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PeopleSoft dips TOE in the software water

PeopleSoft is banking on a Total Ownership Experience (TOE) initiative and is readying some tools that it says will cut down on the complexity of running its software.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- If the first day of the annual PeopleSoft Inc. user conference was about taking the edge off Oracle takeover anxiety, day two is clearly about simplifying the job of running complex enterprise applications.

PeopleSoft executives are putting products behind their much-ballyhooed Total Ownership Experience (TOE) plan, an initiative to improve software implementation, use, and maintenance that they first introduced at a leadership summit this spring.

In the next 90 days, PeopleSoft will release several TOE tools. On the implementation front, offerings include new installation wizards, streamlined documentation and a new Setup Manager, a step-by-step guide for configuring applications and automating data loading from Excel spreadsheets and flat files.

PeopleSoft is also moving to task-based navigation, which it hopes will reduce the number of clicks required to perform common business tasks. For instance, the process for submitting an expense report has been streamlined to include just two clicks.

On the maintenance side, PeopleSoft will introduce the new Change Assistant to automate fixes and updates and Performance Monitor to embed diagnostic probes in the software for troubleshooting.

In a keynote address, Ram Gupta, PeopleSoft's executive vice president of products and technology, said the new tools are all about lowering total cost of ownership and driving up customer satisfaction.

Patti Shea, a senior systems analyst at Butler University in Indianapolis, said her deployment of student administration finance and enterprise portal products from PeopleSoft is fraught with complexity. She welcomes a PeopleSoft-wide effort to make her job easier.

"These are tools that, unless you buy from another vendor, you simply don't have," she said.

One analyst said that PeopleSoft isn't alone in its usability push. With the maturity of business software, many vendors are gunning to win more than just the functionality war, according to Kelly Ferguson, of the research firm Current Analysis, Sterling, Va.

"A lot of this is driven by ASPs, which are easy to implement and use," Ferguson said. "Companies like PeopleSoft have to look at that success and see what it is that's driving it."

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