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A New, Improved Sarbanes-Oxley Tool

PeopleSoft officials Monday announced the general availability of Enterprise Financial Management (EFM) 8.8, featuring a host of time-saving improvements.

The enhancements are designed to drum up interest in software that helps enterprises fulfill federal financial reporting guidelines established by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOA). Research indicates that while companies seem to realize the importance of reporting requirements in Section 404 of SOA, compliance-related software purchases have been tepid.

EFM 8.8, unveiled at the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company's Connect 2003 seminar in September, is the result of a customer wish-list for the 120 most-used tasks and processes, company officials said.

In addition to 225 new enhancements in the software suite upgrade, PeopleSoft developers included embedded analytics, instant messaging and support for the extensible business reporting language, XBRL , and extensible markup language, XML .

One of the best ways to get potential customers to buy into their software is to show off time-saving processes. PeopleSoft officials say the 8.8 enhancements deliver the following:

  • General ledger allocations performance boost of 60 percent.
  • Task completion rate improvements averaging 44 percent.
  • Overall time to complete a task are improved by 29 percent.

Officials hope the improvements offset the ambivalence in the enterprise industry with financial management software. According to a December META Group report, 2003 was a disappointment for 57 percent of software vendors in the U.S., who saw flat sales in the sector as companies invested more in risk management consultants and external auditors than on internal measures.

These companies have been looking everywhere except the largest base of compliance providers, IT software vendors, said Stan Lepeak, vice president of META Group's technology research services.

"It's important that the IT product vendors who are chasing the SOX rainbow take the time to develop solutions that are truly tied to compliance stipulations and requirements, not just warmed over IT solutions in a loose SOX wrapper," he said in a statement.

META Group has broken down the various states of compliance awareness at the enterprise level into five categories ranging from project exploration at the corporate level (Level 0) to project execution (Level 3) compliance optimization (Level 5). The firm doesn't expect much to change until the initial Section 404 compliance deadline in mid-2004.

The timing couldn't be better for PeopleSoft. EFM 8.8 comes at a time when most companies (40 percent, according to META Group) are just beginning to initiate internal controls for SOA compliance. Another 35 percent of those polled in the META Group survey are at Level 1 or Level 2, building awareness.

"(EFM 8.8) delivers the usability employees want, the productivity CFOs need, and the return on investment that CEOs demand," said Renee Lorton, PeopleSoft financial management senior vice president and general manager, in a statement.

PeopleSoft is currently embroiled in a hostile takeover attempt by Oracle . Last week, Oracle extended its credit line by $1.5 billion to sweeten the pot with PeopleSoft shareholders.