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PeopleSoft pushes CRM mobility with new 8.4 release

PeopleSoft has released the 8.4 version of its CRM software to give sales and field service workers more wireless capabilities. At least one analyst, however, isn't too sure the new mobile features will take off.

Enterprise software vendor PeopleSoft Inc., Pleasanton, Calif., delivered the latest upgrade to its CRM product line this week -- PeopleSoft 8.4 CRM.

Officially, the new release marks the debut of PeopleSoft CRM Mobile Sales, PeopleSoft CRM Mobile FieldService, PeopleSoft CRM Quality Management and PeopleSoft CRM Collaborative Selling. The first two applications are aimed at bringing mobile functionality to the enterprise, while the latter two are focused on adding real-time capabilities for product tracking and interactive selling.

"We're delivering on the expectations we announced last year based on development of our Internet-based architecture," said Stan Swete, senior vice president and general manager, PeopleSoft CRM. "These are mobile solutions that have a dramatically smaller footprint than what has been achieved in the market in the past. We've put almost the entire executable onto mobile devices."

The applications should allow PeopleSoft CRM users to give sales and field service workers the ability to remotely interact with their organizations' enterprise networks with increased speed and reliability. The firm said it would soon publish a series of benchmarks that highlight the technology's ability to deliver on its promise.

However, at least one industry analyst is slightly skeptical that the business world will hungrily adopt wireless technologies into some core processes, including sales.

"Even with some of the early sales force automation applications, it took a long time to find a home with users in the field," said Denis Pombriant, research director for Boston-based Aberdeen Group. "I thought it was interesting that [PeopleSoft] didn't make mention of sales methodology. Perhaps that's part of another discussion, but I would have expected them to make some mention of how their new products relate to the most important part of a sales organization's approach to doing business, its methodology."

Pombriant said he also wonders how bandwidth issues might discourage rapid adoption of wireless sales applications.

"I question whether this rush to provide mobile and wireless technology for sales people is going to deliver the kind of ROI a sales person needs to feel that a technology is useful," he said.

PeopleSoft is also pointing to its mobile synchronization technology as a significant upgrade for field service applications and product quality management. The firm said the embedded application automatically determines what kind of data users are attempting to synchronize whenever they log into the enterprise CRM platform. PeopleSoft built the feature using IBM Corp.'s lightweight mobile database, DB2 Everyplace. The company claims the application is installed in seconds by simply launching an e-mail attachment.

Communications-specific software

The company simultaneously launched its second vertically targeted offering, intended for the communications industry. Dubbed PeopleSoft CRM for Communications, the Internet-based package aims to help service providers achieve higher customer retention. PeopleSoft launched its first vertically oriented package, built for the financial services industry, at the end of 2001. The firm said it plans to continue the industry-specific strategy with more offerings to be announced later this year.

"PeopleSoft has done industry-specific versions of CRM on its Vantive architecture but this release represents bringing the solution to our Internet architecture," Swete said. "We saw the ability to take a lot of the extensions that we've been building and bring them into the core product offering."

Swete said the bulk of PeopleSoft's development for the financial services industry tool set was done around flexibility in the customer data model while the communications package involved more work related to boosting users' ability to engage in interactive sales.

"Collaborative selling is an excellent example of the kind of functionality we hope to deliver going forward," Swete said.

PeopleSoft is expected to deliver its CRM 8.8 release later this year, most likely during the fourth quarter. Company officials said that iteration would focus heavily on enterprise process automation and partner relationship management tools.


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