PeopleSoft Rising
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Holmes Report

PeopleSoft Rising

In July of 2000, PeopleSoft began what was to become its turnaround tale, bringing it from near death back into the limelight as a major enterprise resource planning (ERP) software player.

Paul Holmes

“The release of PeopleSoft Inc.’s latest software on Monday caps a long comeback for the 14-year-old company.”—Investor’s Business Daily (June 2001)
“Not every high-tech company is filled with anguish and anxiety these days.  Business software maker, PeopleSoft Inc. stands out in contrast to the devastation that has wiped out so many Silicon Valley fortunes.”—Associated Press (June 2001)
Program Description
In July of 2000, PeopleSoft began what was to become its turnaround tale, bringing it from near death back into the limelight as a major enterprise resource planning (ERP) software player.  Its 100 percent pure-Internet solution, PeopleSoft 8, was the first of its kind and an instant hit with media and analysts. However, one piece of the puzzle was still missing: Customer Relationship Management.
PeopleSoft bought Vantive Corporation in early 2000 to obtain its CRM technology. But it would take more than a year to successfully merge the companies and migrate Vantive’s technology to PeopleSoft’s pure-Internet platform.
In June of 2001, almost a year after its successful PeopleSoft 8 launch, PeopleSoft was ready to release PeopleSoft 8 CRM, the industry’s first pure-Internet CRM solution.  The launch would mark an important milestone in bringing the company from CRM also-ran to CRM giant, and the following months would be crucial to keeping media momentum alive.
Phase Two Strategies’ goals were three-fold: convince the media that PeopleSoft, a company that had no CRM offering before Vantive, was now the number two CRM provider (behind industry-giant Siebel), disseminate the message that PeopleSoft’s CRM suite is technically superior to Siebel’s, and to leverage this major product announcement and the following months to re-ignite interest in PeopleSoft’s corporate turnaround story. 
To accomplish those goals, the firm would have to overcome three challenges.  First, the media seemed to have made up their minds that Siebel was in a class by itself—no other vendor even came close.  Second, ERP-rival Oracle lay firmly in the path between PeopleSoft and Siebel.  Finally, in promoting the previous year’s launch, PeopleSoft had lauded that it was offering the first complete pure-Internet suite, despite the fact that, at the time, the CRM offering from Vantive had not been fully migrated to pure-Internet architecture.  This meant that Phase Two Strategies would be telling the media that PeopleSoft had the first complete 100 percent Internet product—again.
Objectives and Strategic Approach
The launch of CRM 8 would take place in Las Vegas in June 2001 during the company’s annual leadership summit.  To maximize coverage, Phase Two Strategies, planned to conduct pre-briefings in the weeks before the event, as well as briefings in Las Vegas during launch week.
The strategic approach was simple.  There’s nothing the media like more than a good fight.  So, to make sure PeopleSoft’s messages got across loud and clear, Phase Two Strategies encouraged Craig Conway (PeopleSoft’s CEO) to come out swinging against Siebel and Oracle.
Following the event, the firm wanted to continue to use the new product launch to convince reporters that PeopleSoft’s turnaround was still gaining momentum. 
Consequently, the team planned to stress the new CRM offering in relationship to the company’s other product lines among trade publications, and use the resulting launch coverage to gain the attention of general business reporters.
Execution and Results
Phase Two Strategies was able to garner over 50 briefings with trade and corporate media surrounding the launch event.  In addition, the firm managed to lure seven editors to the scorching, summer desert—in the midst of a tech recession—to attend the event in person.  It paid off.  Nearly 60 articles appeared as a result, with some publications featuring PeopleSoft in more than one article.  The messages got through as well, as many reporters were compelled by Craig Conway’s assertive attitude:
Quote of the week: “PeopleSoft’s strategy is that Oracle’s strategy is insane.” 
PeopleSoft president and CEO Craig Conway, on Oracle’s “buy all from us” (ERP, CRM, and the database) stance vs. PeopleSoft’s fully integrated products that can work with any platform or vendor offerings. InformationWeek (June 2001)
Conway, chief executive of PeopleSoft Inc., on Monday is unveiling a new version of the company’s customer relationship management software.  He said several corporate customers who have seen demonstrations of the product immediately chose it over products from Siebel Systems Inc., the dominant supplier in the CRM market.
The Wall Street Journal (June 2001)
In the months following the event, the Phase Two Strategies team was able to leverage the CRM launch to renew interest in the corporate turnaround story.  An additional slew of hits in the second half of 2002 kept the momentum alive (continuing to this day) in top-tier business publications such as Forbes, Fortune, Business 2.0, etc.
After less than two years as chief executive of PeopleSoft, Craig Conway has not only brought the company back from the dead, but through acquisitions, strict cost controls and focused development, has positioned it as one of the leaders in enterprise software. (June 2001)
Craig Conway came to software-maker PeopleSoft almost three years ago with a fearsome reputation as a tough-guy boss. Many employees worried that he would mangle PeopleSoft’s beloved, if strange, corporate culture. He did—and may have saved the company in the process.Business 2.0 (Feb. 2002 issue)
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