PeopleSofts Conway Slams SAP CEO

By Dennis Callaghan  |  Posted 2004-05-18

PeopleSofts Conway Slams SAP CEO

LAS VEGAS—Now that PeopleSoft is the clear No. 2 in the enterprise application software space after completing its acquisition of J.D. Edwards and staving off Oracles hostile takeover bid, the company sought to leave little doubt in the minds of attendees of its Executive Leadership Summit here that its ready to take on No. 1.

Speaking before an audience of mostly executive-level customers and prospects Tuesday, PeopleSoft Inc. CEO Craig Conway unloaded on SAP AG and its CEO, Henning Kagermann.

Conway accused Kagermann of lifting elements of a January speech Conway gave in Germany for Kagermanns own keynote at SAPs Sapphire user group conference in New Orleans last week.

Click here to read more about Kagermanns keynote at Sapphire.

"I spent 40 minutes [during the January speech] mostly talking about flexibility and adaptability, and what a surprise, Henning Kagermanns speech at Sapphire last week is about flexibility and adaptability," Conway said. "At least I know someone over there was listening," he joked.

"Henning Kagermann talking about flexibility and adaptability is like [former French president] Francois Mitterand talking about having a deep affection for American tourists. Its not true. Just because they say its true doesnt make it true."

When asked about his comments during a news conference after the keynote, Conway, who earlier in the speech described SAPs software as "poured in concrete," didnt back down.

"I didnt mean to take a cheap shot at SAP but its not a cheap shot when its true. PeopleSoft has always been known for having a more flexible, customizable architecture."

Elsewhere in his keynote, Conway recounted events of the past year, including the J.D. Edwards & Co. acquisition and Oracle Corp.s takeover attempt.

Oracle reduced its hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft by nearly 20 percent. Click here to read more.

Conway also reviewed the evolution of the software industry and examined its current state. "In this third generation of software, applications have moved online and been connected together," he said, adding that companies have started thinking not in terms of individual applications but about entire business processes.

"Now, companies are putting business processes online in real time. Things keep getting better and better," Conway said. "Companies have an inexhaustible appetite to improve their business processes."

When it comes to business automation, PeopleSoft and SAP are heading down decidedly different paths. Click here to read more.

Conway cited five trends driving PeopleSofts immediate future: increased flexibility and adaptability; gaining more intelligence from business processes, particularly predictive intelligence; improving the ownership experience of software by reducing the costs of application management, maintenance and upgrades; discovering a new class of applications to improve productivity and efficiency; and reaching more companies, particularly in the midmarket.

Next Page: Midsize companies have a need to deploy enterprise software, Conway says.

Targeting Midmarket

"Software companies have always coveted selling software to the midmarket," he said. "The problem was there was no imperative for midsized companies to deploy enterprise software. Today, there is such an imperative.

"Midsize companies have become part of the global business network, the ecosystem of business. Look at Wal-Mart, they have 30,000 suppliers. Today, theres more than an incentive, theres almost a requirement that smaller companies have access to the same tools and same technologies as larger companies."

Many of PeopleSofts announcements at the conference addressed these issues.

And what does the future hold for the company?

"As the economy improves, companies will increase their spending," Conway said. "That will be good for PeopleSoft. And it will benefit us more than our competitors when you look at those five trends."

Conway said "business process outsourcers" would be the "sequel" to ASPs, but that those companies still will require a "rich, proven suite of enterprise software applications. Our software is available to most BPOs," he said.

He derided Microsoft Corp.s .Net, IBM Corp.s WebSphere and SAPs NetWeaver as integration technologies. "To be honest, Im not sure theyre good for customers," he said.

"They seem proprietary. We use a service-oriented architecture to build composite applications. I believe thats a better approach."

Conway described offshoring as a reality for all companies but one that provides only temporary advantage, since all companies can ultimately do it.

"Technology is the ultimate advantage," he said, noting that banks improved their level of service by developing automated teller machines and other companies have delivered better customer service by improving information available to customers, not by offshoring customer-service operations.

"Technology is still the best permanent advantage available to all of us," he said. "Thats what keeps all of us excited about our jobs."

At the end of the news conference preceding his keynote, Conway resorted to military imagery to describe battles to come with SAP.

"The assault on Mount SAP requires another development cycle," he said. "Were evaluating that now."

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