Oracle webcast helpful, but questions remain: Uni IT manager

'After 18 months of uncertainty it's a relief and we can move on'

Auckland University IT director Stephen Whiteside was among the 20,000 who logged or phoned in to Oracle's webcast last week on how it will integrate with PeopleSoft.

For Whiteside, it meant getting up in time for a 6.30am start, as the event was webcast in the US on Tuesday, which was Wednesday morning in New Zealand.

Despite the early start, it was worth it, he says.

"[Oracle president] Charles Phillips said speed was more important than perfection in making the announcement and I think [an early announcement] was a good move, although we still have many questions about what we're going to see and who our contacts will be."

Whiteside says "after 18 months of uncertainty, it's a relief and we can move on and start talking about corporate direction, rather than the machinations of takeovers."

A key plank of last week's announcement was that 90% of PeopleSoft's technical staff will be retained, but Whiteside says "that's a selective figure — how you relate it to what the technical staff do is a question mark for me."

Another question for him is "Although Oracle is retaining PeopleSoft's product lines for ten years, who will the relationship be with to get value from that product line?"

Auckland University is the second biggest PeopleSoft site in New Zealand, after Air New Zealand, and its investment in PeopleSoft includes finance, student administration and HR systems and a PeopleSoft portal.

Whiteside is pleased that a former PeopleSoft staffer, Jesper Anderson, has been appointed head of the joint applications strategy team.

"He was the only PeopleSoft face that featured."

Another fact revealed during the webcast was that the number of support staff in the new organisation will rise to 6000 and while Whiteside warns "I take that with a grain of salt — what do they mean by support staff?," he says it is a positive move.

"One of the key benefits will be that we'll have a better support organisation.

"For a small country like New Zealand, large international vendors can struggle [with support], so having a large support organisation will be good for local PeopleSoft customers."

The university is an Oracle database enterprise licence customer, "so we had a strong relationship with both PeopleSoft and Oracle and in many respects the timing of the merger is good, as we're considering issues such as the business intelligence project we've got underway and choosing tools in that area.

"It's a synergy for us."

Overall, Whiteside is pleased with the announcements made in the webcast, "but we still have to find out the impact of layoffs locally".

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