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Quest's president: We're 'prepared to go the distance'

The past year hasn't been easy for customers of the former J.D. Edwards & Co. First came JDE's merger with PeopleSoft Inc., and then Oracle Corp.'s attempted takeover of PeopleSoft.

Could you compare your experience as a J.D. Edwards user group with what it's been like as a PeopleSoft user group?

With J.D. Edwards, we had a great relationship -- a working, collaborative relationship. We realize that wasn't built overnight. It evolved over a period of many years, but we really worked collaboratively. At Quest, we really looked at it like a three-pronged stool, with one leg being J.D. Edwards, one leg being Quest membership and one leg the board of directors. We really worked together to make that happen. With PeopleSoft, they did not want us to independently offer all the services we offer to our customers. They thought they were duplicative, and there was no need for our services. We disagree with that. We feel there is a need. We're not looking to stop PeopleSoft from doing any thing. We understand they operate under a different model. That doesn't mean we can't still have the independence we have and provide additional value. It's about augmenting what they're doing, not replacing it. How do you see Quest evolving?

We're going to continue. The bottom line is we're not folding our tent because it's getting difficult. We have to be prepared to go the distance. It's not about J.D. Edwards, PeopleSoft or Oracle. It's about us collaborating, changing and enhancing the value of our investments.

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If Oracle succeeds in its takeover, how do you see things working out differently in its relationship with independent users groups such as Quest?

Charles [Phillips] addressed the group. Oracle is trying to say they'll take care of the J.D. Edwards customer base, that they'll take care of the IBM install base. Some of those were some big announcements, but part of that is just messaging. They do have independent organizations they support, like the [International] Oracle Users Group. The Oracle Users Group was in the same position we are right now. A couple of years ago, they had lawsuits against one another because Oracle decided they did not want to play with the Oracle Users Group anymore. So [Oracle] stopped coming to conferences and stopped working with them. The Oracle Users Group said, 'We can continue on,' and they did. Since then, Oracle has seen the error of their ways and they've come back. They do attend independent user group conferences.

We've contacted the Oracle Users Group and asked what happened and how they got back together with [Oracle]. They just said hang tight, and that's what we're trying to do. PeopleSoft will see the error of their ways and come back. We need them to be successful, but we also want the collaboration. We're their customers. There's no reason to fight them. You would think when we have a gathering of thousands of customers that they would want to be there. All they're doing is driving a wedge between themselves and their customers. How have J.D. Edwards users been affected by the PeopleSoft acquisition and the potential takeover by Oracle? What are you hearing from your members?

We have heard that there are many who, if they were in the [upgrade or new purchase] investigation stages, have stopped or slowed it way down. We've heard one large company that was going to implement PeopleSoft [and] instead switched to Oracle because of this. They're putting things on hold or making different decisions. What do users of J.D. Edwards software want to hear from PeopleSoft
They want product direction, new feature functionality. They can get that through the marketing event account manager or through the Web site. When we surveyed the people attending these conferences and asked what is the most important thing for them, they said it's networking with other customers and the educational experience they get from other customers. They're finding complementary products and services [at Quest and Connect]. Most people have already implemented the software. They're running it. They want to know how to enhance it. That's improving business processes and procedures. That's what you learn from other users. How did PeopleSoft's lack of involvement in last week's Quest West affect the conference? And what impact will PeopleSoft have in the future?

PeopleSoft's response

Following its acquisition of J.D. Edwards & Co., PeopleSoft chose to go in a different direction with its user groups, according to spokesman Steve Swasey. PeopleSoft established its International Customer Advisory Board (ICAB), made up of both PeopleSoft and customers of the former J.D. Edwards. Swasey said that the new model features more than 170 user groups based on three categories: product, industry and geography. Those groups receive speakers and Web site support from PeopleSoft but are independently financed. Quest is not among them. Additionally, PeopleSoft determined that its own Connect conferences would serve as the only recognized global user group conferences.

 

PeopleSoft elected to end any affiliation with Quest because of one philosophical difference. "Quest required J.D. Edwards customers to pay a fee to be a member of Quest before they had access to the information," Swasey said. "We believe that's wrong. By virtue of being a customer of PeopleSoft, you should not have to pay a membership fee for a user group."

 [PeopleSoft] has had an impact here, and we expect it to have an impact at Quest Global. [Without PeopleSoft in attendance] you don't retain the 100% [user attendance], but we still had a significant turnout. We're going to see fewer people. J.D. Edwards used to send hundreds of their people to Quest Global. That's why we held it in Denver [the site of J.D. Edwards' headquarters]. When you take [PeopleSoft] out, some of the [third-party] vendors are not sending as many people in to man the booths as they have in the past. These vendors have to make choices and have more events to attend.

There are going to be some customers who need to make a choice because they can't afford to do both Quest and PeopleSoft events. Before, they might have sent five people to the global conference, and now [they] may have to send three people to Global and two to PeopleSoft Connect. Both offer value, but they offer different value. At PeopleSoft Connect, you're going to get a lot of marketing speak, and you need to have that. But at Global you're going to get user interaction.

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