PeopleSoft Updates Its Other World
November 2, 2004 Alex Woodie
PeopleSoft last week introduced a service pack for its World A8.1 product line that features a new HTML interface, among about 250 other enhancements. Service Pack 6 implements the same new capabilities that PeopleSoft brought to its more widely used World version A7.3 product line in March. However, some within PeopleSoft consider A8.1 to be a “hidden gem” because it’s not talked about much, and it contains some advanced functionality you won’t find in A7.3.
In 1997, J.D. Edwards’ flagship World product line diverged into two separate releases, says PeopleSoft’s director of product strategy for the World product, John Schiff. The database for the A7.3 product, which was the original World product line developed by J.D. Edwards, would be adapted so that customers could easily upgrade to the open-platform OneWorld ERP product that J.D. Edwards was developing at the time, which today is called PeopleSoft EnterpriseOne, Schiff explains. However, some World shops were not concerned about OneWorld database compatibility, and they wanted significant enhancements that required changes to the database, too. For these customers, J.D. Edwards created the A8.1 product line.
J.D. Edwards’ plan was to eventually merge World customers onto OneWorld. While customer resistance eventually led J.D. Edwards to commit to supporting the World product indefinitely (a move that PeopleSoft has also made), these World shops were concerned about what moves J.D. Edwards would make, so being on the A7.3 release provided some degree of flexibility. Shops on A8.1 didn’t care much about this upward mobility and were committed to World through and through. In some ways, this makes A8.1 the “true” World release. But few shops took the A8.1 route, and today there are only about 200 companies on the A8.1 World line, Schiff says. Overall, more than 3,400 companies run either form of World, according to PeopleSoft’s Web site.
While the heritage of both products is identical, the A8.1 database has been extended over the years with some additional capabilities, Schiff says. Some of these capabilities found in A8.1 but not A7.3 include KanBan replenishment techniques, better lot traceability, UCC 128 compliance, and cross-docking. “A8.1 appeals to customers in the manufacturing and distribution industries because some of the advanced functionality in the base A8 product line gives them more control over how they manage the product line, shipments, and business partners,” Schiff says. “Many customers didn’t know they were there.” Because of nobody talked about the A8.1 line much, some have taken to calling it the “hidden gem,” he says.
With last week’s announcement of Service Pack 6 for the product line, or World A8.1.6 release, the A8.1 line gets some of the same features that its more widely used sibling received as part of a major makeover this spring (see “PeopleSoft Gives World ERP Suite a Web Interface”). Most notably, all of the screens in the World A8.1 product have been converted to HTML, allowing users to access the application through a Web browser, if they want, or to continue accessing it through a green screen.
World A8.1.6 also brings enhancements to the supply chain management, human capital management, and financial management components of the suite. In the supply chain application, the capability to view sales order demand information throughout the forecasting processes will increase supply chain visibility and improve planning and forecast accuracy, PeopleSoft says. The new release also delivers improved inventory accuracy, as a result of new cycle count enhancements, and better operational efficiency by running parallel versions of master planning schedules, the company says.
In the financial management application, PeopleSoft has made enhancements that will allow users to quickly respond to organizational changes; streamline balancing and reconciliation with enhanced reporting capabilities; simplify management of fixed assets; get better use of enhancements to the cash basis accounting functionality; and let users consolidate accounts receivable statements for their parent company. Human-resources-related enhancements include support for new regulatory requirements for state unemployment insurance and the capability to provide employers with faster, more accurate assessments of employee benefit and accrual amounts, PeopleSoft says.
When asked whether PeopleSoft is considering doing away with the differences between A8.1 and A7.3, and merging the code bases in some future release, Schiff says that’s an interesting question. Currently, it requires a duplication of effort to get the same new features into both releases, which is evident in the recent updates to A8.1 and A7.3. There are already new service packs for both products in the works, but such a merger is not off the table. “We are certainly listing to customers and looking at all alternatives,” Schiff says.