The question remains, then, what will the technology landscape look like should Oracle succeed in its PeopleSoft bid? Phillips said Oracle does not believe in a converged product. "Its a very risky strategy to combine and merge code that wasnt meant for each other," he said. "What happens is you spend too much time doing integration, where everyone else is innovating.""We are very, very happy with PeopleSoft human resources and are of the mind that Oracle Financials are a good product. [But if] Oracle acquires PeopleSoft, there will be a conversion for us as Oracle puts more of its efforts into something that is homogenous," said Wright, in Toronto. "Oracle has said they will support [PeopleSoft], but you have to wonder if youll be on the PeopleSoft platform long term." Oracles Phillips said the company will support PeopleSoft post-merger but Oracle is committed to its current applications. "Were not saying were going to actively market all the products. Well have one answer for a new prospectthe E-Business Suite." "What do they mean by support? You dont really know," said Rick Lowrey, executive vice president at Deltek Systems Inc., a maker of ERP software for the midmarket, in Herndon, Va. "We could support a product for 10 years and not put a dime into it." ERP developers have to work harder at offering streamlined, end-to-end packages, some users say. The danger, however, lies in bundling too much into one package. Keith Morrow, CIO and vice president of IS at 7-Eleven Inc., is in the process of standardizing his company on Oracles E-Business Suite. "[ERP companies] need to be just as open and modular as they can be and adopt emerging technology," said Morrow, in Dallas. "If you dont keep it modular and nimble and [include] emerging technologies like Web services, companies and suites get so large they become landlocked." Morrow said his concern is that with consolidation, Oracle will become so complex it will inhibit him from making changes in the suite. "Right now, with all the company that weve got running on this suite, if we make a change in fixed assets, we have to make a step with the software that affects every department," said Morrow. "We do not have the luxury of taking down our primary IT system for 10 days for an upgradeit just cant happen." Yet, with ERP companies generally looking to take new development in the same direction, some IT managers say their relationship with a vendor has become more important than ever. "Whats interesting is a lot of [ERP software makers] are standardizing on Web services using front-end Web development tools. What people dont like to admit is that a lot of implementation involves customization, so [technologies] all morph," said Todd Inlander, CIO at Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., in Riverside, Calif. "So its almost less important in the technology but [more important] in the availability of talent and how the vendor supports you. "Pick your poison, and everyone has some issue. So what it comes down to is your relationship with your vendor," said Inlander. "With massive consolidation, thats the most troubling thought."
"Naturally, there is some healthy skepticism in what will play out in the longer time frame," said John Wright, executive vice president and CIO of Sun Life Financial Inc.