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Better All the Time

Innovation and integration help JD Edwards address customers’ changing needs.

by Aaron Lazenby, August 2013

When it comes to Oracle’s JD Edwards product family, Lyle Ekdahl, group vice president and general manager of JD Edwards at Oracle, keeps his team focused on continuous improvement.

“Fundamentally, we believe that when you truly marry sound business and economic principles with the right technologies, there will be positive implications, not just from a market perspective but in the world,” says Ekdahl. “We do that by applying a continuously and increasingly simple and elegant design principle to a space bounded by a chosen set of vertical industries. The end result is an ERP [enterprise resource planning] system that customers use to better run, maintain, and grow their businesses.”

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Here, Ekdahl talks to Profit about what’s new for customers, the impact of Oracle’s acquisition strategy, and the trends he is watching to make JD Edwards products even more effective in the future.

Profit: What recent JD Edwards innovations are you excited about?

Ekdahl: In the past year, we’ve applied for more than a dozen patents, which is one of the ways we measure the amount of innovation we’re bringing to the marketplace.

We’ve done two updates on our JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1 tools, which continue to make ERP easier to use and easier to deploy and manage. In addition, we released an update to our JD Edwards World product, which is 9.3.1.

Since our last discussion, we unveiled several new modules that are already delivering breakthrough value. The first focuses on environmental health, safety, and incident management. We’ve created a comprehensive and integrated solution that reduces cost associated with incidents such as workplace accidents.

We’ve built the environment to capture those incidents easily and quickly, report against them to meet the requirements of government agencies, and also bring intelligence to the game so that you can find trends that help you reduce the actual accidents themselves.

Finally, in May, Oracle released two JD Edwards EnterpriseOne In-Memory Applications [part of Oracle In-Memory Applications]. JD Edwards EnterpriseOne In-Memory Sales Advisor brings together a wealth of information to customer service representatives [CSRs] in an easy-to-consume user interface.

Now CSRs have everything at their fingertips from massive transactional history files on past orders, products, pricing, and promotions, so they can optimize customer orders while they interact on the phone. JD Edwards EnterpriseOne In-Memory Project Portfolio Management handles all the parts of a company’s projects, including costs, labor, and more.

We’ve applied for more than a dozen patents, which is one of the ways we measure the amount of innovation we’re bringing to the marketplace.

This helps executives optimize decisions around the portfolio, so they can do “what if” analysis in real time without manual consolidation steps.

Profit: How do these JD Edwards EnterpriseOne In-Memory Applications change the game?

Ekdahl: These applications really allow us to change how we think about business and how we solve business problems. With JD Edwards EnterpriseOne In-Memory Applications, we’re able to go faster—in real time or near real time—because we’re taking very large data sets and loading all that into the silicon, rather than relying on old computing paradigms that were disk and I/O intensive and required batch processes. Of course, it’s not just about going faster, it’s about making decisions much more intelligently and much more accurately than you ever were able to do in the past.

Profit: At the beginning of the year, Oracle expanded the availability of JD Edwards EnterpriseOne One View Reporting. What did this mean for users?

Ekdahl: JD Edwards EnterpriseOne One View Reporting was initially only available to JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1 customers. We wanted to extend it to a broader set of the customer base, so we made it available to JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.0 customers as well.

What it really is, in its essence, is a suite of content with a set of very easy-to-understand tools that allows end users to very quickly perform their operational reporting right there, on the spot, without having to go to IT.

Customers see that as a very powerful proposition. It frees up IT to do more-strategic work for the business, which in turn helps the business to innovate. It also empowers those end users. And the more knowledgeable they become about the data set, the more effective and efficient they’ll be in performing their day-to-day activities.

In my 20-plus years of product development, I’ve never seen anything quite like the adoption of JD Edwards EnterpriseOne One View Reporting. It has been nothing short of spectacular. And the fun thing is that it’s actually a simple idea. But sometimes the simplest ideas are the most powerful.

Profit: How have Oracle’s recent acquisitions affected JD Edwards customers and products?

Ekdahl: Oracle’s application strategy around continued acquisitions has added tons of value to the JD Edwards space. For example, from a strategic point of view, Taleo [Oracle Taleo Enterprise Cloud Service] is an incredible addition. I talk to a lot of C-level executives who say there’s a dearth of skills in the workforce, especially in the manufacturing space. So having a cloud-based talent management offering that really helps them find, develop, and retain the right people is a very strategic piece of many of my customers’ businesses. We’re starting to see a great uptake there.

And the JD Edwards team didn’t have to build something from the ground up. Instead we could put Oracle Taleo Enterprise Cloud Service in our framework and integrate it.

From a technology point of view, I see Oracle’s acquisition of Endeca as our big data play. This really allows our customers to get their heads around very dense, complex, large data that is transactional and also rich based, but then provides the visualization that makes it really consumable for the end user. And now the JD Edwards team is building out an engaging search paradigm on top of that technology that’s really going to be game-changing.

Profit: What do JD Edwards customers have to look forward to next?

Ekdahl: I want to draw our customers’ attention to three things that will be potentially disruptive in a good way for their business, based on what the JD Edwards team is executing against.

Gamification could encourage continuous improvement, because it speaks to our desire to succeed, to achieve, to be number one.

The first is Composite Application Framework for JD Edwards EnterpriseOne—something we refer to as Café One. This gives customers the ability to take a disparate set of capabilities and visualize them in one location, within context, and synchronized with one another. We are really getting to the point where this is not just theory or a fun demo.

The breakthrough is that we’re making this readily available to end users in a drag-and-drop environment where they can quickly assemble a personalized view, which might include JD Edwards content, JD Edwards transactional applications, applications that are pulled off the internet, and BI [business intelligence]–based applications that you might have in your shop. Then they can put all that together on a single screen the way they want to see it.

The next thing is Oracle engineered systems and in-memory. Today, there is a lot of time and money involved in trying to configure and deploy disparate pieces of hardware. But now you can just take JD Edwards and drop it on top of Oracle engineered systems such as Oracle Exadata, Oracle Exalogic, or Oracle SuperCluster. It will be fast, which is important.

When we tested 2,000 users on Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalogic 3, running 668 batch jobs per minute, we got a 0.043-second response time. Also, it just works. And this is because it’s preconfigured, pretested, and preoptimized.

The third thing for customers to pay attention to is this notion of simplification. I believe that with simplification we’re going to be able to work toward a sustainable ERP lifestyle. We will be able to take the boom and bust out of systems and make them platforms for continuous value delivery. This really speaks to the agility of the business.

Profit: Looking more broadly, what other trends are you watching?

Ekdahl: Right now, I’m particularly interested in technologies that are coming to market based around how humans learn, and figuring how we make real-time learning, and learning in small snippets, part of the application.

The way it used to be done is that people would go to instructor-led courses to learn the product. The reality is, people don’t have time for that anymore. So the actual learning has to be part of the product itself.

That’s a big key visionary piece that we’ve been working on around here: How do we make the product so easy that people don’t necessarily need to learn it? How do we put in more automation so that the machine does the mundane stuff—and humans are free to use their intellectual capacity to do the real work? And then how do we make learning that is necessary part of the application itself?

Another area we’re working on in the labs is using gamification to improve performance and also satisfaction. I come from an old call center background where all the agents would try to be on the top of the leader board. When you would get to the top, buzzers and bells would go off, and you would get recognized. Gamification could encourage continuous improvement, because it speaks to our desire to succeed, to achieve, to be number one. I think there’s something in that.

Aaron Lazenby is editor in chief of Profit.

 
 
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