Ray Richards is founder of Mindspan Consultants and a technology journalist hailing from Ottawa, Canada

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ERP: PeopleSoft

As you may recall, last time around we took an in depth look at SAP's R/3 enterprise resource planning software. This month we shall continue our investigation of ERP solution providers with an examination of the industry's number two software vendor: PeopleSoft.

Who are they?

Founded in 1987 and headquartered in Pleasanton, California, PeopleSoft employs 6500 workers world-wide and posted revenues of US $815 million dollars in 1997. While not nearly the same size of rival SAP, PeopleSoft has enjoyed enormous success in the Canadian public sector with installations in the Department of National Defence, Citizenship and Immigration, Agriculture Canada, Government of Alberta, the National Capital Commission, and Corrections Canada to name but a very few. This is probably due to the fact that PeopleSoft has had the foresight to introduce products and services specifically geared to this market. Indeed, this corporation has aggressively targeted 11 key industry segments, namely: communications, the US federal government, financial services, healthcare, higher education, public sector, retail, service industries, transportation, and utility companies.

This specialisation has been a key element of their success and is in stark contrast to other ERP vendors which tend to tailor their wares to fit specification after the sale has been made, resulting in costly implementation cycles and outrageous consulting fees. This is not to say that a PeopleSoft installation is a simple affair, far from it. It is, however, often seen as a preferable option as it leverages similarities in business models across the sector in order to expedite implementation by way of reduced customisation.

The Core Products

At the heart of PeopleSoft's ERP suite of products for the public sector are five applications which address primary business processes:

  • PeopleSoft Human Resources Management is a modular system which facilitates the management of positions, compensation, recruiting, hiring , and training of employees. Additionally, PeopleSoft HRMS handles the promotion or retirement of personnel, resource allocation and ensures compliance with local regulatory requirements. HRMS automates workflow, assuring appropriate staff are alerted and tasked when a given set of conditions apply. A possible example: upon entry of a new employee into the system of company "X", payroll is notified, an orientation meeting is scheduled, office supplies are ordered, computer services is notified of new requirements including access rights and hardware needs, business cards are ordered and taxation forms are generated.  Initially developed and rolled out in 1988, this application is the cornerstone of PeopleSoft's ERP edifice. In fact, due to the enormous success of this single product, the company has captured over 50 percent of the HRMS industry world-wide and shows little sign of relinquishing market share to hungry competitors in this arena.
  •  PeopleSoft Financial Management was developed to augment the human resources offering and has enjoyed some measure of success against larger competitors in this area. In addition to the standard components such as general ledger, payables and receivables, this application has modules for asset management, inventory control, and budgeting. On the heels of a Gartner Group report, which states that up to 1/3 of spiralling IT costs may be recovered by the institution of appropriate asset management strategies, the component addressing this concern has been of interest to many. This module allows you to monitor the lifecycle of anything from a fax machine to an office building and facilitates the planning of asset acquisition and retirement. It determines depreciation, allows for leased item accounting and even monitors insurance requirements.
  • PeopleSoft Treasury Management addresses the often complex world of cash and deal management with provisions for foreign currency exchange risk hedging, portfolio administration and daily cash management forecasting.
  • PeopleSoft Project Management is a comprehensive application which speaks to nearly every aspect of this concern. It provides financial data on project related costs (labour, materials, expenses), allows for "what if" analyses to determine project profitability and form contingency plans based on projected outcomes, maintains schedules and continuously updates project status.
  • PeopleSoft Performance Measurement is one of the more interesting modules of the core set. It addresses strategic planning by utilising many advanced features such as activity based costing, business activity simulation, and on-line analytical processing (OLAP). It will soon feature a "Performance Measurement Warehouse" (due for release in Q1 of 1999) upon which a variety of data mining tools might be employed in order to extract useful business intelligence and get a leg up on the competition or more effectively serve your client base.

While these applications form the nucleus of the PeopleSoft system, there are many other modules available including: Sales and Logistics, Materials Management and Supply Chain Planning which definitely merit examination. A distant second in terms of revenue to the Goliath SAP, PeopleSoft is nonetheless well worth watching. Due to release an entire new line of Performance Management applications in 1999, PeopleSoft is definitely poised to give the competition some cause for concern in the next millennium!

Originally published in Government Computer Magazine, December, 1998, by technology columnist, Ray Richards.

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