Ontario municipalities undaunted by PeopleSoft politics

Two Ontario municipalities with recent PeopleSoft implementations say that for now they are unperturbed by the possibility that the vendor may fall to a hostile takeover.

The City of Greater Sudbury and the Town of Oakville have both adopted PeopleSoft software. In the case of Sudbury, it was an upgrade to Financials 8.8, up from 8.0. Oakville embarked on a more far-ranging project, which saw the municipality completely replace another company’s software with PeopleSoft’s EnterpriseOne suite.

Gord Lalonde, director of IT for the Town of Oakville, said his staff had become increasingly dissatisfied with its existing software from a vendor he preferred not to identify. The town had been using the company’s products since the mid-1980s. They had been upgraded fairly routinely, he said, but were originally built on a COBOL architecture.

“”My dissatisfaction was around maintenance rates, which were getting jacked up,”” he said. This company is in the midst of an ownership transition, he added, which threatened its stability.

“”We went shopping for something that first of all would provide us with a stable platform,”” he said. “”We wanted a company that we thought would be in business for the foreseeable future.””

For Lalonde, that company was PeopleSoft, but “”I do have my eyes open to all the fuss that’s going on between PeopleSoft and Oracle,”” he said. The pragmatic view, according to Lalonde, is that the PeopleSoft products he has installed won’t be wasted no matter who is holding the reins at PeopleSoft management.

EnterpriseOne was once part of J.D. Edwards, which was bought by PeopleSoft under friendly circumstances last year for US$1.7 billion. “”I don’t know how many (EnterpriseOne) installs there are — a million, half a million, 200,000? — and that’s just not going to vaporize, in my view,”” said Lalonde.

“”If Oracle gets them and buys (PeopleSoft), I don’t think they want to flush that many of their accounts out. I think there’s a good deal of long-term stability there.””

The City of Sudbury is a relatively new PeopleSoft customer, having first adopted its technology in 2001.

“”We try to keep current with the releases where we can,”” said the city’s director of IT Bruno Mangiardi. “”There’s a lot more functionality in 8.8. from a Web capability — their portal is much nicer — there’s a number of items that we wish to take advantage of, in particular their fund accounting,”” he said.

Mangiardi said he’s “”keeping an eye”” on current affairs between Oracle and PeopleSoft. “”I’m not too concerned about it at this stage until we see what the final outcome is going to be.””

Mangiardi noted that there are numerous tasks Oracle must accomplish before it can complete any takeover of PeopleSoft. The recent decision made by U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker that Oracle’s bid is not anti-competitive is just the first.

Customers’ level of comfort with PeopleSoft adoption depends on the amount of risk they’re willing to accept, said IDC Canada Ltd. software analyst Warren Shiau. But PeopleSoft users may have little choice but to continue with implementations and upgrades. To do otherwise may incur cost and upheaval.

“”Ripping and replacing their systems or just sitting and waiting (for a resolution to the takeover) and not doing the upgrades that they need to do isn’t really an option,”” explained Shiau.

“”They’re thinking in terms of the cost of continuing with PeopleSoft when maybe they should be thinking in terms of just stopping their PeopleSoft implementations and just going somewhere else, which would be much higher.””

PeopleSoft implementations in the City of Sudbury (which went live earlier this month) and the Town of Oakville (to be completed by December) were conducted by St. John’s-based Xwave.

The company is also very aware of the various implications suggested by an Oracle takeover of PeopleSoft.

“”It’s always a part of our job at Xwave to monitor things like that closely and advise our clients appropriately,”” said Andrea Tate, municipal government practice lead at Xwave.

“”We’ll keep them abreast of it, but it would be really irresponsible of us to advise on anything this early in the game. I don’t think that there’s any foregone conclusion about how this is going to go,”” she said.

Xwave was one of the first Canadian PeopleSoft 8 certified partners and uses PeopleSoft software within its own organization.

“”We continue to use it and upgrade the functionality,”” said Tate.

“”I don’t think even Oracle knows what (a takeover) means. There’s a large, large PeopleSoft user base, and those people will continue to be supported.””

Documentation on Oracle’s Web site says: “”customers can stay on PeopleSoft applications or migrate to Oracle applications and infrastructure at their discretion. Either way, it’s entirely their choice and Oracle will support both options.””

At press time, an Oracle spokesperson couldn’t be reached to provide specifics about the duration of that support.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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