PeopleSoft: New Releases Prove Company Staying Focused

Enhancements and new products for PeopleSoft's CRM suite include regulatory compliance with the national Do Not Call list, synchronization with Notes and Outlook, and integration with SAP and Oracle back-office applications.

With the sword of Damocles—or Larry Ellison—hanging over its head, PeopleSoft Inc. could be forgiven if it allowed new product releases or software updates to slip as it focused on more pressing matters, such as survival.

Last week, however, PeopleSoft announced new enhancements and products for its PeopleSoft CRM suite, including compliance with regulations imposed by the national Do Not Call list, better synchronization with e-mail clients and personal information managers such as Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook, and canned integration with popular back office applications from SAP AG and Oracle Corp.

Thanks to a 1999 acquisition of CRM specialist Vantive, PeopleSoft has developed a respected CRM business, trailing market leader Siebel Systems, along with SAP and Oracle, in the large enterprise market segment. According to AMR Research, PeopleSoft has more than 1,200 customers currently using or implementing CRM—although half of those are legacy Vantive customers who have not upgraded to PeopleSoft CRM.

To ensure compliance with the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call list, the Productivity Pack introduces a new tracking system that lets call center agents specify a customer’s preferred method of contact. This also lets agent specify contact channels that customers wish to opt out of, says PeopleSoft CRM vice president of marketing Brad Wilson.

“[Do Not Call] provides a very complete solution for customers that want to try to implement a best-in-class solution. It has very fine-grained support for options like: do you not want any phone calls at all [or] do you want certain kinds of phone calls,” he comments, arguing that some of PeopleSoft’s competitors have approached Do Not Call support in a kludgey fashion, issuing workarounds to their existing applications. “We have a data model that can express very fine-grained customer preferences.”

Other enhancements include a "quick customer create" feature that lets center agents create new customer records on the basis of email inquiries, along with a bulk-ordering capability that lets sales departments capture bulk orders as a single order entry, and track each component of a bulk order individually. Finally, PeopleSoft is delivering Infosync Server, a component that provides automatic synchronization with Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes, and that eliminates the manual step of loading software.

While the enhancements introduce important new functionality that is a competitive differentiator for PeopleSoft, the company is also delivering products that help it play catch-up with some of its competitors.

For example, PeopleSoft introduced six new Process Integration Packs for CRM that provide pre-built integration between Oracle and SAP applications and PeopleSoft’s order management, service fulfillment, and service request materials authorization modules.

The Process Integration Packs exploit integration technology that PeopleSoft developed resulting from its AppConnect initiative, announced last year. Nevertheless, suggests Kelly Spang Ferguson, principal CRM analyst with consultancy Current Analysis, PeopleSoft is still in the early stages of building an integration platform to rival those of its competitors. “PeopleSoft is in the early stages of rolling out its Process Integration Packs to integrate its applications with third-party applications, which puts it in a catch-up mode with e-business rivals including Oracle, SAP, and Siebel that have established integration platforms,” Spang Ferguson writes.

Wilson says that customers should expect additional Process Integration Packs for supply chain management and other applications over the next few months.

Customers Give PeopleSoft CRM High Marks

AMR recently surveyed PeopleSoft CRM customers and found that most gave the suite high marks in many categories.

In particular, the analyst firm noted, respondents say that PeopleSoft has made great leaps in usability in recent revisions of the suite. Many customers touted the responsiveness of the PeopleSoft support team, and all references indicated that if they had to do it all over again, they’d still choose PeopleSoft CRM. AMR’s survey pool was based on references selected by PeopleSoft, along with unsolicited references that the firm itself discovered.

PeopleSoft’s Wilson says that his company is committed to “the total ownership experience” of its software. “That’s really trying to make sure that usability is improved, that implementations are smoother and upgrades are easier,” he comments. “We’re spending over half a billion dollars to do this across all of our products, including CRM.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.