Oracle has formally released PeopleSoft Enterprise Financials and Supply Chain Management 9.1, which it hopes will make users more productive and the applications easier to use through the addition of a number of Web 2.0-based functions.
Working on a regular basis with about 150 selected users, Oracle got a clear message about what should and should not be included in many of the modules making up the 9.1 version of the applications suite.
"Users wanted three primary things from us with this release," said Paco Aubrejuan, Oracle's vice president and general manager of PeopleSoft. "They wanted to make their applications more productive through things like improving the user experience, they wanted to accelerate business performance by having processes work well together so they can do things more quickly, and [they wanted] to reduce costs."
For the most part, PeopleSoft supply chain and financial users seemed pleased with the update, which was close to three years in the making and includes hundreds of enhancements.
"Largely, this is what we were expecting them to do," said Eugene Lee, an IT administrator with a large financial institution in Charlotte, N.C. "I am certainly glad they focused on making both the applications and the people using them more productive. There are so many new improvements in there, it will take us a little while to evaluate the ones most important to us. Not sure if this will be a 2010 buy just yet."
"They have done a good job with this one, particularly with the features relating to the user experience," said Patrick Wells, ERP Technical Lead, Kentucky Community and Technical College System.
One of the ways version 9.1 helps users better contain costs, according to Aubrejuan, is embedding prebuilt VM templates that allow people to download an instance and get up and running significantly faster. Another way the product helps reduce costs is by keeping the number of customizations to a minimum.
"Part of cost reductions for our supply chain and financial users is helping them reduce the level of customizations in their existing apps," Aubrejuan said. "So [9.1] can help them fit their business more out of the box. Also, we have done a better job linking together the functions in a business process that can make the whole business process faster and execute more accurately."
One area where PeopleSoft's close circle of developers was useful was in helping shape the capability that helps accountants and other finance professionals more quickly close the books for the month, quarter or year. A longtime problem has been making sure that all of the ledgers and sub-ledgers are balanced, which typically is a manual, time-consuming exercise. The new version automates much of that, according to Aubrejuan.
"We took a group of users, all of whom had some role in helping optimize certain aspects of the close process, and they helped us improve both the functions and the linking of those functions together," he said. "We think we can reduce the time it takes to close a company's books by 15% but, as importantly, improve the accuracy of that process."
Because many of PeopleSoft's users are involved in supply chain management, the company focused on improving functions in the new release relating to strategic sourcing and e-procurement.
"With so many dealing with basically the acquisition of goods and services, we spent a lot of time optimizing things there in terms of the process associated with getting the right price for direct goods through the bidding process," Aubrejuan said.
PeopleSoft also worked to improve the product's ability to track contract compliance. In many larger companies there are often multiple people buying the same product but from different suppliers. Sometimes, however, people buy outside the terms of the contract, resulting in higher costs to their company.
"I think we have much better rules for enforcing compliance with contracts," Aubrejuan said. "But we also let users set up those rules and let them decide how strict they want to be about enforcing them."
The new modules in version 9.1 include PeopleSoft Financials, which helps accounting departments close financial quarters faster; PeopleSoft Supplier Relationship Management, which increases control over procurement policies; Supply Chain Management, which is more efficient for order capture and returns; Enterprise Service Automation, which now supports full project lifecycle management with specific support for public sector and government contracting functions; and Asset Lifecycle Management, designed to improve capital infrastructure decisions and reduce equipment downtime.