Almost three years since it delivered the 9.0 version of PeopleSoft Enterprise, Oracle finally shipped the follow-up to the product that focuses on greater end-user productivity, accelerated business performance and lower cost of ownership.
Company officials said they took more time in delivering the 9.1 version because users had handed them a clear mandate to deliver the next version of the product with improvements that would result in greater ROI.
"When 9.0 came out, we spent a lot of time asking customers what they wanted in future releases," said Paco Aubrejuan, Oracle's vice president and general manager of PeopleSoft. "They made it really clear there must be business-driven ROI associated with upgrades. They needed clear justification for their particular lines of business."
Oracle regularly interacted with about 150 customers through much of the beta process, according to Aubrejuan. This, in part, is why the company crammed significantly more features and functions in the PeopleSoft 9.1 release compared with any previous version, including 21 new solutions, 1,350 new features, 28,000 pages enhanced with Web 2.0 capabilities, 300 new Web services, and 200 industry-specific enhancements.
One analyst was impressed with the range of improvements made in 9.1.
"They have done some things on an infrastructure level as well as from a functionality standpoint," said Ray Wang, a Partner with the Altimeter Group. "This one is important for people on 8.X releases of PeopleSoft for some of the innovations they were expecting, and maybe some they weren't, in terms of some infrastructure things and functionality."
Some users seemed pleased with the number of enhancements to 9.1, particularly those tightly tied to ROI.
"I am glad there is a refocusing on user productivity with this one [version 9.1], but the stumbling block for us is ROI. I know they have tried to improve aspects of that, but the question is how much ROI," said Rich Thompson, a database administrator with a large insurance company in Columbus, Ohio. "It might be tough getting this upgrade into the budget for 2010 here until we know more."
One of the improvements Oracle made to increase user productivity is a spruced-up user interface. PeopleSoft applications now have stitched in a handful of Web 2.0 collaboration tools such as chat, wikis, discussion forums and tagging. Also included are dashboards and workbenches that contain embedded analytics that also spur user productivity, company officials claim.
Oracle also added some talent management features to 9.1 to help administrators better define and visualize their organizational goals as well as create organizational alignment and, again, increase user productivity. One such feature is called the Succession Planning Solution, which more quickly identifies key talent in an organization and then rates and ranks those employees.
"The new talent management stuff is all drag and drop," Wang said. "You can see where people rank, then drag and drop them for different scenarios as people get moved round and then see what the impact of those moves on the organization are."
Along with version 9.1, Oracle also rolled out PeopleTools 8.5, which also has several Web 2.0 features and tighter integration with PeopleSoft applications and is backward compatible with older releases of PeopleSoft Enterprise.
"The benefit of [PeopleTools 8.5] being backward compatible is that people who just upgraded to 9.0 don't need to turn right around and upgrade to 9.1 in order for their applications to take advantage of all of [9.1's] new improvements," Aubrejuan said.
In a third announcement, Oracle unveiled PeopleSoft Enterprise Portal 9.1, which aids administrators in promoting collaboration by being able to deploy online communities and Web-based self-service sites tailored for their enterprise.