As corporations rein in spending on IT and demand quicker returns on investment, developers such as PeopleSoft Inc. are responding with programs that promise to get their enterprise software up and running quicker.
PeopleSoft, of Pleasanton, Calif., last quarter rolled out its new Accelerated Implementations program, which provides a streamlined methodology for deploying application bundles for specific business processes at a fixed price in as little as 12 weeks.
For instance, if a company wants to automate the procure-to-pay process, Accelerated Implementations provides licenses to the required PeopleSoft applications, a plan for installing the software and a set number of professional service days.
"This is a fixed-scope, vanilla implementation with a limited ability to customize," said Bill Henry, vice president of strategy for PeopleSoft Global Services. "If somebody wants to do a lot of customization, this is not a great option."
Rapid deployment methodologies for enterprise applications have been around for a while. Other software vendors, such as Oracle Corp. and SAP AG, offer accelerated deployment options for their own software, and professional services companies such as BearingPoint Inc. have similar programs. PeopleSoft officials, however, said they know their own software best.
Ensco International Inc., a Dallas-based oil- and gas-drilling contractor, last year decided to replace its collection of best-of-breed enterprise software with PeopleSofts packaged applications. With the developers evolving rapid implementation methodology, Ensco was able to deploy PeopleSoft Financials in six months, less than half the time expected, according to Ensco Vice President of IT and CIO Tom Chapman (pictured left). The company is now deploying Payroll, Human Resources and Enterprise Performance Management applications.
"We definitely look at [our PeopleSoft implementation] as business processes; we dont think of it as modules," Chapman said. When Ensco deployed PeopleSoft, "we were charged with implementing best business practices," he said.
A key tenet of PeopleSofts Accelerated Implementations is that many businesses dont need to customize their software to efficiently run parts of their business. Customization involves changing the base code of an application that will then need attention from hard-core developers every time the application is modified. In-stead, the PeopleSoft applications allow various configurations that are much easier and quicker to deploy and, in many cases, represent best practices for carrying out those business processes. "The willingness to do best practices brings down implementation and maintenance costs," Henry said.
Chapman said some customization is inevitable, even when a company is committed to changing its business processes to fit the software. "At our highest level of management we were [told] to do a pure-vanilla installation; that is what we were charged with," he said. "But, on the other hand, that is almost impossible."
Ensco customized less than 1 percent of the PeopleSoft software it installed.
Another key to speeding up PeopleSoft implementations is the reliance on nine Solution Centers, where teams from the customers company come together with PeopleSoft implementation specialists.
PeopleSoft converted some data from Enscos existing software systems before Ensco staff showed up at the Atlanta Solution Center. "We had our own live data to work with when we arrived in the lab," said Brad Worley (pictured on right), Enscos project manager for the PeopleSoft deployment. "We were able to walk in and start using the system as we would [when it went live]."
Chapman credited the PeopleSoft training and documentation as one of the keys to a rapid implementation. This was important because Ensco tapped its line-of-business employees, such as the accounts payable supervisor, to provide application support.
"That was strongly advised by PeopleSoft; they have their act together when it comes to a rapid implementation," Chapman said.