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PeopleSoft users to Siebel users: 'Relax'

PeopleSoft users can relate to the fears of Siebel users, following Oracle's acquisition announcement. Their advice is not to panic -- but make sure to push for information.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Former PeopleSoft Inc. and J.D. Edwards & Co. customers attending Oracle Corp.'s OpenWorld have some words of assurance for Siebel customers awaiting their fate: It turns out that having your software vendor bought by Oracle is not as bad as you may fear.

Ten months after Oracle closed its hostile takeover of rival PeopleSoft, which itself had just acquired J.D. Edwards, and one week after it announced plans to buy CRM leader Siebel Systems Inc. for $5.85 billion, those customers have some valuable perspective.

"Sit back and relax for a little while," advised Rod Ely, IT development manager for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. in Waterbury Vt., a PeopleSoft customer since 1996. "When PeopleSoft was happening, we had a lot of people reaching out to us. The Oracle database person called and wanted to talk about applications while we still had a PeopleSoft contact. Let Oracle, PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards -- and now Siebel -- work it out. After 10 months, the message is starting to get clear."

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Users were generally reassured with the message they heard at OpenWorld. This week, the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company unveiled lifetime support, expanded  migration programs to Project Fusion -- the effort to bring the best of all the acquired applications functionality into one product suite -- and most importantly for some,  promised integration with IBM WebSphere.

"The continued relationship with IBM was big for us," said Paul Walton, director of IT for Spirent Communications Inc., based in Rockwell, Md. "We've embraced WebSphere as our corporate portal. I don't feel like I'm rushed to move from J.D. Edwards."

Oracle did a good job of maintaining communication with customers after the takeover, said Jay Schaudies, vice president of global e-commerce for Milwaukee-based Manpower Inc. He urged Siebel users to seek it out.

"The secret is always communication, but there's always room for more," Schaudies said. "Be receptive as Oracle begins to reach out; it's going to be a hectic time. I'd be sure to raise my hand and look for information, then you'll get it."

However, many PeopleSoft customers still have some concerns. Both Schaudies and Ely said their companies chose PeopleSoft for its flexibility and had done some customization.

"That is one of our biggest areas of concern, that we keep flexibility in the tool set," Ely said. "I believe they're on the right track."

"As we've moved to an era where Oracle owns not only the biggest customers in the world but the smallest as well, it's important there's integration between all these modules, that it's easy, self-sufficient and robust," said Mitch Meyers, vice president of operations for FW Murphy, in Tulsa, Okla.

Walton, who was running PeopleSoft applications at Spirent, also a big Siebel shop, said the acquisition bodes well for him. Adding Siebel to the Oracle portfolio is a convincing argument for him to move to Project Fusion. However, it will take time to see how things shake out.

"Action often lags talk," Walton said. "We're just starting to see the impact of the PeopleSoft acquisition on J.D. Edwards applications. I expect we'll find out more in a year or so."

Naturally, Oracle is seeking to assure worried Siebel users, and on Tuesday released the results of a study it commissioned from Satmetrix that found J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft customer satisfaction levels had risen to more than 90% since the acquisition. Since integration with Oracle support, customer satisfaction levels have risen by as much as 11% in technical and product problem response, resolution and overall solution effectiveness, according to the report. Additionally, a survey of 55 CIOs, conducted by financial firm UBS, found that more than 75% of J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft customers are not looking to switch to other vendors and plan to renew support with Oracle.

Phil Maud, business systems manager for Auckland, New Zealand-based apparel retailer Bendon Limited, said Oracle had done a reasonably good job communicating. Bendon implemented EnterpriseOne a year ago, just before the PeopleSoft acquisition went through. Some questions remain, however.

"Particularly with the apparel product in EnterpriseOne," Maud said. "We have a different product matrix. Having Retek is cool but it needs to be fit in. The question is how is it going to work."

For some of those answers, Siebel customers are going to have to go out and get themselves, said Iris Martinez, financial systems analyst with Melville, N.Y.-based MSC Industrial Direct Co. Inc., a J.D. Edwards World user.

"We're at ease, but I would recommend that they come to these events and the local users groups," Martinez said.

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