued in December over exactly who would be running the event. “They wanted a greater level of control,” she said, offering few specifics. The Quest board, made up of customers, declined to agree to the stipulations.

“Quest is and always has been an independent organization,” she said.

For its part, PeopleSoft has indicated that it intended to consolidate the events it supports under one umbrella and had let Quest know as far back as mid-December that it wasn’t going to be a presence at the Midwest show. “We’ve said all along we’d have one annual conference,” said a spokesperson.

For the past three months, PeopleSoft has sponsored a committee to integrate best practices from the PeopleSoft International Customer Advisory Board (ICAB), Quest and J.D. Edwards to “create a new, integrated user group model.” The ICAB group already has 170-plus subunits based on geography, industry and products, he said. Along with Connect, the major user show, PeopleSoft will sponsor other smaller events, such as the higher-education conference, “to maximize the support of customers.”

Perkins said PeopleSoft had indeed made it clear that there would be one major show but added, “We wanted to fulfill commitments that had been made and contracted for, and we would like for them to participate.”

Just what this bodes for the long term between the user group and PeopleSoft isn’t clear. Half a decade ago, J.D. Edwards had largely ceded control of its user event to Quest, said Mitelski. PeopleSoft, by contrast, is used to “controlling their events,” where it emphasizes product marketing. “We’ve taken a step back by about five years in terms of the user group’s need to reestablish relations with their key vendor and key partner.”

Quest has been very flexible in participating in the ICAB integration team’s effort, said Perkins, and doesn’t want to repeat the very nasty and public feud between Oracle Corp. and the Oracle Applications User Group, which she said “was a shame.”

For its part, PeopleSoft’s is maintaining its distance from the group. “We don’t have a relationship with Quest; it’s with J.D. Edwards’ customers,” said the company spokesperson. “We’re focusing on what’s best for all customers.”

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