Quest International Users Group, the independent organisation that has been at odds with PeopleSoft in recent months, is losing some of its members to the software vendor's main coalition of user groups, raising new questions about Quest's ability to survive without any ties to PeopleSoft.
Quest officials confirmed that two special interest groups, the World Advisory Council and the Real Estate Group, have decided to join a loosely controlled network of about 170 PeopleSoft user groups that are organised by industry, product or region.
The World Advisory Council includes users of JD Edwards' green-screen ERP applications, now called PeopleSoft World, and the other defecting group is made up of companies in the real estate industry.
In December, PeopleSoft severed its relationship with Quest, which the company inherited as a user group when it acquired JD Edwards last summer. After talks between the two sides broke down, PeopleSoft opted not to participate in several regional Quest meetings as well as the user group's centrepiece event, the Quest Global Conference, which is due to be held in Denver in June.
PeopleSoft's lack of support for Quest played a big role in convincing members of the two special interest groups to leave, said Dave Hyzy, director of IT at Benderson Development in Buffalo, New York. "The unalterable fact is that a software conference without the software vendor present is a social event pretending to be a substantive conference," he said.
Benderson uses PeopleSoft World, and Hyzy is a member of both the World Advisory Council and the Real Estate Group. He said PeopleSoft has already taken "solid initial steps" to start the process of bringing the special-interest groups under its umbrella.
John Matelski, a Quest board member and president of the Lexington, Kentucky-based organisation's special interest groups, said that despite the dispute with PeopleSoft, Quest encourages its members to engage in an "integrated" model that includes working with the vendor. "It does not need to be an all-or-nothing proposition," said Matelski, who is deputy CIO for the city of Orlando.
But Matelski and several other Quest members said they think PeopleSoft wants the user group to wither. They claimed that PeopleSoft is forbidding its employees from participating in any Quest-related activities and is offering Quest members a special discount to attend its Connect user conference, which is scheduled for September in San Francisco.
"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," Matelski said.
PeopleSoft spokesman Steve Swasey said the company is offering Connect discounts to JD Edwards users and other first time attendees. Swasey added that he doesn't think there's a formal ban on PeopleSoft employees attending Quest events, but he acknowledged that the software vendor is focusing its resources on Connect.
"We don't recognise Quest," Swasey said. "They have a different model. We don't think users should pay an additional fee to join the user group." He said PeopleSoft has worked with users in the aftermath of the JD Edwards acquisition to put together an integrated user group structure that's designed to "give all 12,000 (customers) more and better access to us."
Quest officials have said that members of the user group took part in the integration planning effort. But Dave Richards, who chairs the user committee that's planning the Quest Global Conference, downplayed Quest's involvement in the process.
"From the Quest side, it's disappointing and baffling why they didn't include Quest in the whole (user group) transition more," he said. "In the past, we had a strong relationship with JD Edwards and worked together to find solutions to problems, and I think that link is missing." Richards is CIO at Pacific Steel & Recycling in Great Falls, Montana.
Quest officials said that the user group is doing well financially and that it has reached 97% of its targeted membership renewals, with three months to go.
But some members aren't sure Quest can continue to thrive for long without PeopleSoft's support. "I think they're close to breaking the user group," said Gary Riley, a systems analyst at Matanuska Telephone Association in Palmer, Alaska.