All in the Family

Innovation, commitment, and loyalty the secrets to JD Edwards’ success.

by Aaron Lazenby, August 2010

Five years and 15 product releases after Oracle purchased Denver, Colorado-based JD Edwards, the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and JD Edwards World product lines have become a critical part of Oracle’s applications portfolio. The software, previously owned by Oracle acquisition PeopleSoft, delivers core enterprise resource planning (ERP) functionality to a still-loyal customer base and new companies alike. Profit spoke to Lyle Ekdahl, group vice president of the product lines, on the fiveyear anniversary of Oracle’s acquisition of JD Edwards.

Profit: What are customers saying about the progress the JD Edwards products have made under Oracle?

Ekdahl: Our customers have seen consistent investment in product innovation over the past five years, and we are delighted to have earned their loyalty. As part of Oracle, we’ve had 15 discrete development releases for both JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and JD Edwards World products. We’ve brought seven new products to market and announced integrations that benefit JD Edwards customers. That’s a lot of work and investment from Oracle.

And our customers are proving their support of our strategy by upgrading to the newest releases of our products. And we get our share of new customers, which validates that we are providing viable industry solutions to the marketplace.

Profit: How has access to Oracle’s development organization improved JD Edwards’ products since the acquisition?

Ekdahl: When you’re acquired by a major player like Oracle, you get to leverage thousands of developers around the globe, dedicated to creating software of the highest quality. Our customers and partners see this incredible investment every day in the user interface enhancements, system performance capabilities, and new technology that is available at every level of the technology stack.

For example, Oracle Fusion Middleware has been huge for us in terms of delivering integration and interoperability—which is really a big piece of the JD Edwards story. We now can put in place prepackaged integrations where that makes sense, or at least put in place some of the plumbing so we can reduce the costs that customers have to incur when they implement an overall solution. I think those things have been huge for JD Edwards customers overall.

While interoperability has always been a key component for JD Edwards, as a standalone company we didn’t have the same leverage, resources, or capitalization to deliver everything natively. Now we can deliver full solutions based on Oracle products. The beauty of it is that we own both sides and the technology to make it work.

Profit: What kind of work has been done to promote integration of JD Edwards with other aspects of Oracle’s enterprise technology?

Ekdahl: JD Edwards is a natively integrated suite of products. And more than just being single-database or single-datamodel products, they are truly natively integrated from top to bottom, which includes the transaction context as well as the user interface.

From an Oracle tools perspective, we’ve made the JD Edwards products compatible with the most recent version of Oracle Fusion Middleware. In fact, we’ve productized some of those components in the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Technology Foundation—a prepackaged set of Oracle technology that will run with JD Edwards EnterpriseOne.

We’ve also picked up on Oracle’s drive into standards-based Web services and SOA-based systems, leveraging Oracle Fusion Middleware and Oracle SOA Suite to expose Web services to enable interoperability and integration.

Today, we also populate the Oracle Business Intelligence data warehouse through an ETL [extract, transform, and load] map for both of our product lines for financials, and we have a pretty aggressive roadmap to fill out the rest of the key functional areas in that central data warehouse.

We also have integrations in the marketplace for the entire value chain planning suite of products, including Oracle’s Demantra products, shipping integration to Oracle Transportation Management, and Oracle Application Integration Architecture-based integrations to Oracle CRM On Demand for JD Edwards EnterpriseOne. We have a process integration pack for Oracle’s Agile product lifecycle management products.

We are also integrated with Oracle Primavera and have an integration to Primavera Contract Management, which is a great construction site management product. Think about the solutions needed in construction trailers; having to pay subcontractors and collect materials, receive materials, those sorts of things. So we’re integrated to that product as well.

Another example of extending value to the JD Edwards base has been utilizing market-leading products such as Oracle Business Intelligence Publisher and Oracle User Productivity Kit. Our customers can take their ERP data and use it to better run and report on their organizations as well as communicate within their own ecosystems.

Profit: Having come from a smaller ecosystem and a smaller corporate culture, is it liberating to have these kinds of assets to leverage?

Ekdahl: Right now we’re in a very enviable position in that we have the best of both worlds. So as part of Applications Unlimited, we made a commitment that we would have focused development teams. So we still have the focused JD Edwards team.

But while our culture obviously has been evolved as a part of Oracle, we’re also still a very strong, independent voice within the Applications Unlimited community. We’re still very JD Edwards. Oracle has allowed us to retain those things that make us different, because that is part of the value that we deliver to our customers and to the marketplace that we serve.

That’s really what’s implied in Applications Unlimited; the reason Oracle is able to continue to invest in these multiple product lines is because they’re overall additive to Oracle’s business. And I think Oracle’s been very good about allowing us to leverage what we really need to leverage out of Oracle, and then still allow us to keep our identity.

Profit: As part of your identity, the JD Edwards customers and partners are known for being very involved and vocal. How is that reflected in the JD Edwards products?

Ekdahl: We all work as closely with customers as we can and that’s certainly the way to build the best products. We engage with our customers via the JD Edwards Customer Strategy Councils, Quest User Group activities and events, COLLABORATE, and Oracle OpenWorld.

And we reach out to customers who are deploying and upgrading our products through a program we call Development Direct. We invite customers to Denver to spend a day with us and tell us what they’re doing. And of course we share our plans, our thoughts and our design centers, as we look at those areas of the products, so customers can better understand what we’re doing. Then we keep in contact on a regular basis so we understand what our customer base is doing and show we are committed to their success.

We do this so customers can have some interaction with development, and we can have visibility into what they are doing with our products. This really lowers the risk inherent in ERP. But we’ve also seen our original plans for a product evolve in the marketplace over time. For example, how we perceived customers would use order management has changed a lot due to the explosion of the internet, movement of supply offshore, and the lengthening of supply chains. How ERP products are used has transformed into something much larger than we first anticipated.

But our partners also guide our development and are critical to our success. Partners contribute to our designs and are responsible for additional functionality, smooth implementations, and upgrades. We are working with our partners and the Oracle Accelerate organization to provide additional industry value and faster implementations to our customers.

Profit: It sounds like you have tried to keep your family approach but have reached to improve the core JD Edwards products in many ways.

Ekdahl: We need to continually challenge ourselves. The JD Edwards brand has been around for more than 33 years now, which means that it has a great foundation, and customers continue to receive new benefits while retaining low cost of ownership. But we need to respect the changing environment of our customers to keep their business. We want our customers to get excited when they see what we deliver and how it can help to meet their goals.

It’s quite often that I’ll run into a company that has been running JD Edwards products for a decade or more, but they are doing something entirely new like moving into China or bringing in business intelligence. Since JD Edwards is part of Oracle, they can upgrade within their current core ERP and add in new functionality without taking on unnecessary business risk.

Profit: It sounds like innovation, commitment, and loyalty have won a lot of respect from customers.

Ekdahl: JD Edwards has worked very hard to earn that loyalty, going the extra mile for customers, trying to work with them to solve their pressing business issues, and remaining focused on what it is JD Edwards is about. It’s an ERP system with core capabilities and some very specific functionality for a handful of industries that we cater to. We have kept loyal to multiple platforms and strived to provide flexibility and extensibility at a low TCO. People have come to respect that about us.

I think you get a fair amount of respect for being consistent and true to your roots. Ultimately that respect turns into a good, healthy friendship. That’s the way I see it with most of my customers. I have people on my staff that have been with JD Edwards for decades. They are still here in Denver as a core team. There are a lot of people that have a pretty extended history with these products, still involved with the products and still part of the customer base.

I think that’s what really lends to that feeling of family we have in the JD Edwards community.


Aaron Lazenby is editor in chief of Profit.
 
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