PeopleSoft dispute cuts into attendance at Quest event

Quest, the independent user group for companies that run the ERP applications developed by JD Edwards, is holding its flagship conference this week. But attendance will be far lower than it was last year because of an ongoing rift with PeopleSoft in the wake of PeopleSoft's acquisition of JD Edward

Quest, the independent user group for companies that run the ERP applications developed by JD Edwards, is holding its flagship conference this week. But attendance will be far lower than it was last year because of an ongoing rift with PeopleSoft in the wake of PeopleSoft's acquisition of JD Edwards.

In December, PeopleSoft broke off its relationship with the Quest International User Group and withdrew its support for the Quest Global Conference, taking place in Denver, Colorado this month. Without PeopleSoft's participation, Quest plans to put on a scaled back event that will focus on user-to-user interaction instead of technical sessions and product road map briefings.

Quest said it expects about 1100 attendees, down from 4000 a year ago. Even some Quest diehards who will be in attendance have voiced disappointment about PeopleSoft's no-show. But several Quest board members sounded an upbeat note and said they view the situation as an opportunity to remake the event into something that's still worth attending.

"It's not a sales conference, it's really a user conference," said Quest President Barbara Schmit. "The numbers are smaller, but that's not bad in and of itself. I've been to some conferences with 10,000 attendees and people can get lost in the crowd there."

Schmit, who is CIO at Computer Network Technology in Plymouth, Minnesota acknowledged that Quest officials would have preferred to have representatives from PeopleSoft at the conference. "We extended the invitation, and they aren't coming," she said. "That's old news. We're beyond that."

However, half a dozen users who either have attended the Quest conference in the past or considered attending this year said they decided against going to Denver. For most of them, the lack of PeopleSoft's presence was the key factor.

Some of the users said their companies have only enough resources to send them to one event this year and opted for PeopleSoft's Connect 2004 show in September over the Quest conference. One user, who asked not to be identified, cited a 33% discount that PeopleSoft is offering to JD Edwards users and other first-time Connect attendees as the tipping point for him.

This will be the first time in years that Cargill's Global Financial Solutions unit won't send any staffers to the Quest conference, said William Gabby, North American operations manager at the Minnetonka, Minnesota-based operation. "I feel that it's important that there be vendor participation and support to have a sustainable user group," Gabby said.

Without PeopleSoft's involvement, there will be no information about product directions and release schedules at the conference, Gabby noted. In addition, there won't be opportunities for attendees to meet with PeopleSoft executives and influence application enhancements, he said.

Quest represents users of JD Edwards' OneWorld and World applications, which are now called PeopleSoft Enterprise One and PeopleSoft World. The rift with PeopleSoft began after Quest officials rejected several conditions that the vendor set for its participation in the user group's events. Two special interest groups sided with PeopleSoft and left Quest after the dispute became public.

Schmit and other Quest representatives said this week's event will expand its focus beyond the ERP software itself to include areas such as handling security, database performance and Six Sigma business process improvement techniques.

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