Users praise PeopleSoft's program to simplify apps

Upgrades easier under vendor's Total Ownership Experience scheme, customers say

Several PeopleSoft users last week said that the company's year-old effort to simplify its software is yielding results, making the business applications easier and less expensive to install, maintain and upgrade.

For example, IT personnel at Harris Trust and Savings Bank in Chicago expect to complete an upgrade to Version 8.8 of PeopleSoft's Enterprise financial applications in as little as eight weeks, said William Kragh, vice president of the bank's financial control group.

At its 2004 Leadership Summit in Las Vegas, PeopleSoft said it has built simplification features into the Enterprise Financial Management 8.8 software, plus two other application upgrades and two releases of its development, deployment and management tools. PeopleSoft launched the initiative at last year's conference.

The products shipped thus far represent only a subset of PeopleSoft's technology, but the company announced that easier-to-use versions of its CRM software and the midmarket applications first developed by JD Edwards will be available next month.

According to PeopleSoft, testing of the products that have been shipped thus far showed a streamlining of various IT tasks, including a 20% reduction in overall implementation times, an 80% cut in the number of steps needed to apply application updates and a 44% reduction in the time it takes to diagnose and solve any problems.

The vendor has devoted more than 1000 developers to the simplification program, which is dubbed Total Ownership Experience, or TOE.

Nanci Caldwell, PeopleSoft's chief marketing officer, said PeopleSoft is halfway to its goal of reducing software ownership costs by 60% via improvements such as increased end-user productivity and enhanced maintenance and implementation capabilities.

George Muller, CIO at Imperial Sugar in Sugar Land, Texas, said a recent upgrade from the PeopleSoft 7 financial applications to Version 8.4 was the smoothest he has seen in a quarter-century of IT work. "We accomplished it under budget and on time," Muller said. "I think TOE has been a big part."

The University of Florida in Gainesville runs PeopleSoft's portal software and next month plans to roll out the 8.8 financials module and 8.4 human resources software.

Mike Conlon, the school's director of data infrastructure, said IT staffers have had to install a significant number of patches and upgrades, a process that has gotten easier due to new diagnostic tools from PeopleSoft.

Conlon said he's also interested in a tool that's designed to help IT workers identify the patches that are needed for a specific PeopleSoft release, although he said it could take until next year for all his application versions to support the change-assistant tool.