Quest users fear PeopleSoft will crush them

Quest, the PeopleSoft Inc. user group that has been at odds with the software vendor in recent months, is losing some of its members to a rival PeopleSoft-backed customer support operation, raising new questions about Quest's ability to survive.

PeopleSoft this year severed its relationship with Quest, the independent user body it inherited when it acquired rival J.D. Edwards & Co. last summer. After talks between the two broke down, PeopleSoft withdrew support for the group's regional events and opted out of Quest's centerpiece event, the Quest Global Conference. That conference, which this year will be held in Denver in June, is something J.D. Edwards had strongly supported for years.

The decisions by two Quest special interest groups, the World Advisory Council and the Real Estate Group, to align with PeopleSoft renews doubts about whether Quest can survive without any backing from PeopleSoft.

"The unalterable fact is that a software conference without the software vendor present is a social event pretending to be a substantive conference," said Dave Hyzy, director of IT at Benderson Development Co., a Buffalo, N.Y.-based real estate developer that uses World ERP software. Hyzy, a member of the World Advisory Council and the Real Estate Group, said the two groups voted to get under PeopleSoft's umbrella, and the vendor has already "made solid initial steps" to get that process under way.

John Matelski, president of Quest's special interest groups and a Quest board member, confirmed the two groups' decisions. But Matelski, who is also deputy CIO for the city of Orlando, said Quest encourages its members to engage in an "integrated" model that includes working with PeopleSoft. "It does not need to be an all-or-nothing proposition," he said.

"From the Quest side, it's disappointing and baffling why they didn't include Quest in the whole (customer support) transition more," said Dave Richards, who chairs the customer committee planning the Quest Global Conference. "In the past, we had a strong relationship with J.D. Edwards and worked together to find solutions to problems, and I think that link is missing. I'm concerned that now we're with a much larger company, and our company is on the smaller side, we may have lost the voice we had."

The lack of PeopleSoft support at the June conference means that companies wondering if and when they should upgrade from World to Enterprise or EntepriseOne products will be unable to put questions directly to the vendor's technical representatives. In addition, EnterpriseOne users facing potential maintenance fee increases will be unable to address those issues with the company, said Richards, who is also CIO at Pacific Steel & Recycling, a steel services company in Great Falls, Mont., that uses EnterpriseOne ERP software.

PeopleSoft plans to unify the pricing models for the Enterprise and EnterpriseOne software line built around applications it picked up through its acquisition of J.D. Edwards & Co.

Some Quest members believe PeopleSoft wants the group to wither. They allege that PeopleSoft is offering a special discount to Quest members to attend its Connect event while forbidding employees from participating in any Quest-related special interest group activities or attending the global conference. "Most of the passive and active actions which PeopleSoft has taken since December would seem to give credence to the claim that PeopleSoft is actively trying to kill Quest," said Matelski.

He said treating customers with this "heavy-handed coercive approach continues to discourage."

"We don't recognize Quest," said PeopleSoft spokesman Steve Swasey. "They have a different model. We don't think users should pay an additional fee to join the user group. We did put together a user group model made by customers for customers that give all 12,000 more and better access to us. There are 170 different user groups, arranged by industry, product or region."

Although sources at Quest claim the organization is doing well, others believe its demise is only a matter of time.

"I think they are close to breaking the user group," said Gary Riley, an analyst at Matanuska Telephone Association Inc. in Palmer, Alaska. "We are going back to the old days when 'user group' meetings are a marketing event and the vendor doesn't know you exist unless you spend money on something new or (are) a huge company."

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