Sales, support issues cited by Quest members

Licensing questions aren't the only concerns that J.D. Edwards & Co. users have about PeopleSoft Inc. Twelve months after the two companies announced their buyout deal, J.D. Edwards users at this week's Quest Global Conference said they're wrestling with issues such as sales force reshuffling and the process of escalating support issues under the new regime. Some attendees said they're still enthusiastic about the technical and support capabilities the combined company offers.

"J.D. Edwards was our implementation partner prior to the PeopleSoft takeover, and now, as PeopleSoft, our relationship is unchanged," said Melinda Zeppa, ERP project lead at Interstate Battery System of America Inc., a Dallas-based battery distributor. The company runs OneWorld XE and is upgrading next week to PeopleSoft EnterpriseOne.

"There have been some minor changes as the takeover took place, but nothing out of the norm for two companies of this size adjusting to their new organization," Zeppa said.

But other users said PeopleSoft's ownership hasn't generated any improvements thus far. They're still wrestling with various problems caused by the transition, including the implementation of the PeopleSoft enterprise license model, the reshuffling of the sales force and the process of escalating support issues. And a number of Quest users remain unhappy that PeopleSoft chose to sever its relationship with the user group, thus depriving them and other customers a centralized resource to deliver information about migration, pricing, support and other issues.

"I have not seen any of the benefits yet," said Barbara Schmit, CIO at Computer Network Technology Corp. in Plymouth, Minn., and president of the Quest International Users Group.

Based on feedback from Quest members, PeopleSoft's sales and support system has become confusing, with many customers unsure of who their sales representatives are and how to get technical support questions answered, Schmit said, noting that the scale of the new company is different from what J.D. Edwards users were used to.

"The whole thing was (based on) relationships vs. being more of a financial thing, where you have a transaction and spend millions of dollars and slap it (the software) in," she said. "We have users in the midmarket and the lower end, and they might have one or two people supporting an entire application. They have nobody to turn to."

If there is a channel to get information from PeopleSoft, "I don't know it," Schmit said, noting that in things such as pricing, PeopleSoft has been "willy-nilly" and unable to define a clear policy.

Via e-mail, PeopleSoft said it annually changes sales territories and reassigns workers. "In order to integrate J.D. Edwards, we saw a little more change than usual," the company said, adding that it "worked to minimize the effect on customers."

Despite concerns, other Quest members weren't ready to pass judgment on PeopleSoft. "They've done some good things, (and) some things we didn't like," said Lowell Vice, CIO at Turner Industries LLC in Baton Rouge, La. "It's a little early, and hindsight is 20/20. We'll wait and see."

On the plus side, PeopleSoft has been making an investment in the World applications, he said, making some features available that otherwise wouldn't exist. Vice said it's clear the postmerger company is enterprise-focused, leaving him feeling "somewhat like a smaller fish."

"They could do a better job at centralizing the message they want to convey specific to support, maintenance and other types of things," said John Matelski, deputy CIO of the city of Orlando, which runs EnterpriseOne financials. He's also a Quest board member and head of its special interest groups. Matelski said he has a good relationship with his sales representative. But with three product sets, World, Enterprise and EnterpriseOne, customers appear confused about which suite will have which enhancements, he said.

"(They) are clamoring for additional information that will help them make a decision whether or not to upgrade," Matelski said.

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