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PeopleSoft aims to put data to use

The firm's host of new analytical applications is designed to let users make better use of the data stored in their corporate computing systems.

PeopleSoft wants to put corporate data to use.

The maker of financial, human resource, and material management software systems will unveil next week at its user group conference in San Francisco, a host of new analytical applications designed to let users make better use of the data stored in their corporate computing systems.

Most of the enterprise resource planning vendors like PeopleSoft, SAP, Oracle, and Baan, are developing analytical tools that allow users of their transactional systems to make use of the data the systems collect.

"The ERP vendors are being forced to provide these tools," said Joshua Greenbaum, analyst at Enterprise Applications Consulting in Berkeley, California. "This is a logical next step for users, once they have done their ERP implementations. You need to move up the ladder to more advanced analysis and not just do planning and management. The typical ERP software has some reporting functions but it doesn't have sophisticated analysis tools."

Called PeopleSoft Enterprise Performance Management, the new product will contain its own data warehouse capable of pulling data not only from PeopleSoft's enterprise resource planning system but from legacy systems, other ERP systems, or anywhere else useful data may hide within a company.

The product also comes with a line of analysis tools designed for use by not only a company's elite planners and analysts, but most anyone who could benefit from the reports created in the software.

"The big movement in companies a few years back was to focus on efficiency in organizations, to be able to do things very fast and to have high productivity," said Tom Patterson, product marketing manager at PeopleSoft. That movement began the rush to enterprise resource planning systems, the bread-and-butter software of companies like PeopleSoft, SAP, and Baan.

"Now companies are moving toward effectiveness: to better make decisions and effect things on the top line and grow revenues," Patterson continued. "With better information, you can make strategic decisions on pricing and competitive environments that you don't get now with ERP systems."

Enter PeopleSoft's new analytical tools. The good news is the package eventually will contain new balanced scorecard functionality, which allows senior managers to keep track of such performance indicators as profitability. It also will come with a workbench for configuring reports to specific job functions, and a slew of analytical applications. All of it will be riding on PeopleSoft's new Enterprise Warehouse, a data warehouse designed for use with these new analytical tools. It is to house data from various locations in a corporation and store it for analysis.

While this definitely puts PeopleSoft ahead of other players, Greenbaum said the bad news is much of this functionality, like the scorecard and workbench, won't be available until the end of 1999 which gives other players a chance to catch up.

"This is a very strong move," Greenbaum said. "PeopleSoft needed to do it. It looks good. It walks and talks and analysis tools are going to be an important addition to the product lineup. But [PeopleSoft] is going to get leapfrogged and they are going to leapfrog again. It's going to be a very intense struggle in the marketplace."

Pricing for the product has not been set yet but Patterson said it will be a value-based pricing mechanism.