01_Craig Conway

Bet the Company

It takes a tough boss to save a tender company. When Craig Conway signed on with PeopleSoft in May 1999, it was generating red ink, horrible results on Wall Street, and concerns that its technology was out of date. Conway bet on PeopleSoft 8–a pure Internet architecture for enterprise software. He also created a grown-up sense of discipline in a freewheeling culture. The outcome: PeopleSoft is profitable again, and its technology has leapfrogged the competition.


Craig Conway
President and CEO, PeopleSoft Inc.
Pleasanton, California


Describe a core leadership principle.
Craig Conway is constantly on the search for strong executives. If necessary, he’ll create a position for a world-class executive. With a background in sales, Conway also believes in spending a significant portion of time directly with his customers to make sure that they are happy. Probably the strongest driver of Conway’s philosophy is his reluctance to be satisfied–he inspires his employees and satisfies his customers by always striving to “keep the edge.”

Show us your leadership in action: a decision that you made, a situation in which you led and that put your principles to the test.
Conway became the CEO of PeopleSoft in 1999, and bet the company on one concept: a pure Internet architecture for enterprise software. By pulling off this bet, and creating a suite of software that was delivered over the Internet and didn’t require any downloads by the customer, PeopleSoft leap-frogged the competition’s technology with the launch of PeopleSoft 8. This enabled the company to offer software that was easier, cheaper, and quicker to install than any of its major competitors’ products.

Describe the biggest obstacle you were up against.
When Conway joined PeopleSoft, its core market of human resources management was slowing and executives were jumping ship. Headlines predicting the death of the company abounded. Conway had to control costs and diversify the business model to survive. He brought in a new CFO, Kevin Parker, to establish clear financial guidelines. He used his technical expertise supported by CTO Rick Bergquist and Product and Technology EVP Ram Gupta to successfully create and launch the new pure-Internet product. All the while, he remained focused on his customers to build on the loyalty that was the trademark of the PeopleSoft brand.

Document the results of your leadership style.
Conway says that the company’s success has gone even “better, faster, higher” than his blueprint. PeopleSoft has had a great year, even as other technology companies struggle through a recession that hit technology hard and fast. Here’s the proof: PeopleSoft has met or exceeded its financial goals every quarter this year, both by growing revenue and controlling costs. In fact, the company is the only major enterprise software company that did not lower financial guidance in 2001. By the end of the fiscal year, the company will have grown 29-30%, and all of this progress in the face of a recession.