PeopleSoft got into the customer relationship management market when it acquired Vantive early last year and released a Web-based version of Vantive's applications as part of its PeopleSoft 8 product line last June. With the upcoming upgrades PeopleSoft is looking to put itself in a position to compete head-on with Siebel, Oracle and SAP for CRM installations.
"My goal in 2002 is [for us] to emerge as the clear alternative to Siebel," said Phil Wilmington, executive vice-president of North American operations and global alliances at PeopleSoft. "I think it's Siebel and three [other] players now: us, Oracle and SAP."
At a customer event on 4 December, Wilmington and other PeopleSoft executives said the company plans to ship an initial CRM upgrade before the end of the year, with features tailored for financial services industry users plus support for a third-party tool to integrate the software with Microsoft's Outlook e-mail software.
A more substantial upgrade will follow in March and will include a mobile version of the applications and features geared toward other vertical industries, such as insurance, PeopleSoft said. Dubbed Version 8.4, the upgrade will also add a module aimed at help desks that need to track software defects.
Rick Bergquist, PeopleSoft's chief technology officer, acknowledged that analysts have identified some areas in which the company's CRM applications fall short of Siebel's technology. But once Version 8.4 ships, he said: "we don't think we'll have any large competitive gaps out there".
PeopleSoft has sold its CRM applications to about 125 customers, and Bergquist said roughly 10 companies have gone live with the software.
Thomson's Financial's portfolio solutions subsidiary, which develops investment management and accounting software, is one user that has PeopleSoft 8 CRM in place. Thomson Financial rolled out some of the applications for 160 employees earlier this year in the first phase of a long-term project that eventually could involve 2,000 end users.
Craig Berkson, chief information officer at the portfolio solutions unit, said PeopleSoft's Web-based client software significantly reduces desktop support issues because no code needs to be installed on PCs. But Berkson added that there are some functional differences between PeopleSoft 8 CRM and the last release of Vantive's applications, which he had initially installed at one division.
For example, Berkson said, the PeopleSoft 8 product has less-sophisticated relationship modelling capabilities because it was based on an earlier Vantive release. As a result, he said, users may have to customise the software in order to set up a real-world data model.
The CRM 8.4 upgrade should include more flexible data modelling capabilities, he said, adding that Thomson Financial is also interested in the Outlook integration and the mobile computing capabilities PeopleSoft is promising.