PeopleSoft Delivers Oxymoron In 'Supply Chain in a Box'

PeopleSoft Delivers Oxymoron In "Supply Chain in a Box"
S. McVey - November 10, 2000

Event Summary

At its annual user conference in late October, PeopleSoft trumpeted the availability of its revamped supply chain management solution ambitiously titled, PeopleSoft Supply Chain in a Box. The new solution combines applications for customer management, e-commerce, order fulfillment, planning, and supply chain analytics and delivers them via multiple channels including an Internet portal and handheld devices. PeopleSoft claims the "Box" automates a large variety of business functions from managing sales leads to planning, filling orders, and collecting cash. Customers will be able to check the status of orders, account balances and payment histories, and place orders on-line.

According to Mike Frandsen, Vice President and General Manager of PeopleSoft's Supply Chain Division, "PeopleSoft Supply Chain in a Box is a completely new way of implementing an end-to-end supply chain solution. This pre-assembled solution can begin paying back a customer's investment immediately." Though the software may enable the stated functions, the proposition that it can deliver them in a pre-assembled, pre-packaged and pre-configured manner stretches the limits of imagination.

Market Impact

PeopleSoft Supply Chain in a Box is hardly the first supply chain software product promising pre-packaged functionality and rapid deployment. Pure play supply chain management vendors like i2 Technologies and Logility have offered configurable pieces of the overall supply chain puzzle for many years, but have never offered a complete solution "in a box". One reason is that these solutions, like the supply chains they support, are enormously complex.

The possibility of shrink-wrapping software to represent and support a supply chain, really a network linking a company's internal operations with external suppliers and customers, is not easy to believe. To us, a package that comes "in a box" is ready to install and run, with at most an hour or so spent choosing parameters from a predefined list or using a simple configuration wizard. Can a product that claims to automate business processes across enterprises really arrive in a box? Such a packaged suite of applications would have to seamlessly touch critical points within the systems of all of a company's trading partners and produce immediate benefits. Would that this was so, but we fear that the claim is incredible even in the era of XML and wireless communication.

Brash announcements by ERP vendors aimed at cutting a way into the supply chain management market are common, of course, and PeopleSoft's claims are no less extravagant than others are. The announcement may serve to attract attention in the short term, but only proven application of its supply chain solutions will enable the vendor to contend on an equal footing with SAP, J.D. Edwards, and Oracle.

User Recommendations

We are sure that there are small organizations with simple supply chains for which the product might well run "out of the box." But in general, users would do well to take PeopleSoft's claims with a vein of salt and maintain realistic expectations regarding the challenges they will face in integrating their supply chains. Don't buy this or any other system on the basis of such over worn vendor hype as "immediate return on investment," "rapid deployment," and "seamless integration out of the box." Do a careful selection process and ask each bidder to provide a realistic estimate of the time and cost of installation; give preference to those vendors who will back up their estimates with rebates or free services.

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