Quest user group still angry at PeopleSoft snub

Anyone expecting a thaw in the chilly relationship between PeopleSoft and the Quest user group, which PeopleSoft inherited when...

Anyone expecting a thaw in the chilly relationship between PeopleSoft and the Quest user group, which PeopleSoft inherited when it bought JD Edwards last year, is in for a long, cold wait.

What upset the user group was PeopleSoft's abrupt withdrawal of support for a regional user conference held last week in Chicago. Quest officials claimed that PeopleSoft withdrew in an effort to stifle the group's independence.

However, PeopleSoft said it had already declared that it would not attend the show and that it is creating - with user guidance - its own support model for customer events. A spokesman for the company said that PeopleSoft prefers to have one user group conference for customers of all of its software.

"Quest will continue to try to re-establish a relationship with PeopleSoft, but until they are receptive to our overtures, there is not much that can be done," said John Matelski, the Orlando city government's deputy chief information officer and a Quest board member.

Matelski added that he is committed to working with a three-month-old joint committee of Quest and PeopleSoft users to create a new template for user group events. 

"I am not going to let one misguided decision impact our relationship with a mission-critical vendor," Matelski said. "However, if this proves a precursor for other ill-advised decisions, then the city of Orlando may need to re-evaluate its stance." 

During the show, which drew about 550 attendees, Quest representatives laid out further charges against PeopleSoft and posted them on the group's website. During a question-and-answer session at the user conference, Quest president Barbara Schmit said PeopleSoft withdrew its support because "it disagreed with some of Quest's communications to members".

Schmit also said PeopleSoft had wanted to review Quest's communications and make it retract a claim that PeopleSoft would support Quest's global conference. 

She claimed that PeopleSoft wanted to be freed of any existing customer-related legal or pecuniary obligations to Quest and sought the return of customer marketing data JD Edwards had shared with Quest to help it recruit for its conferences. 

"As an independent user group, we believe it is necessary to maintain the right to communicate with members frequently and in an open, unedited manner," said Schmit, who is also CIO of storage networking company Computer Network Technology. She said the group's board had "felt that commitments to customers should be followed through on". 

Her comments were posted on the Quest website. 

In response, PeopleSoft spokesman Steve Swasey said Quest had claimed falsely that PeopleSoft made commitments beyond its agreed-upon support for the Chicago show and three more shows through February. Quest has said PeopleSoft would support the user group's global and regional conferences until 2006 - something PeopleSoft denied it planned to do back in August . 

"We just did not want Quest to convey that PeopleSoft is obligated when it's not. It was very clear to Quest it wasn't," Swasey said. "We want the message to be honest." 

As for the customer data, PeopleSoft wanted its use discontinued because it said the list was outdated. "We told Quest on 15 December [that] they had seven days to comply, and they didn't," said Swasey. "At that point we said, 'You don't have a relationship with us'." 

While a couple of Quest attendees said they felt the show was successful without PeopleSoft, there is some dissent over how the user board is handling the issue. 

"Quest's board stubbornly refuses to accept the changed reality," said Dave Hyzy, director of IT at property developer Benderson Development.

"Instead of asking or polling their members' opinion/reaction to the absence of PeopleSoft at the conference, Quest seems insistent on spinning the situation as a 'jilted lover' to full effect." 

The Quest board seems more interested in preserving its bureaucracy "than in working with PeopleSoft to resolve this rift in the best interests of the members", he added.

Marc L Songini writes for Computerworld

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