Reporter's Notebook: PeopleSoft Pulls Out All the Stops at Leadership Summit

PeopleSoft Inc, used its Leadership Summit in Las Vegas this week to convince nearly 3,000 of top-level business executives that moving to its PeopleSoft 8.0 is not a gamble, but a sure bet.

However, the company first had to overcome news about less-than stellar financials. Last week, the company reported earnings from recurring operations were $46 million, or 14 cents per share, compared with earnings of $36 million, or 11 cents, in the year-ago quarter. Total revenue fell to $483.3 million from $514.2 million as software license sales, a key gauge of performance, stumbled to $133.3 million versus last year's $153.3 million.

PeopleSoft Chief Executive Craig Conway kicked off his keynote by trying to make light of the company?s first quarter and its leadership role in the industry.

Conway said that when the enterprise software vendor unveiled its first quarter results, more than 68 million shares of its stock were traded and analysts hammered the stock down to 21.50 a share, down from 23.50 a share. Last July, the stock was at its 52 week high of 51.

He compared that to IBM?s announcement a week earlier that its total revenue declined 12 percent to $18.6 billion from $21 billion. IBM also posted its third quarterly earnings decline in a row, saying profit fell to $1.19 billion, or 68 cents per share. Conway said that IBM?s announcement resulted in 30 million shares being traded and that Big Blue?s stock was virtually untouched by the market, falling to about $85 a share from $86 a share.

?Now that?s leading the industry,? Conway joked. ?Not exactly the way we wanted, but still leading the industry.?

Conway also spent much of his keynote talking about PeopleSoft 8.0 and highlighting the benefits of the Web-based product. But a video introducing Conway and PeopleSoft undermined the company?s claim of being Web savvy. A portion of the video showed a browser address bar with the start of a URL that included http followed by two forward slashes rather than backslashes. Oops.

PeopleSoft also spent much of the two-day conference addressing attendees - senior level executives, chief executives and chief information officers - using top PeopleSoft customers to highlight the benefits of its products. There were panels featuring CIOs from Bausch & Lomb, Credit Suisse First Boston, Duke Energy, Verizon, BEA Systems Inc., Corning Inc., Texas Education Agency, and Thomson Financial. The company also provided additional printed materials with customer references from more than a dozen large corporations. In addition, the company set up individual media briefings with other large business customers.

So why did PeopleSoft choose to use GB International, a fictitious company during the keynote to illustrate the benefits of its software? Stan Swete, senior vice president and general manager of CRM for PeopleSoft, seemed perplexed by the question. He responded by saying PeopleSoft uses GBI all the time in presentations since no single PeopleSoft customer would allow the company to show off all the features of its products.

The second annual conference, which grew to nearly 3,000 attendees up from 1,200 in 2001, was virtually free of any mention of competition.

However, Swete told CRM Magazine that Microsoft Corp.?s entry into the CRM space was going to have an impact on the mid-market.

?They went to great pains to stress that they are not targeting the enterprise space, but I can?t help but thinking that they want to sell up,? he said. ?They didn?t buy Great Plains to sell to small companies. The middle market CRM companies want to sell up and the enterprise companies want to sell down. Every thing is coming together in the middle market.?

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