CXO

Will PeopleSoft survive in the PSA market?

The nascent professional services automation (PSA) market doesn't have a clear market leader. PeopleSoft hopes to leverage its position as an ERP player, but not everyone thinks this strategy will work.


In late February 2000, PeopleSoft unveiled its professional services automation (PSA) solution, challenging vendors, such as Niku, Evolve, and Novient. PSA tools provide service firms with applications for project management and proposal planning. Although PeopleSoft is one of the first ERP vendors to enter the market, it will require more than just an extension of its enterprise application product line for the Pleasanton, CA-based company to conquer the market.

What PeopleSoft’s PSA application offers
“Customer relationship management and engagement management are the core suites,” said John Weston, vice president for PSA at PeopleSoft. “Companies do not need to implement the entire solution because it is modular. You can address your most urgent business needs first and then add on as needed.”
  • CRM module (lead and opportunity tracking as well as post-sale support)
  • Resource Management
  • Contracts
  • Mobile time and expense
  • Travel
  • Human Resources Management
  • Billing
  • Receivables
  • Enterprise Resource Management

What is the technology backbone, and how does it work?
“The user interface is based on a pure-Internet 'no-client.' We call it the no-client because there is not desktop software. It’s all through a browser. The application is a thin HTML application client, so your network requirements are very small. This is important to services organizations that have consultants connecting from locations all over the world,” said Weston.

The application has an open integration framework that is based on XML integration. This is important as companies look to integrate not only other applications, but Internet sources, as well. For example, PeopleSoft recently announced an agreement with Opus360 that allows professional services organizations, using PeopleSoft’s PSA solution, to have seamless access to contractors via Opus360’s FreeAgent.com.

Can PeopleSoft dodge the ERP legacy?
Even with a scalable, Internet-based architecture, market penetration won’t be easy. One of the toughest obstacles that ERP vendors entering the PSA market face is shaking a history of costly implementations that don’t deliver what they promise. However, Weston believes that PeopleSoft uses its strength as a leading ERP vendor to compete in the PSA space. “We have a very focused PSA effort, but as an ERP company, we also have a huge advantage. In addition to offering customers engagement and opportunity management, we can provide them complete integration with human resources and financial applications,” said Weston.

Since the PSA market doesn’t have a clear leader, PeopleSoft is in a position to capitalize on its breadth of products. However, critics note that you cannot approach a PSA application like an ERP application. “When you write a tool for a person that spends his day at the terminal as an accounts receivable clerk, the UI can be less attractive and have a complex training process because their job is to use your solution,” said John O’Neil, CEO of e-business solutions provider Business Engine Software. “But, when you write a PSA solution, 90 percent of the users have another job and are going to spend a minimal amount of time on your application during the day. They will just get frustrated.”

Tracking down talent
If you lead IT efforts for a professional services organization, how do you find top IT talent? Drop us an e-mail or post a comment.

 

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