PeopleSoft's prospects top agenda at show

At PeopleSoft Inc.'s Connect 2004 conference in San Francisco this week, the software vendor is expected to face questions from users about its ability to fend off Oracle Corp.'s hostile takeover bid and remain independent.

The user conference comes two weeks after a federal judge turned down the U.S. Department of Justice's attempt to block Oracle's offer on antitrust grounds. PeopleSoft promptly issued a letter assuring customers that it still has a number of options, and whether Oracle will succeed in its 15-month-old buyout quest is an open question.

But PeopleSoft user John Matelski isn't taking any chances. Matelski is deputy CIO for the city of Orlando, which runs financial applications that were developed by J.D. Edwards & Co. and are now part of PeopleSoft's EnterpriseOne product line.

Last week, Matelski attended the Connection Point 2004 conference held in Orlando by the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG). He said he wanted to ask Oracle users how they feel about their vendor. It's too early to tell what will happen, he noted, "but if we become part of Oracle, I wanted to do the legwork."

Matelski also plans to attend Connect 2004 to learn more about PeopleSoft's payroll and human resources applications because he's considering migrating away from the Infinium Software products he now uses. Infinium was acquired by SSA Global Technologies Inc. in 2002.

In addition, Matelski said he wants to examine PeopleSoft's loosely controlled network of about 170 small user groups that are organized by industry, product or region. Matelski sits on the board of Quest International Users Group, an independent group of J.D. Edwards users that has had a major falling-out with PeopleSoft.

PeopleSoft officials declined to comment about Oracle's bid during a briefing about a human resources software upgrade that's due to be announced at Connect.

Dave Hyzy, director of IT at Benderson Development Co. in Buffalo, N.Y., said he's concerned about the possibility of Oracle buying PeopleSoft. "Of course there is fear and trepidation regarding the persistent thought of a takeover by Larry Ellison," Hyzy said, referring to Oracle's CEO.

Benderson uses the World software that PeopleSoft acquired when it bought J.D. Edwards. Hyzy said the real estate developer "just spent the better part of a year groping through the morass of changes wrought by the PeopleSoft acquisition." The thought of dealing with another buyout "is sobering," he added.

On the other hand, Peg Nicholson, CIO at golf equipment maker Acushnet Co. in Fairhaven, Mass., was stoic about the situation.

"I don't worry about what I can't change, nor about what has not happened yet," said Nicholson, who runs PeopleSoft's flagship Enterprise applications. "One day, it will be resolved, and then we'll decide what options we have."

Several Oracle users said at the OAUG's conference that they are in favor of the merger. "It will give Oracle the ability to be more competitive in the industry," said Pat Dues, a project officer for the Las Vegas city manager's office and president of the OAUG. "We see a complement between Oracle's products and PeopleSoft's."

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