Here’s What’s Next for the Enterprise Software World
May 9, 2018 Alex Woodie
Thirty years ago, enterprise resource planning (ERP) was a hot new technology promising to help streamline business processes. While ERP continues to generate billions in revenue, it’s mostly for keeping complicated systems up and running. Now the daughter of the founder of JD Edwards is sharing a bold new vision for how her company, called Nextworld, plans to take enterprise software to the next stage.
We first got wind of Nextworld venture about a year-and-a-half ago. We knew the Colorado company had big plans and a stream of funding from Kylee McVaney’s father, Ed McVaney. However, since Nextworld was still in stealth mode, few details were available. Last week, Nextworld co-founder and CEO Kylee McVaney and her chief software engineer co-founder, Vito Solimene, shared concrete plans about exactly what the company has up its sleeve.
So what is it? According to McVaney and Nextworld, Nextworld is building a no code, metadata-driven enterprise application development environment called Nextbot that’s paired with a platform as a service (PaaS) that runs on AWS. The company is also using Nextbot to build a series of shrink-wrapped, enterprise-grade software as a service (SaaS) modules for distribution and manufacturing companies that also run on the Nextbot PaaS.
McVaney says the goal is nothing less than completely re-architecting how enterprise software gets developed and runs.
“We believe that there have not been very big strides in how enterprise software is built,” she tells IT Jungle. “It’s basically built by putting a lot of bodies at it, and pure work and not really working smarter. So we have built a platform that’s going to completely change how enterprise software is built.
“We believe that people are going to eventually leave some of these legacy systems that haven’t really been rewritten in 25 years. They’re incredibly complicated to implement. The large ERP vendors out there, SAP and Oracle with a variety of their products, are extremely complicated, and there’s a lot of people who are not happy with how expensive the implementations are. We’re doing this in a whole new way. We think we’re masters of abstracting out complexity, separating out technology from the business solutions, and building simple, industrial strength applications.”
The crux of the work is the Nextbot platform. According to Solimene, the Nextbot design tool allows non-technical personnel to build enterprise-grade software by essentially describing what it is they’d like the software to do. Here’s how he describes it:
“We have our platform comprised of a series of builder tools,” he says. “We have an application builder where you declaratively define the parts of your application. You say, what data do you want to use? What’s the data model of the application? What application patterns do you want to apply to that? Is it a single-record maintenance application or more complex hierarchical multi-header detail kinds of applications?
“By using those platform tools we capture information, like what kind of validations you might have, etc.” he continues. “And then if you have any domain specific business logic, we have a logic builder tool. So you use those tools to build a description of the application. That’s the meat and potatoes of our platform. Then we run it through our generator and out comes the other end a full functionality, enterprise-grade application.”
By using a metadata-driven approach and leaving the implementation details to Nextbot, the customer is insulated from complexity, which makes it easier to maintain the software and to modify it in the future if needed.
The abstraction layer inherent in Nextbot will give organizations the freedom to modify their system going forward, which is something that ERP customers struggle with. “Right now anybody who has older enterprise software system, if they want to extend it modify it or bolt on something they need in their enterprise, it’s a painful process,” Solimene says. “They have to work with IT groups or do something unnatural or partner with yet another product area to get that to work.”
The company took a year to build the Nextbot application generator and runtime environment. Once that was built, developing the various ERP modules that run on top of it took just a matter of months. “It’s crazy how fast we can build applications because of the power of the tool,” McVaney says.
The company already has a full financial package that includes general ledger, payables, receivables, and fixed assets. It’s now working on developing modules for purchasing, inventory, sales and pricing, advanced warehousing, and discrete and process MRP.
The business plan also calls for an app store that allows business partners to sell add-on products that work with the Nextworld suite. It’s a model that’s not unlike Force.com, the PaaS that Salesforce.com has built. But it’s geared more toward manufacturing and distribution customers and functionality, not sales, marketing, and CRM.
The company is working with several beta customers to on-board them onto the Nextworld platform. One of those customers is slated to go live this September, while two more are slated to go live in 2019. Nextworld is starting with smaller firms in the manufacturing and distribution space, but the plan calls for eventually supporting large companies with global footprints.
The funding provided by Ed McVaney has been instrumental in shielding Nextworld from pressure from outside investors, says Kylee McVaney. “We’re taking the time to build an incredible foundation instead of just whipping out software to show to some VCs to get the next round of funding” she says. “We’re doing it right.”
McVaney understands the powerful legacy that her father helped build with JD Edwards, which was considered the gold standard for ERP software on the S/38, AS/400, iSeries, System i, and now IBM i platforms. And while she understands that many IBM i shops are quite content with running their Oracle JD Edwards World or EnterpriseOne software on IBM i hardware, she also hears that many of them are struggling with ERP investments and are looking for a path forward.
“We’ve been talking to some of them, and there’s limitations to on-premise software,” she says. “There’s a mess that some of them are in with the amount of customization that they have. They can’t upgrade to the next release with their vendor, or their vendor has stopped supporting [their release of software]. So even though it’s difficult, some of these companies actually want to get to a more modern software on the cloud.”
There may be some JD Edwards on IBM i customers who are adamant that it’s a great combination. But loyalty to IBM i and JD Edwards only goes so far. “I don’t think they’re quite as adamant as you think they are,” McVaney says.