PeopleSoft Inc. is coming off the heels of its marketing push for PeopleSoft 8 and is gearing up for the release of PeopleSoft 8.4 this March. Robb Eklund, vice president of CRM product marketing for PeopleSoft, met with CRM Editor-In-Chief Elliot Markowitz, Senior Editor David Myron, and Senior Editor Jerry Rosa, to talk about transitioning customers from PeopleSoft 8 to PeopleSoft 8.4, which includes more mobile and wireless features.
CRM: How have customers responded to the introduction of PeopleSoft 8 last year?
Robb Eklund: We got tremendous traction in Q4 of this on release 8. We'll be announcing our earnings Thursday of this week, so stay tuned.
It was pretty well known in the industry that we were coming forward with a new product in the third quarter of last year and that made selling products in Q1 and Q2 quite a challenge. With our significant customer base, our challenge was to retain those customers and continue to grow our market share. As I look at the successes we've had in 2001 in terms of raising the visibility of PeopleSoft as a player within this space and a contender against Siebel, we're pretty happy.
CRM: But now it's 2002, so what are you going to do to maintain your momentum and grow your market share?
Eklund: I think it's helpful to look where the CRM space is going. The category emerged primarily as a sales force automation tool. There was huge enthusiasm around automating the sales process and from our perspective the support process. There's value there, much like ERP bringing efficiencies to customer facing business processes. Where we got to last year is to start thinking about extending customer facing business processes horizontally out of the traditional category, integrating it into other systems (i.e. financial systems, supply chain systems, and human resource systems). I would say that that's the golden ring this year going forward. What vendor can do that with intelligence, with a strategy that makes sense for customers? What company is going to provide the customer platform that brings consistency to customer interactions across the board? What vendor out there does not say it's integrated? That's my challenge--to relate how we are different when it comes to integration.
CRM: How are PeopleSoft solutions addressing the changing needs of the market?
Eklund: To compete, I could build out my feature/function list. I would say that's where Siebel is king. Look at Siebel's product list. It's something like 56 products to run sales force automation. But what company needs 56 products for sales force automation?
However, the next level of value for business is not bringing more complexity, more sophistication to sales force automation. It's making sure that I have consistency as a customer moves from a sales process into a support process and a manufacturing process. That's where businesses are going to obtain the next level of value in CRM.
Most of the benefits in this solution category have been about bringing efficiencies to these customer facing business processes. I can roll up a sales forecast in two days instead of 30 days now. I can resolve a customer inquiry in two minutes instead of 30 minutes. That's important, but as we're going forward we need to look at the other side of the balance sheet and provide solutions that are incrementally driving revenue. To do that effectively, we need to bring in new coordination. It's not just about demand. It's about supply and optimizing supply to demand.
CRM: What upgrades are you including in PeopleSoft 8.4?
Eklund: We're deploying the PeopleSoft Mobile Agent. We announced the architecture in August of last year. And we'll be delivering business functionality in 8.4, which is slated for March 2002. One of the huge benefits of an Internet architecture is support for an individual that's out of the office. If I have access to the Internet, whether that's in the hotel room, Internet kiosk in an airport, I have real-time access to the application. That's brought huge benefits to our users.
CRM: Does this also extend to integration with PDAs?
Eklund: Yes. Initially, we're going to be supporting all the Windows operating systems. So that's Windows CE and all those devices and we'll build out from there.
CRM: How can organizations benefit by adding wireless CRM to their existing infrastructures?
Eklund: We're basically taking the specific business processes that a roll requires. So, for a sales professional that needs to update opportunities, or adjustments to forecasts, he can take that slice of functionality and deliver it to the device. So that means that the profile of our mobile user is 100 times smaller than the conventional client-server approach. We can deliver our Mobile Agent in an email versus having to build out a PC. It's not an IT event to deliver that support.
CRM: What specific wireless applications will you lead with in March?
Eklund: We're delivering PeopleSoft Mobile Sales and PeopleSoft Mobile Support in March. We've been focused not only on control, but enablement - providing the sales professional the tools that they want to use, that make them more effective in their job. And that's exactly what this mobile solution drives at. If I can look up an opportunity on a handheld device without having to boot up a PC and worry about synchronization, it becomes a solution that a sales person is going to want to use and likewise on the support side.