Oracle Gives J.D. Edwards World Shops Something to Cheer About
June 21, 2005 Alex Woodie
Eager to prove it’s doing right by its recently acquired user base, Oracle unveiled its first update to the J.D. Edwards product lines at a user conference in Texas last week. In World A7.3 Service Pack 16, users will find enhancements to help with Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance, as well as new self-service features aimed at making the customer experience “more intimate.” You could also say that Oracle was trying to be more intimate with its customers, and more forthcoming about World’s future.
Since it completed its 18-month hostile acquisition of rival PeopleSoft at the end of 2004, Oracle has faced an uphill battle when it comes to gaining the confidence of its newly acquired installed bases. The J.D. Edwards installed base–and, in particular, many of the companies that rely on the RPG-based World applications–are concerned that Oracle doesn’t lose sight of the small and mid size businesses, while tending to its enterprise customers. Soon after the acquisition, Oracle pledged to support World through at least 2013, which has helped ease these concerns. But there is a big difference between an application put on maintenance mode, and one that is deemed worthy of being enhanced.
Oracle took steps toward proving it’s not relegating World to the pasture last week in Grapevine, Texas, where the Quest International Users Group–newly merged with the PeopleSoft-focused International Customer Advisory Board (ICAB) organizations–held its annual conference. Oracle did several positive things for its J.D. Edwards installed base at Quest last week, including unveiling World A7.3 Service Pack 16, mentioning development of a new version of World, confirming that World will have a place in Project Fusion, and presenting a unified front with IBM, which is both a partner and a competitor to Oracle.
John Schiff, who is now the vice president and general manager of Oracle’s J.D. Edwards World organization, says Oracle is committed to maintaining World, committed to the iSeries, and committed to working with IBM. “Oracle continues its commitment to its partnership with IBM and customer success running J.D. Edwards World solutions on the IBM eServer iSeries system,” Schiff says. “Oracle and IBM plan to help their customers benefit from feature-rich, Web-enabled applications that are tightly integrated and pre-bundled on a single database, enabling reduced implementation costs and complexity.”
As evidence that Oracle is serious about honoring this J.D. Edwards legacy, Schiff says Oracle has kept 95 percent of the World application’s development and support staff, and changed the name of the product to J.D. Edwards World. It was previously called PeopleSoft World.
Oracle is also providing more clarity about what Project Fusion will mean to J.D. Edwards shops. Project Fusion refers to Oracle’s plans to build a common ERP and middleware platform that its 23,000 combined PeopleSoft-Oracle users can move to. While Oracle has supported the J.D. Edwards applications and the iSeries with some early Fusion components (see “Oracle Supports Fusion Components with J.D. Edwards, iSeries” in last week’s newsletter), it has not provided a definitive roadmap for supporting World and EnterpriseOne with Project Fusion. That is now starting to change.
Oracle is committed to making a place for J.D. Edwards World in Project Fusion (although support for DB2/400 in Fusion has yet to be determined). “Our goal is to make the optional direct upgrade to Project Fusion easy for you as a J.D. Edwards World customer,” Schiff says in this June 1 letter to customers, which can be found on the Quest Web site. Last week Schiff said: “Oracle plans to work with IBM and other partners to define the requirements for J.D. Edwards World products to be included in Oracle Project Fusion and support customers through future upgrades.”
In his June 1 letter, Schiff also mentioned Oracle is working on a new release of J.D. Edwards World that will ship in 2006. Although not yet formally announced, this new version, which could be called A9, will likely include some Project Fusion functionality, such as better interoperability with other Oracle applications. The Project Fusion product itself, however, is not due until 2008.
In the meantime, World shops can benefit from new features currently available in World A7.3 Service Pack 16. These features are designed to improve company’s financial reporting practices and internal controls, such as enhancements to cash-flow reporting, improved general ledger audit trails, updated batch headers, and a new approval process in accounts payable that monitors the outflow of cash. These features should help World shops to comply with regulatory mandates such as Sarbanes-Oxley.
This release also brings new self-service features that Oracle says will provide customers of World shops with a more intimate transaction with their vendor. By making some purchasing and order status information available 24 hours a day over the Internet, Oracle says World shops can offload routine requests from customer service representatives, thereby enabling CSRs to spend more time on customers with special issues.
Self-service capabilities have also been introduced for World shops’ employees, who now have Web-based interfaces to look up information about payroll, benefits, and vacation time. J.D. Edwards World A7.3 SP16 also provides regulatory and local business updates for companies in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, and Spain.
Oracle says the enhancements in World A7.3 SP16 are based in part on feedback it received from the World Product User Group and World Product Advisory Council. It is currently seeking feedback on the next release of World due in 2006, and would undoubtedly welcome feedback from J.D. Edwards users about Project Fusion. Send Oracle your feedback at email@example.com.