Oracle Releases PeopleSoft 9.0 CRM

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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Oracle Releases PeopleSoft 9.0 CRM

By David Sims

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is one of my favorite recent musical discoveries -- Aimee Mann's Live At St. Ann's Warehouse. That voice, the female equivalent of Lou Reed; had Mann been on The Velvet Underground/Nico instead of Nico that album would have frozen water particles at fifty feet. It's a testament to Jim White's confidence that he let her sing backup on "Static On the Radio" and carjack the song at 65 miles an hour:

As part of the "Applications Unlimited" program, Oracle has announced the availability of Oracle's PeopleSoft Enterprise Customer Relationship Management (CRM) 9.

Highlights of this release, according to Oracle officials, include "new enhancements designed specifically for the financial services and communications industries, usability enhancements designed to help increase productivity and increased use of Oracle Fusion Middleware."

Yes, Oracle considers increased use of Fusion Middleware a "highlight."

Happy Customer Testimonial: DePaul University CRM Craft Team Leader Audrey Bledsoe said "we are looking for ways to decrease maintenance time. This release should help."

PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM 9 mostly has enhancements for business processes and functional enhancements specifically for the communications and financial services industries, while bearing in mind the fact that the move to Internet Protocol services and 3G data networks requires communications service providers to have flexible customer and order management processes.

But of course it reinforces the notion that PeopleSoft is going to be around for a while. See, PeopleSoft has had a problem that other P.S., Penn State, has had in attracting top high school football recruits (stay with me here): You weren't sure if legendary coach Joe Paterno, who went to kindergarten with Teddy Roosevelt, would be around beyond your freshman year. And Penn State without Coach Paterno is kind of like Microsoft without Bill Gates.

After Oracle absorbed PeopleSoft in a takeover giving new dimensions to the term "hostile," everyone wondered if PeopleSoft disappearing down Oracle's maw was the last we'd see of the company. This release goes a long way to assuaging those concerns.

William Band, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. tells industry observer Marc Songini that, in Songini's words, "the launch of PeopleSoft 9.0 should reassure current customers that the software will be further developed and supported and could reduce any interest in alternative software… Companies are generally interested in getting the most from their past investment in CRM solutions, and the new release addresses that need."

Industry observer Sarah Lacy notes that Oracle took over the top market share slot in the Human Capital Management sector "for the first time, thanks to its PeopleSoft acquisition," citing a study recently performed by tech analyst firm AMR. "By the end of 2005, it had 25% of the market, while SAP had 23% -- though the lead will narrow in 2006, when SAP's share will rise to 24% as Oracle’s holds steady, AMR says," Lacy writes.

As she points out PeopleSoft "had been the gold standard for HCM, so the gain isn't entirely surprising." But Lacy finds that "the jump was larger than if PeopleSoft and Oracle's pre-merger revenues were lumped together. In 2004, Oracle sold $324 million of HCM software, and PeopleSoft sold $864 million. But in 2005, the combined company sold nearly $1.4 billion in HCM software."

With PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM 9, Oracle is claiming to deliver "communications-specific care and ordering capabilities to streamline the deployment and maintenance of next generation services." There you go, got almost all the appropriate industry terminology in there. Take a deep breath, guys, you did well.

The product does focus on CRM capabilities for the financial services market. Building on Oracle's core CRM suite and the financial services capabilities of previous releases, enhancements for PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM 9 include such goodies as sample processes for Financial Account Creation, Lead and Referral Management, as well as Web Services for Remote Portlets allowing for PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM 9 content currently available within the PeopleSoft portal technology to be visible within diverse third party portal technologies.

It includes an actionable 360-degree view of customers with a work list and auto-save of recent searches, an auto- population of commonly typed text using hotkeys, and a bulk service management for order capture, calendaring enhancements, lead import performance improvements, mobile sales support for Intellisync Mobile Suite architecture.

John Webb, vice president of enterprise application strategy at Oracle, said the application is "largely targeted at the existing PeopleSoft CRM installed base rather than potential new users." Currently, Webb said, Oracle is treating its recently acquired Siebel Systems Inc. software as its default CRM suite for prospects.

And hey, Oracle officials say the product "delivers 19 new web service enabled transactions with more than 70 service operations, enabling PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM applications to more easily integrate with third party applications and plug into standards-based business processes."

But wait, there's more! "Oracle XML Publisher has been integrated specifically with PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM 9 to help manage correspondence by delivering improved performance for generating documents, improved scalability; improved ability to create correspondence letter templates and real-time merge capabilities and preview of correspondence management."

And if you act before midnight tonight, it "tightly integrates Oracle BPEL Process Manager delivering a standards based business process management tool for organizations to quickly and cost effectively deploy new solutions and business processes across heterogeneous systems."

Whew. And yes, the ginsu knives are still free.

It's all part of Larry Ellison's Master Plan. As Lacy notes, "analysts give Oracle props for overcoming early customer fears that the company would kill PeopleSoft's superior applications. Instead, Oracle has offered lifetime support for the software customers had already bought."

Oracle and SAP are in a fight for "the few remaining up-for-grabs industries, such as retail, banking, and telecommunications," and Lacy's probably correct when she says "strong footholds in human resources and customer care will be a big bonus. To service businesses, that software is more important than manufacturing-friendly software that manages things like when to ship how many widgets to which customers."

So the challenge for Oracle, as it is for any voraciously hungry company, will be "maintaining the momentum, beyond integrating acquisitions."

Not everybody's happy: Technology Solutions Company's Carl F. Dill, Jr., chairman and acting CEO, in announcing results for Q2 2006, said part of the reason for the "mixed" results (net loss of about a million bucks on revenues of $11.5 million) was that "our eopleSoft offering suffered significantly from Oracle's decision to support older releases of PeopleSoft software indefinitely, removing much of the incentive for clients to upgrade to newer versions."

That being the case, Dill said, "we do not see a compelling market for our PeopleSoft offering going forward. Therefore, subsequent to the end of the second quarter, we decided to exit this offering and concentrate our Enterprise Solutions business on SAP. We remain encouraged by the on-going strength of our SAP offering."

Hence, Dill said "our focus going forward will be on our three primary service offerings -- Charter (including CRM), Digital Healthcare, and SAP in Enterprise Solutions."

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