Oracle to revamp schools ERP software, with an eye on Workday

Oracle Student Cloud and a new edition of PeopleSoft Campus Solutions are in the works

Oracle is planning to make significant investments in its ERP software for higher education institutions, with an eye on keeping the installed base happy and fending off challenges from the likes of Workday.

A new Oracle Student Cloud service will be configurable to manage "a variety of traditional and non-traditional educational offerings," Oracle said. The first incarnation of the product will be released sometime in 2015 and will support student enrollment, payment and assessment.

In addition, Oracle will release new features for higher education in its HCM (human capital management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) cloud services during this year and next, according to Monday's announcement. The capabilities will target areas such as union contracts and grant management, and will be tied into Oracle Student Cloud.

Oracle is also planning a major overhaul of PeopleSoft Campus Solutions, a special version of the ERP suite that is in use at many institutions around the world.

The update is planned for 2015 and will deliver "a simpler, more productive user experience" and easier ongoing management of the system, Oracle said. It will also include every feature bundle Oracle has shipped since the release of PeopleSoft Campus Solutions 9.0 in late 2006.

Software vendors often announce their intentions for a given product area well in advance of the software becoming a reality. But in this case Oracle has a specific reason for doing so, said analyst Ray Wang, chairman and founder of Constellation Research.

Oracle's worried about Workday who's been gaining traction and really the key head to head competitor in these deals," Wang said Monday. "The goal here is to let the core base of PeopleSoft customers know there's a future path with Oracle while ramping up the marketing against Workday."

Workday, which is led by PeopleSoft founder Dave Duffield along with former PeopleSoft executive Aneel Bhusri, has been making headlines in recent years by winning large deals for its cloud-based HCM and finance software.

It "will most likely be a key short list contender in replacement solutions for higher education," Wang said. While Oracle has deep vertical functionality for higher education, Workday is expected to build out such capabilities, he added.

Oracle has garnered mixed headlines with its PeopleSoft higher education business in recent years. It landed a US$100 million deal last year to install PeopleSoft at 34 colleges in Washington state.

But it also engaged in an ugly, nearly two-year-long legal battle with Montclair State University in New Jersey over a troubled PeopleSoft implementation at the school. The case was settled last year.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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