Standardization of practices is key
- By Thomas R. Temin
- May 29, 2002
Craig Conway, PeopleSoft's enterprising architect
Craig Conway, the president and chief executive officer of PeopleSoft Inc., joined the Pleasanton, Calif., company in 1999. Taking a gamble, he plowed 27 percent of its revenue into transforming its client-server applications to work through browsers.
Conway led PeopleSoft's acquisition of several companies, including Vantive Corp., a customer relationship management software vendor. He also replaced many members of the company's management team while hiring aggressively during the dot-com boom.
The online magazine Business 2.0 recently described him as 'hypercompetitive and relentlessly focused. ... Conway has imposed discipline on PeopleSoft and hacked back at costs' in the then money-losing company.
In the last 18 months, PeopleSoft's stock price has tripled, and profits are strong. Conway has moved the company beyond human resources into other enterprise applications.
Before joining PeopleSoft, Conway had a long stint in sales at Oracle Corp.
GCN executive editor Thomas R. Temin interviewed him in Orlando, Fla., during a recent government conference where Conway was a keynote speaker. GCN: Do agencies buy an enterprise package like PeopleSoft's, then change their business processes to make it work? Or should they change their processes, then add the software?
CONWAY: They go hand in hand. Most organizations realize that to get maximum value from technology, they need to standardize their processes. The technology is a tool to accomplish that.
But technology is only part of the solution. A significant amount of the solution is standardizing the business process'designing a way to achieve real-time organization. I believe that technology now is the fastest and easiest part of the equation.GCN: Would you say agencies are ready to change their processes when they hire you?
CONWAY: I think they've bought into it. They have a vision and solicit us to achieve the vision.
There's a 12-step program for creating a real-time enterprise that I wrote from my experience with organizations such as the Mint. When I started, it was five keys, then it was eight keys, then 10 keys and finally 12 keys to building a real-time enterprise.GCN: What are the highlights?
CONWAY: Step 1 is to standardize business processes. Step 4 is holding software vendors accountable. Step 10 is to anticipate change management. Step 12 is to have a strong CIO.
When you look at organizations like the Mint and go through the 12 keys, you see it had the benefit of most if not all of the keys. It had a strong CIO, it had a vision, and it did hold PeopleSoft accountable.GCN: What's the status of PeopleSoft Financials 8.4?
CONWAY: It was announced in March with general availability soon after. It was designed specifically for government financial management.
We worked with the Chief Financial Officers Council and with our installed customer base to make sure the product incorporated all of their customizations.GCN: Is there the same need to re-engineer business processes for PeopleSoft financials?
CONWAY: Yes, absolutely. But I wouldn't call it re-engineering. That hearkens back to the 1990s era of business process re-engineering, which in my mind was a horrific failure. It evokes images of long, multiple-year projects where large consulting companies charged you tens of millions of dollars to essentially rip up all your business processes and start over.
This is not business process re-engineering. If anything, the call to action is that real-time enterprises can be implemented within a few months. The average implementation of PeopleSoft 8 is four-and-a-half months.
What you would refer to as re-engineering I think of as merely standardizing business practices. What we ask in the private sector is: If you are a company with multiple subsidiaries and are implementing a customer relationship management system, what is the order entry process? Decide on one.
If you can adjust business processes to the best practices that have already been built into the software, you can have enormous benefits.
This phase of technology can be characterized as get in, get live, get out.GCN: How is the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System going?
CONWAY: On the surface, you would think that since everyone in the armed services is working for the United States government, the human resources management systems should have a whole lot more similarities than differences. There were people in the armed services who recognized that years ago.
For years, they promoted the idea of a single human resources or human capital management system that incorporated the Army, the Air Force and the Navy. I have to tell you, I'm in awe of these people because they have done the hard part.
Ultimately, there will be 3.5 million uniforms in this system.
DIMHRS is an excellent example of standardizing your business process, of using Internet technology, of extending it to real time. It's a good example of a far-reaching, innovative, visionary approach to human capital management'as significant as anything in the private space.GCN: When you go into an agency, what do you find is the biggest barrier to success?
CONWAY: In 2002, I think it is essentially the issue of execution, not vision. The thought leadership associated with e-government was unique two years ago. It's not unique today, whether at the state level or the federal level.
I think people know what they want to do. I think they have execution issues.
At the 25,000-foot level, everyone is in complete agreement about what they want to achieve. But when you start to get closer to the ground, people start to get parochial in terms of how things should work.GCN: What's your opinion on the quality of CIOs in industry versus government?
CONWAY: I am amazed that the government has CIOs as strong and visionary as any on the private side. In some cases, the CIOs have come into the public sector from the private sector, but in a lot of cases they're just smart CIOs who know exactly what they want to do.
Twenty years ago, or 15 years ago, the public sector was kind of a bastion of old hardware and old software. Today, it is as visionary, nimble, aggressive and sophisticated as the private sector. It's an exciting thing to see.GCN: What is the best and worst you've encountered in agencies with respect to the hardware infrastructure necessary to run enterprise applications?
CONWAY: Internet-based enterprise applications are very straightforward to implement because the Internet is infinitely scalable.
If you want to deploy a 100-user application to 10,000 users, you can do that simply by adding Web servers and application servers.
One of the unintended consequences of moving to the Internet is that you have an underlying architecture that is wonderfully scalable. It's almost impossible to go down a dead-end path.
I think that all government agencies have some readiness to deploy an Internet-architected approach.GCN: You mean an IP infrastructure, not necessarily the Internet itself.
CONWAY: An IP-based infrastructure that includes servers, whether application or Web servers. It includes some bandwidth, some level of security'it could be hardware or software security, firewalls. But everything I've just mentioned is relatively inexpensive.
This is one of the great things about technology. PeopleSoft's data communications capacity is probably 100 times bigger than it was 36 months ago, but we pay less. The bandwidth expands as the cost is going down.
That's the case for servers, for network data bandwidth. It's the case for routers. It's the case for firewalls. You can do more with a lot less money.
You can do so much, and you almost never run out of headroom.
The long pole of the tent is deciding what you would like to accomplish, and getting people in agreement about what the vision needs to be.