Page Three

By Dennis Callaghan  |  Posted 2003-06-09 Print this article Print

Even before the Oracle shocker, ERP software customers large and small found themselves suddenly taking stock of existing infrastructures. They also were trying to forecast the future in light of PeopleSoft-J.D. Edwards and the news that an investor group announced it is buying enterprise software developer and erstwhile Oracle competitor Baan from Invensys plc. for $135 million. Cerberus Capital Management LP and General Atlantic Partners LLC plans to combine Baan with another ERP maker, SSA Global Technologies Inc. to create a $600 million company.

Enterprise IT customers are taking a cautious approach. The dilemma: Customers that stick with PeopleSoft or Baan could get early access to a range of new software capabilities. But they do so at the risk of disruptions to their principal technology providers business by integration challenges and distractions.

"Customers have options these days, and [PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards] cannot afford to lose any of their customer base," said Irving Tyler, CIO of Quaker Chemical Corp. The Conshohocken, Pa., company recently standardized on J.D. Edwards for its back-office applications. "I am optimistic that they can leverage the strengths of the two companies in a way that will drive benefit for their customers. [But] they really have to focus on this."

Though the J.D. Edwards buyout is in doubt now, it would present obvious opportunities for enterprise customers. Users that were once attracted to features unique to the Denver-based J.D. Edwards software but reluctant to commit because of the companys relatively small size will now have the backing of a large company.

According to PeopleSoft officials, in Pleasanton, Calif., the company plans to tightly integrate its services-oriented enterprise software, which has an emphasis on human resources management, with J.D. Edwards applications. The broader offerings will be knit together using PeopleSofts Integration Broker technology, said Conway.

The two companies applications "will integrate way better [than they do now]," Conway told eWEEK. But even if the company winds up supporting two or three architectures, "we will maintain the customers investment. You should expect a steady, continuous stream of enhanced capability that starts to cross-pollinate within months" of the closing of the deal, he said.

As a proof point, Conway referred to his companys acquisition and integration four years ago of Vantive Corp., a CRM developer. Over time, PeopleSoft integrated the software with its Internet architecture. But pulling off such integration efforts is not as straightforward as it sounds.

Dan Donshik, who has worked as a consultant with PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards technologies over the past decade, called the two architectures "dramatically different."

"We looked for cross-synergies [between PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards], but it was very difficult," said Donshik, executive vice president at Rollcage Technology Inc., in Simsbury, Conn. "J.D. Edwards is steeped in the AS/400, which is something PeopleSoft will have to contend with." Nevertheless, Donshik said he sees good things coming out of the merger.

Electronic Theatre Controls Inc. was a Vantive customer when PeopleSoft bought that company. Tracy Wundrock, director of IS at the Middleton, Wis., lighting company, said ETC had the typical concerns about having to change to a new companys software at the time. But in the end, Wundrock said, PeopleSoft made Vantives software better by making it Web-based and adding new process and workflow capabilities.

"Im completely satisfied with everything Ive seen PeopleSoft do," Wundrock said. "After they picked up the Vantive customer base, they didnt cut off support; they provided a lot of transition information. They were concerned about the continuity of our business. They dont want to just rip and replace the software."

Additional reporting by Lisa Vaas


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