Keeping ERP on the QT
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Dec 03, 2000
You won't hear many companies talk about enterprise resource planning anymore.
That's not to say that companies will stop marketing applications for
managing human resources, financials and other core business operations
that generally fall under the ERP rubric. But they would prefer not to talk
Instead, vendors of ERP tools are focusing on how they can help customers
tailor their systems to provide services online, thereby facilitating their
plans to become e-governments and e-businesses.
In the past year, the top providers of ERP systems to government agencies
have acquired or partnered with firms that offer customer relationship management
(CRM) tools and portals that provide a single point of entry to all business
"There is a numbing down of the ERP buzz because that's not what sells
in the government, and that's definitely not what sells in the commercial
space," said Zip Brown, vice president of American Management Systems Inc.'s
e-government solutions group. State, local and federal agencies are reluctant
to adopt massive ERP solutions and are focusing more on solving specific
business problems, such as tracking citizen requests, e-procurement, financial
management and employee self-service for human resources and benefits information,
Tools for Integration
Partnership among vendors is the key to this new arena. ERP vendors
have the applications for managing and processing information — which is
just as critical to e-government applications as it is to traditional "back-
office" applications, such as human resources and financial management.
But ERP vendors need to integrate those tools with the front-end services
agencies want, Brown said.
AMS has responded by forming partnerships with Ariba Inc. for e-procurement,
Siebel Systems Inc. for CRM and FreeMarkets Inc. for reverse auctions —
all of which are tailored by AMS for government use.
This spring, AMS launched buysense, an e-procurement service developed
with Ariba. The site, located at www.buysense.com, is the nation's first
online marketplace for state and local government and higher education purchasers.
AMS' partnership with govWorks Inc. also is helping the company provide
customer-focused help to state and local government agencies.
This is something of a change because ERP vendors have traditionally
offered customers "all-in-one" solutions so that they would not have to
worry about trying to make different products work together.
"ERP was successful years ago because the pain of integration was higher
than adjusting business processes," said Michael Dow, vice president of
acquisition business solutions in AMS' public sector group.
But the availability of enterprise integration tools from companies
such as webMethods Inc. has changed the business case, making it easier
to choose the best-of-breed solution in each functional area and then integrate
the different products, he said.
But not everyone takes that view.
Managers at Oracle Corp. still believe that an integrated enterprise
application from one vendor is better than a hodgepodge of best-of-breed
products, said Steve Perkins, senior vice president and general manager
for Oracle Federal.
"Most vendors who provide it don't provide an enterprise view anyway,"
Perkins said, referring to companies that focus on providing the software
for specific ERP functions, known as best of breed.
Oracle has developed solutions for all areas of e-government, such as
interactions with suppliers, customer (or citizen) relationship management,
and the traditional internal operations and administration of financials
and human resources that make up ERP. Still, even Oracle realizes it cannot
be all things to all people. Like other vendors in the government space,
Oracle has partnered with companies such as Compusearch Software Systems
Inc. for contract management, Gelco Information Network for travel software
and others for asset management tools Oracle does not already offer.
AMS, Oracle and other vendors are angling for position in this new arena
because they realize ERP applications, however old-fashioned, can provide
the underpinnings for many e-government services.
In general, e-government involves giving citizens, suppliers or employees
the ability to find relevant information on government systems. Government
agencies, in the process, need the ability to track those interactions to
ensure "customer satisfaction."
"Customer relationship management is probably the most promising growth
area for 2001," said Jim McGlothlin, regional vice president for sales
and business development at PeopleSoft Federal.
The shift in focus from back-office applications to front-end services
is partially the result of agency chief information officers and external
business consultants educating senior managers that e-government is not
just about replacing computer systems but also about how information technology
can be used to meet agencies' overall missions and objectives, McGlothlin
"Software companies like PeopleSoft have reacted by looking at their
product lines and saying, "I've got the enabler toward e-government,'" he
said. PeopleSoft 8, released earlier this year, adapts the company's financial,
human resources, e-procurement and CRM solutions for the World Wide Web.
State agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles can use the
customer interface as a marketing tool. For instance, a citizen visiting
a site to renew a driver's license would be targeted with advertising for
public transportation or vanity license plates.
Another area ideal for government-to-government applications is electronic
grants, McGlothlin said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
for example, is interested in automating the grants notification and disbursement
systems for customers in state and local governments, he said.
"In every case, the customer wants to have information that usually
comes out of back-office applications, such as, "How much have I disbursed
and what is my available balance?'" McGlothlin said.
PeopleSoft acquired Vantive Corp. in late 1999 and has integrated Vantive's
CRM solution with PeopleSoft's products, creating PeopleSoft CRM and PeopleSoft
Analytics for enterprise performance management.
PeopleSoft partnered with Commerce One Inc. in June 1999 for an e-procurement
solution that could be integrated with the company's financial package.
In March 2000, PeopleSoft used Commerce One's electronic marketplace product
in its PeopleSoft Marketplace, which it is now trying to market to federal,
state and local agencies.
Vendors also see a role for themselves in developing portals. Beyond
generating information for dissemination, their software can be used to
create systems that draw people in and help them find the information they
SAP Public Sector and Education Inc.'s enterprise portal — mySAP Workplace — is the company's answer to the outside-in approach in government, said
Thomas Shirk, president of SAP Public Sector and Education.
"There is a shift in focus from the inside-out administrative business
systems to the outside-in, where you pull in the customers, suppliers, citizens,"
Shirk said. The back-end business applications feeding portals are transparent
to users, he said.
State governments such as Pennsylvania are adopting mySAP Workplace,
which brings together tools for financial management, logistics, human resources,
CRM, advanced planning and data warehouses, along with non-SAP components,
Shirk said. In May, SAP also partnered with Commerce One to offer a marketplace
site that uses SAP's business processes software as the backbone.
SAP has also created a development environment that enables users to
expand mySAP.com to mobile devices so that they can fit into the "e-anywhere,
e-anytime" mold, Shirk said. That would enable someone to access a state's
market site from a mobile device to register a claim or enter an order,
he said. SAP also is looking to connect states to each other, which will
facilitate marriage and personal information changes that require contact
with several states or with multiple agencies in one state, he said.
Richmond, Va.'s Technology of the Future project also is based on mySAP.com
as a backbone for integrating with geographic information systems, business
permits and employee self-service systems.
PeopleSoft plans to offer portals aimed at three audiences: employees,
customers and suppliers — what the company calls "role-based" portals.
Instead of inundating users with data they're not interested in, the
portals aggregate data for individual users, which simplifies the process
of information interaction, said Laura King, acting general manager for
PeopleSoft's Education and Government marketing and strategy. PeopleSoft
also offers an enterprise portal product, which allows customers to integrate
other PeopleSoft products or other companies' products that they are already
using, McGlothlin said.
"We want to have a complete product offering and service offering for
e-business, but we are not sending a message that says you have to paint
your ship 100 percent PeopleSoft color," McGlothlin said.