SAN FRANSCISCO — Former PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards customers attending Oracle’s OpenWorld conference for the first time this week said they still have concerns about the company’s plans to integrate its product portfolio and that they’re eager to get more details.

“There was always the lingering concern: is Oracle going to listen? Is it too big?” said Jay Schaudies, global vice-president of e-commerce with Manpower, a U.K.-based company that specializes in the employment services industry, of Oracle’s hostile takeover of PeopleSoft 10 months ago.

“We were a strong PeopleSoft shop and partner,” he said. “Without wanting to, we began to adopt an attitude of The Big Red Monster out there.” While he’s pleased the “monster” has turned out to be adaptable and inclusive, he’d still like more details from Oracle. “The devil’s in the details,” he said. “We’re hungry for more, but I think we have to wait.”

Last spring, the company was deciding between PeopleSoft and Siebel for its customer relationship management (CRM), and rejected Siebel because it found the software too inflexible. “Our fear would be if (Fusion CRM) would become inflexible like that,” he said.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters has been a PeopleSoft customer since 1996. “Our biggest concern when Oracle did get PeopleSoft was that we were going to have to do another massive change,” said Rod Ely, systems architect for the retailer of organic and fair-trade coffee. He said he is relieved this isn’t the case, but wants to make sure the firm is able to retain flexibility in its toolset – a concern, he said, expressed by other customers at the show. “We have customizations that are key to our business.”

He said the Fusion roadmap – which will tie together all product lines into a single suite by 2007 – is well laid-out for the next year and a half. “But I haven’t got clear information from Oracle on what’s going to happen after that,” he said.

FW Murphy, a manufacturer of equipment management, monitor and control solutions, runs its CRM on J.D. Edwards. “I’d be lying if I said there weren’t concerns,” said Mitch Myers, the company’s vice-president of operations. “There is opportunity to make decisions that aren’t the right decisions and that’s probably going to happen,” he said, adding this is why it’s important for the company’s voice to be heard.

However, he’s most concerned about the overall integration of the various product lines. While Oracle has some of the largest customers in the world, it also has some of the smallest. And, as one of those small customers, he wants to know how Fusion will fit together. It’s imperative, he said, that his company retain its self-sufficiency and be able to make changes on its own.

Phil Walton, director of information services with Spirent Communications, said he’s encouraged that Oracle has committed to a continued relationship with IBM. The company, which specializes in fault-finding and testing requirements for the local loop telephone infrastructure, uses IBM WebSphere for its corporate portal. “We’re also a big Siebel shop, so I’m very interested to see where that goes,” he said of Oracle’s recent announcement to acquire Siebel Systems.

“What I’m taking away (from the show) is a no-rush approach,” he said, adding he doesn’t feel rushed to migrate from the company’s J.D. Edwards applications to Fusion. “(I have) flexibility to move to Fusion sooner or later without damaging my business,” he said. In two or three years, he’ll assess where Fusion is going and make a decision at that point. His biggest concern is what Oracle will bring to vertical industries; he hopes to see not just generic best of breed, but best of breed across verticals.

Don Luby, vice-president of IT at Montreal-based clothing manufacturer Gildan Activewear, told ITBusiness.ca the mood at OpenWorld is much different than last year’s PeopleSoft Connect conference, which he attended while Oracle’s hostile takeover was still going through.

“(Oracle) was the devil,” he said. “(Former PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway) said it would happen over his dead body. And it practically did.”

Gildan is a longtime J.D. Edwards customer that first turned to its World product line to deal with Y2K issues. The company, which makes blank T-shirts that are customized by other firms, has plants in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It’s in the process of using J.D. Edwards software to build an advanced planning system that will help tighten its supply chain. Eventually, Luby hopes the system, which is being developed through InRange Consulting, will provide the kind of analytics Gildan can use to forecast demand for its products.

Describing Gildan as a conservative company, Luby said he is not likely to move onto Oracle’s own platform until he’s sure it can manage the transition effectively. “We know we have to go toward the Fusion project,” he said. “The issue is that in the meantime, we still have new plants to put J.D. Edwards in.”

Oracle OpenWorld wraps up Thursday.

-with files from Shane Schick

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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