Early adopters making plans for PeopleSoft 8

Several users who took part in PeopleSoft's announcement of upgraded enterprise resource planning applications in the US last week weren't fully aware of the new features coming with PeopleSoft 8.

Several users who took part in PeopleSoft's announcement of upgraded enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications in the US last week said they weren't fully aware of the new features coming with PeopleSoft 8.

But they added that their companies hope to take advantage of the Internet-enabled software's promised flexibility to make corporate data more useful to wider groups of employees.

For example, Carol Gernon, director of financial operations at Entergy in New Orleans, said the $US8.8 billion utility company plans to upgrade its PeopleSoft-based financial and human resources systems soon after PeopleSoft 8 becomes available.

The upgrade of PeopleSoft's flagship ERP applications is scheduled to ship this (New Zealand) Spring.

PeopleSoft's new Internet architecture and thin-client user interface should minimise performance constraints and make it easier for Entergy to install and support the applications for end users, Gernon said.

And extending the ERP software to a pair of gas-turbine power plants Entergy is building in the UK also should be much less complicated with PeopleSoft 8, she added.

Entergy already has installed a so-called "balanced scorecard" analytical application that PeopleSoft released last December with the same browser-based user interface it's building into PeopleSoft 8.

Within two months, Gernon said, about 200 end users will have access to the analysis tool, which tracks corporate performance in areas such as financial results and customer satisfaction.

The City of New York plans to begin rolling out PeopleSoft 8's human resources modules next year, starting with training and employee self-service applications.

Manny Innamorato, an official at the city's division of management and operations, said the software eventually will help manage all personnel services for New York's 200,000 employees and 250,000 retirees, although a full rollout of the system could take three to four years.

Until now, the city's human resources department has relied on legacy systems.

PeopleSoft's Internet-based software should enable end users to better adapt to changing regulations and work processes and free the city's information technology department to focus its $US55 million budget more on training and application customisation work than on client-side software deployment and maintenance, Innamorato said.

"Luckily, we didn't go through the client/server era," he added.

As expected, PeopleSoft said Peoplesoft 8's thin-client user interface would free companies from having to install the client version of the ERP applications on PCs.

Instead, end users will be able to access the software from Web browsers on PCs, wireless devices or even Internet-enabled cell phones.

For PeopleSoft, which has been hit by hard financial times, layoffs and management changes since early last year, the impending release is seen as a critical step in the company's attempt to regain some momentum in the market for ERP software and other business applications.

But Laurie Orlov, an analyst at Forrester Research, said she finds it hard to believe that the ease-of-use characteristics PeopleSoft is touting will be the most important buying factor for potential users of PeopleSoft 8.

"What's important is how the product can pump a company forward as an e-business," she said.

While PeopleSoft announced that 59 new Web-based features are being added to the ERP suite, David Dobrin, an analyst at Benchmarking Partners, said he thinks the biggest change being made is the tight integration of PeopleSoft 8 with the customer relationship management (CRM) applications that the company bought earlier this year through the acquisition of The Vantive Corporation.

Internet Pictures is a Vantive user that plans to take advantage of PeopleSoft's thin-client user interface to make customer data available to its sales force via wireless devices, said Brian Gibson, vice president of information technology at the developer of visual-content technology for Web sites.

By year's end, Gibson said, Internet Pictures expects to start evaluating the human resources modules in PeopleSoft 8 as well as PeopleSoft's analytical software for potential uses.

But he added that the 800-person company is too small to need PeopleSoft's financial applications at this point.

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