Keeping ERP on the QT

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

about it.

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

functions.

"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,

Brown said.

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.

Customer Focus

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

said.

"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.

Portal Power

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

want.

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.

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