'Collaborative Commerce': ERP, CRM, e-Proc, and SCM Unite! A Series Study: PeopleSoft

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'Collaborative Commerce": ERP, CRM, e-Proc, and SCM Unite! A Series Study: PeopleSoft
R. Garland - November 26, 2001


In the early 90's, ERP came of age. Everyone had to have the functionality ERP packages promised. Since then, as Web and Internet technologies have matured, CRM on the front end, and e-Procurement and Supply Chain Management on the back end, have come into their own.

Now in 2001, the catchphrase is "Collaborative Commerce," where we unite all of the above elements into one coherent system within and between organizations. This is the Big Kahuna, the zero latency, fully transparent, 360 degree exposure that is the stuff systems integrators dream of. Is it here? Are the technologies mature enough? Simple enough?

This, the last in a series of articles on Collaborative Commerce (C-Commerce), takes a look at the fresh, new efforts of PeopleSoft, as it continues to expand its own software footprint while welcoming integration with outside solutions.

Craig Conway Foments a Revolution 

Just two years ago, PeopleSoft was regularly dismissed as "struggling," and "lost," particularly in the shadows of more formidable and marketing-oriented companies such as SAP and Oracle. It was being run by David A. Duffield, who built a friendly culture for both employees and customers. The company peaked financially in 1998, when it was, for a brief time, second only to SAP in enterprise software sales. But the walls came tumbling down in 1999, as the market for giant software packages that handled corporate internals from Human Resources to Supply Chain Management dried up, and the lure of dot-com riches danced in departing employees heads.

In May of 1999, Craig A. Conway was brought in as PeopleSoft's President and Chief Operating Officer, and was named four months later as the company's Chief Executive Officer, adding corporate and product strategy to his day-to-day operations duties. Dave Duffield remained as Chairman but gave Conway free rein to overhaul the company.

Conway established several key goals, among them:

  • Create a back-to-business atmosphere at PeopleSoft while saving key employees in the midst of departing for the dotcom dreamland. He increased salaries, reduced vesting time on options from four years to two years, and managed to stem the tide of defections, reducing turnover from 30% in 1999 to a very reasonable 10% in 2000. Half of the executive management team departed, unable or unwilling to participate in such fundamental changes to the company. The other half were Conway backers who knew the company needed to change or face extinction.

  • Move all corporate applications to the Internet. Conway was convinced that "pure Internet" (client browser interface; "zero client footprint") was the future of enterprise applications, and the place where PeopleSoft could gain competitive advantage.

  • Build a CRM offering to add to its Human Resources, Supply Chain Management, and Financials suites, turning the company into a true, end-to-end player.

  • Deliver collaborative e-business applications, allowing PeopleSoft components to interact with software elements from other companies. The strategy here was both a realistic one and a marketing one. First, Conway knew that the key to collaboration was to "play nice" with others in the field. There was no way to build a PeopleSoft-only application suite and still enable companies to work collaboratively with other companies, be they partners or suppliers. But Conway also believed that, by allowing current, say Oracle or SAP, customers to add bits of PeopleSoft functionality, PeopleSoft was gaining a toehold in companies it couldn't otherwise access.

Steps on the Path 

Conway began with an overhaul of his existing Human Resource, Supply Chain Management, and Financials applications, focusing his engineers on full re-writes of the code in XML and HTML, for the Internet. The first result of the efforts was the shipping of PeopleSoft 8 in September of 2000. The suite included complete re-writes of PeopleSoft Supply Chain Management, PeopleSoft Human Resources Management, and PeopleSoft Financials. PeopleSoft considers their new, Internet-only architecture to be the industry's most open and scalable e-Business platform, facilitating application integration and collaborative commerce. As many as 60 other applications, among them Customer Relationship Management (fundamentally, the unchanged Vantive Support and Field Service modules) and Employee Relationship Management, were also shipped, though they were not fully Internet enabled.

Once the first version of PeopleSoft 8 was released, phased releases of other components kept apace while Conway trained 100 engineers under "Operation Leapfrog," on the task of overhauling and completely Internet-enabling the CRM components gained in the company's acquisition in January of 2000 of the fallen-from-grace CRM vendor, Vantive.

From December of 2000 through June of 2001, key PeopleSoft releases included PeopleSoft Portals, containing Employee, Customer, and Supplier portals; PeopleSoft CRM Analytics, which includes Sales Activity Insight, Marketing Insight, and Customer Scorecard, integrating customer analysis across the front office; PeopleSoft 8 Supplier Relationship Management (SRM), a roles-based, collaborative portal between company and suppliers.

Finally, the January 2000 acquisition of Vantive paid off in the company's delivery of PeopleSoft 8 Customer Relationship Management in July, 2001.

For considerable background and analysis of PeopleSoft's move to the Internet, view TEC's three part series:

Review of PeopleSoft's Collaborative-Commerce-related Applications and Tools 

eBusiness Applications

  1. PeopleSoft Portals - PeopleSoft offers three flavors of portal: Employee, Customer, and Supplier. PeopleSoft employs tools from Interwoven for content management. Here, we look at the Customer and Supplier Portals:

    • Customer Portal - includes PeopleSoft eStore, and allows users to generate their own quotes while checking updated prices and product availability, place their own orders, and keep abreast of order status. Customers can fulfill their transactions through PeopleSoft eBill Payment credit card facility. Customers are able to view their account balances, recent transactions, and payment history, as well as verify invoices and make payments on invoices and account balances, in real time. Once customers receive their product, they are supported through PeopleSoft Support, where they can search a knowledge base for answers to problems, and create and check status of problem tickets

    • Supplier Portal - embodied in PeopleSoft 8 Supplier Relationship Management (SRM), which is a roles-based, collaborative portal and includes eSupplier Connection, a company-to-supplier collaboration vehicle to enable suppliers to monitor and maintain a company's inventory levels, and; eProductManagement, allowing company engineers to communicate online with suppliers to manage product design and changes.

  2. eProcurement - Provides internal users with online catalogs, automated authorization workflows, the ability to determine availability of funds, and ability to transmit or receive online Purchase Orders, Shipment Notices, Return Requests, and funds.

  3. Trading Exchanges - Enables the establishment of private trading exchanges between a company and its partners. Through PeopleSoft's acquisition of Cohera, the system provides a web-based format for managing catalog content

Customer Relationship Management Applications 

PeopleSoft's CRM package includes functionality in four key front-office areas: support, marketing, sales, and professional services.

Support - Some of the more basic support functionality found in state-of-the-art CRM packages today can be found in PeopleSoft's solution, including: multi-channel support (handles incoming web, phone, fax, or email inquiries), SLA, warranty and RMA tracking, and self-service components in the aforementioned Customer Portal. But more advanced elements are missing, including web assistance tools such as Live Chat, Collaborative Web Browsing, Call Me Now functionality, VoIP (Voice over IP), Message Boards, and Chat Rooms.

Marketing - Includes basic Campaign management (segmentation, tracking) and analysis, but little support for "closed loop" targeted campaigning that has been the hallmark of E.Piphany.

Sales - Through a portal interface, includes such capabilities as automated forecasting, lead and account management, automated quote and proposal generation, and integrated analytics. The Sales team can also access, though not update, account and order information from the field through PeopleSoft Mobile Sales for WAP Phones. In addition, anticipated for release early next year will be new mobile-ready applications, which will place roughly 500K of code on client devices so employees can access, untethered, limited content and features of the PeopleSoft 8 suite. It will employ IBM's DB2 Everyplace as the local data store.

Professional Services - PeopleSoft's Enterprise Services Automation (ESA) module includes tools to control services incoming to the company, as well as services outgoing from the company (the latter more commonly referred to as Professional Services Automation, or PSA, and typically grouped under companies' CRM solutions).

The PSA component includes project management, automated resource scheduling, as well as online staff collaboration, augmented through the announced integration in July, 2001, of eRoom's Digital Workspace, apparently indicating that the company had severed a previously-announced plan to use Lotus' Quickplace and Sametime services for the same purpose.

Open Integration Framework (OIF)

This technology foundation works through so-called Enterprise Integration Points, which are pre-built connections that allow PeopleSoft applications to share data with other applications. PeopleSoft delivers an EIP Catalog which defines its publish-and-subscribe asynchronous messaging architecture, its object-oriented, request-and-reply synchronous component architecture, and its Business Interlinks which allow access to third-party API's from within the PeopleSoft architecture.

Integration with IBM's WebSphere and BEA's WebLogic Application Servers

In July of 2001, PeopleSoft announced plans to pre-integrate IBM's WebSphere application server into its enterprise application suite. Also, toward the end of September, PeopleSoft announced that it had already integrated BEA Systems' WebLogic application server into its enterprise application suite, and that it planned on participating in the BEA WebLogic Integration Adapter program, which is based on the Java 2 Enterprise Edition Connector Architecture (J2EE CA) standard and enables standards-based inter-application integration. In fact, both solutions move the integration problem to industry-standard application servers, greatly simplifying integration efforts.


We make our observations in three categories: Application Depth and Breadth, Technology, and Other Considerations.

Application Depth and Breadth

With the availability under the PeopleSoft 8 banner of the standard CRM components (Sales, Marketing, Customer Support, Professional Services Automation ), and eCRM (portal-based sales and support) on the front end, Human Resources and Financials in the middle, and Supply Chain Management (including eProcurement and Supplier portal technology) on the backend, it looks, breadth-wise, that PeopleSoft has the Collaborative Commerce game covered, with the notable exception of Channel Management. When we look at individual components and compare horizontal functionality with best-of-breed competitors in each segment, we find holes, particularly on the front end. It's not surprising, given that the application and its development base are so new, but they're holes that other enterprise-wide vendors have filled, and PeopleSoft will have to play catch up.

The tradeoff in product depth has probably come as the company strove to completely re-write code natively for the Internet (using XML, HTML, and Javascript). In a way, you could very well think of PeopleSoft 8 not as the eighth iteration of a product under long-time development, but instead as Version 1.0 of a company's web-based product suite, with more robust application and integration support sure to come.

But for now, we need to mention some of the weak points in the current product. On the front end, in the CRM space, there are notable gaps. There is no online, collaborative help afforded customers, either in the sales cycle or in the support cycle. In sales, PeopleSoft does not support Collaborative Web Browsing, any form of Interactive, Guided Selling, Online Chat, Call Me Now functionality, or Voice over IP (VoIP). In support, though there is the availability of an online knowledgebase for researching problems, there, again, are no Chat, Call Me Now or Voice over IP facilities, nor can users seek out other users via Message Boards or Chat Rooms. These are difficult omissions to not notice when the scope of analysis is collaboration.

Also on the Sales side, there are no Sales Channel Management tools, to better enable partners to sell to and serve customers on your behalf.

PeopleSoft's mobile solutions are comparatively weak. Their support for wireless technology (specifically, Wireless Application Protocol, or WAP), only enables sales people to view, not change, update, or add, account and order activity. Other companies are already providing bi-directional support on PDA's, two-way pagers, and cell phones. And, though PeopleSoft has announced plans to support untethered access to corporate data in an approach requiring the install of IBM's DB2 Everyplace database and periodic synching to the corporate network, it has yet to appear. This is functionality that Siebel, for example, has long had.

Peoplesoft's marketing solutions are fine as far as they go, but they represent only a chip against the block of, for example, industry leader E.Piphany's closed-loop package.


We're very happy with PeopleSoft's inter-application integration tools. Their Open Integration Framework, with messaging and component architecture well-defined in their Enterprise Integration Points catalog, their open API toolkit, and their componentized approach to application rollout, enable the XML and HTML engineers of the world to lock in to bits of PeopleSoft functionality, and stream data back and forth to legacy systems. An even greater step toward openness and integration comes in the form of embedded support for both IBM's WebSphere and BEA's WebLogic application servers. In particular, engineers following the industry standard J2EE CA (java-based component architecture) will be happy with PeopleSoft's relationships.

Other Considerations

Happily, PeopleSoft is back on firmer financial turf. It returned to profitability in the first quarter of 2000, and has remained profitable since.

The company's new, upcoming pricing model might surprise you. The company plans to "value price" its components, but we're not talking about the department-store "value pricing" euphemism here. Instead, PeopleSoft plans to price its software based on its customers' revenues, or, in other words, based on its customers' ability to pay, not, paradoxically, based on the value their customers derive from the software itself, most often represented (granted somewhat inaccurately) by number of total seats or concurrent user licenses sold. So, if your company is small and pulls in fewer dollars, you get PeopleSoft on the cheap. If you're big and powerful, it'll cost you more than a dime. This, in our eyes, makes little sense, since this may dis-incent big accounts from buying the PeopleSoft solution. We'll need to see how the numbers actually work out in negotiations over time to know if PeopleSoft is doing itself a disservice.

Bottom Line 

PeopleSoft 8 is a bold, swift, sickle swipe at the client-server landscape, clearing a clean Internet path, and leading the way. If you are hell bent on zero footprint applications across your entire organization, then PeopleSoft is showing the way. But it's not without it's drawbacks. This Internet Version 1.0 is not as functionally robust as other solutions, and an HTML-only interface for all modules might actually hinder the development of, or at least make less accessible, more advanced functionality.

The client-server-to-thin-client pendulum has swung from one extreme to the other, but might better be positioned somewhere in the middle to satisfy all users. Functionality and interface considerations aside, PeopleSoft's solutions for application integration and inter-corporate collaboration are best of breed, and tits allowance for a step-wise approach to purchasing and implementing its components, allows for great implementation flexibility.

This concludes TEC's series on Collaborative Commerce.

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