PeopleSoft is looking to Extensible Markup Language (XML) as the way to move its applications to the Web for business-to-business transactions.
With the unveiling of the PeopleTools 8 suite on Wednesday, PeopleSoft is guiding users toward a less expensive and less difficult form of EDI (electronic data interchange), said Jim Littlefield, the Atlanta-based director of marketing for PeopleSoft.
The vendor's clients have been urging PeopleSoft to embrace XML, Littlefield said.
"I would say that XML adoption [among customers] is moving very fast," he said.
The XML-based suite will support several emerging, industry-specific XML standards such as Microsoft's BizTalk and those XML efforts supported by the Object Management Group, Littlefield said.
With a growing number of XML movements under way, users will be able to bring in a variety of XML-supported data, Littlefield said.
"It enables you to have content coming in from different sources," he said.
The server-centric PeopleTools 8 development platform will allow businesses to create business-to-business infrastructures for PeopleSoft's suite of eBusiness applications for managing customer relationships, human resources, financials, and supply chains, company officials said.
The latest version of the PeopleSoft Enterprise Performance Management 8 application will be the first PeopleSoft offering to include this toolbox to bridge the Internet, Littlefield said. PeopleSoft customers with maintenance agreements will have the toolkit shipped to them.
However, PeopleSoft's core products will have to wait until June to get PeopleTools 8, Littlefield said. At that time, PeopleSoft's core products will not only come with the tools but also a facelift. The flagship applications are being redesigned to be "more Web-like", he said. The front ends will resemble those of Yahoo.com and Amazon.com, he added.
Implementing the new tools will be "more of a visual process than a coding process", Littlefield said. Microsoft Windows remains the development environment, but "deployment will be for the Web", he said. The visual environment is targeted at helping users rapidly develop and deploy the next generation of PeopleSoft's applications"There is the ability to do traditional programming if you need to," Littlefield added.
The PeopleTools 8 also offers a server-centric architecture that bypasses the need for client software.
Moving to the Internet and the Web will open the PeopleSoft applications to access by phone lines as well as platforms that support a Web browser such as cell phones and Internet appliances. The operating environments supported are Unix, Linux, Windows, and Macintosh terminals.
The PeopleTools 8 platform will also make it possible to store data definitions in the databases users have in place; PeopleSoft supports IBM's DB2, Sybase, Oracle, and Microsoft's SQL Server. The PeopleTools 8 will also maintain users' business rules and customisations.
The toolset package also includes enterprise application integration help in the form of Application Messaging, Business Components, and Business Interlink software.
For decision support over the Web, PeopleSoft rolled out the next version of its PeopleSoft Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) suite, which makes use of PeopleTools 8. Users can now access EPM's capabilities via a standard browser.
The EPM package sits atop a data warehouse and extracts data to be used in the analysis of specific business functions such as customer relationships, the workforce, and strategy and financing. The EPM package also incorporates external data that can be used as a comparison against internal findings, said Greg Wynne, PeopleSoft's director of product marketing for EPM.
The EPM update offers a Balanced Scorecard and Workforce Analytics as well as upgrades of the Enterprise Warehouse and Activity Based Management packages.
Throughout the current quarter, the vendor will be introducing additional EPM components such as Web-based eBusiness Intelligence workbenches for customer, workforce, and financial analysis; and profitability management applications, or financial risk management, for the financial services industry.