Peoplesoft has launched an ebusiness initiative, but is ringfencing it from the rest of the company in case it fails.
The Peoplesoft Business Network (PSBN), launched at the application supplier's user conference in San Francisco this week, will live in a separate business unit, currently staffed by 35 people, to ensure the main company will not be hurt if the scheme fails.
PSBN is intended to help Peoplesoft compete more effectively against SAP and also to win repeat business from its installed base.
The company acknowledges that it has traditionally been poor at generating pull-through sales from existing customers, but recognises that this is becoming increasingly important as the enterprise resource planning (ERP) market slows, in the face of the Year 2000 issue and a worsening economic situation in Asia-Pacific.
Dave Duffield, Peoplesoft?s president and chief executive, said: ?If we do it right, we see ebusiness as the next paradigm shift. But our ebusiness strategy is quite separate from the core Peoplesoft business strategy. It?s an experiment, an innovation for the future. It will have its own sales and marketing organisation, development and services, and is very much in keeping with our core values. But if it doesn?t work the core business is not in jeopardy.?
He continued: ?We?re betting our reputation on ebusiness, I can tell you that, but not our business. You?ll see big investments made in it, but we?ve got to make sure this stuff works first because there?ll always be ERP customers who want to augment their use of ERP with ebusiness.?
PSBN will be sold as an add-on to the firm?s human resources applications and will include a customisable HTML front end or portal, dubbed My Peoplesoft. The portal will be workflow enabled and integrated with calendaring and email, but users will also be able to access information from Peoplesoft?s own packages and from third party suppliers or 'merchants'.
These merchants will be expected to join a certification scheme and pay for the right to integrate their applications and data into PSBN, but the applications will be arranged into logical 'communities' such as advisory services to make access easier.
While users will be able to buy communities as part of PSBN, the product will also come with a range of application programming interfaces, based on the Microsoft Com model, so that they can integrate their own merchants as required.
Details of the architecture are due to be announced in the first quarter, when usage based pricing will also be revealed. Various merchants including online stockbroker Charles Schwab have already signed up to the scheme and the first products are due to ship next year. But release cycles will not be incremental in line with Peoplesoft?s traditional model. Instead they will be based on functional enhancements and will plug into Peoplesoft 7.5.
While PSBN will initially be targeted at workplace users, Peoplesoft also plans to expand it to cover users outside the organisation in the next iteration, and intends to integrate it with its new analytical applications over time.
Baer Tierkel, general manager of PSBN, explained: ?This is where we see our vision going for the next five to 10 years. We?ve been driving towards the ebusiness world for two years now, but we?ve created an Internet start-up because we?re trying to achieve the best of both worlds. The focus will be on north America next year, but it will be rolled out elsewhere after that and we expect to generate revenues from it next year.?
The PSBN business unit is currently staffed by 35 people, but this is expected to increase to 60-70 by the end of the year.
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