High Visibility: Major release of JD Edwards EnterpriseOne offers new look—and sharper insight into enterprise resource planning.
by Aaron Lazenby
Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne is an integrated applications suite of comprehensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. In April 2012, Oracle released JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1 applications, a significant release built on the December 2011 release of JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Tools 9.1 and designed to improve usability while driving productivity and innovation. “Release 9.1 takes ERP to the next level,” says Lyle Ekdahl, group vice president and general manager for Oracle’s JD Edwards product family.
Here, Profit talks to Ekdahl about the newest release, the impact of Oracle Fusion Applications, and Oracle’s commitment to helping JD Edwards EnterpriseOne customers upgrade.
Profit: What’s special about the latest JD Edwards release?
Ekdahl: The current release has more than 20 patents pending on the work that we’ve done. We provided a whole new user interaction paradigm for our customers by leveraging Oracle technologies with rich user experiences, and applying them to our JD Edwards products. This gave users a very robust, engaging environment. We also added features to improve productivity, such as carousel-based navigation and type-ahead search. Then, we offered users the ability to personalize the look and feel for their own applications.
We also added functionality to very specific areas of the product. For example, we added country of origin for specific lot- or serial-controlled products, which gives our customers granular visibility into where everything in the manufacturing process comes from, right down to the nuts and bolts. That way if your customers specify where they want their parts to be sourced from, you can know if they came from China or somewhere in Latin America.
Profit: How much impact did customers have on Release 9.1?
Ekdahl: At Oracle, with JD Edwards we strongly believe that the best products are built through customer interactions, whether we’re interacting with users at conferences or going out to talk to customers in a specific market. At the end of the day, we’re solving business problems here, so really understanding those business problems is important to us.
For example, after a series of discussions with partners and customers in Japan, we developed a new project manufacturing functionality. We’re providing unique production number identifiers linking all the related supply chain transactions—from sales order demand, to acquiring supply, through the manufacturing process and delivery. These unique identifiers give our users visibility into their profitability—as well as any supply disruptions or bottlenecks. The identifiers also allow users to reserve inventory for specific projects or customers, which can affect their customers’ satisfaction.
We are working very hard to drive down the cost of moving from release to release . . . which has huge cost implications.
At Oracle OpenWorld Tokyo, our JD Edwards users were very excited when we described this new functionality. They said, “You obviously listened to us.”
Profit: How did you shape the mobile strategy for this JD Edwards EnterpriseOne release?
Ekdahl: This was another area where we started with customers. We asked, “What are the areas of your business where you want to bring information from ERP to the point of process?” We asked them where they needed functionality to become more efficient, so they didn’t have to write things down on paper or e-mail them to the home office.
When it comes to smartphones, we are providing point-specific functionality. Our customers were looking for ways their people could approve purchase orders from the road to avoid bottlenecks. They were looking for ways to remotely access order history or order status and—even more importantly—inventory status. “Do I have this good available to sell? What’s the price?” So we started out enabling the procurement and order to cash processes.
Our user community was also concerned with expenses. Our customers wanted to be able to enter expenses from the road—and review, approve, or reject them from their smartphones so that people get paid on time.
We took another approach for the iPad, and released full support for the entire suite. That’s because we saw the use cases being very, very broad for that device. It’s actually the first complete ERP solution to offer full support on the iPad. With our new, enhanced UI, we’ve given our customers the ability to really navigate on that device without having to do a whole lot of typing. We developed a set of gestures that allow them to perform tasks like navigating and closing out work orders, which minimizes the need for a keyboard.
Profit: What impact is Oracle Fusion Applications having on the product line?
Ekdahl: First off, Oracle Fusion Applications started as a huge investment in architecture and in the middleware layer. We’ve leveraged products such as Oracle Application Development Framework Mobile Client to strengthen our JD Edwards EnterpriseOne release. Oracle Business Intelligence Publisher powers one of the release’s breakthrough solutions—JD Edwards EnterpriseOne One View Reporting, which allows business users to create interactive reports without IT support. Oracle’s R&D spend is the envy of the industry and gives us so much that we can pull from.
At the end of the day, we’re solving business problems here, so really understanding those business problems is important to us.
When it comes to the Oracle Fusion Applications suite itself, one of the areas we’re most excited about is HR. Talent management is obviously a huge issue. I was just having a conversation with a customer in the public sector space about the difficulty of retaining top talent. He was extremely excited about the ability to have JD Edwards EnterpriseOne as an ERP solution to handle financials—but then have that integrated with talent management through an Oracle cloud offering. Compensation management is another product we are looking to bring together with JD Edwards EnterpriseOne. And CRM [customer relationship management] is an obvious extension for us, too, as we look down the road.
Finally, Oracle Fusion Applications will affect how we help our customers manage their supply chains. How do you handle order orchestration when you are dealing with a multitude of distributed in-house systems—as well as with remote purchasing, supply, and end customer systems? How do you bring all those disparate systems together? Well, you can do that through some of the Oracle Fusion Applications offerings.
Profit: How are you moving customers to Release 9.1?
Ekdahl: We want our customers to get as much value out of Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne as possible. And the way to do that is to keep them current. So we are working very hard to drive down the cost of moving from release to release, making this more of an evolution to the next generation of software as opposed to a discontinuous change, which has huge cost implications.
Of course, we are also putting in place compelling capabilities that allow customers to meet their ROI requirement. We do that through new user paradigms and software that is easier to use. This makes end users more productive so that they can be more efficient in their day-to-day operations.
We also provide rich capability in terms of industry functionality. The reality is, by bringing newer technologies to the table and marrying that with business, we’re giving our customers tools to innovate so that they can be competitive in the global market space. Finally, we’re engineering the product to be able to move data much more quickly. That can reduce costs of ETL [extract, transfer, and load] processes.
Profit: How is Oracle committed to continuous improvement of the JD Edwards EnterpriseOne applications?
Ekdahl: People want to work with a vendor they can trust and count on, so they can invest and plan their business with a level of confidence. That’s why we created a six-year roadmap, which is pretty unheard of in the industry. We’re going to have major releases over a six-year period for both of our full ERP suites, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and JD Edwards World, including three major releases, point releases, and infrastructure releases.
We’ve also worked with some of our larger customers and midsize customers to pull together a set of best upgrade practices. We’ve synthesized this into a workshop called “Upgrade JD Edwards in 100 Days.”
The title gets a lot of attention, but really what we’re tackling is how you stay current over a period of time, instead of a big bang once every 10 years. We provide approaches that can help customers move to new releases in a quicker fashion—quicker than they ever thought possible, such as figuring out the proper way to do customizations, so that it preserves their ability to upgrade.
Our customers are seeing all that we’re doing and they’re saying, “Yes, Oracle is committed to JD Edwards.” They’re seeing an ROI calculation that makes sense for them, and the opportunity for them to do some innovation in their own environments.
And they are upgrading. The proof is in the pudding. Even in the face of some strong economic headwinds in the last couple of years, we continue to grow our license revenues at a very successful rate. That revenue comes from a couple sources, including a very strong install base that we’ve energized through investment in the product. It’s a pretty exciting time.
Aaron Lazenby is editor in chief of Profit.