J.D. Edwards pushing integration in the enterprise

J.D. Edwards & Co. is rolling out customer relationship management and integration enhancements that it claims will ease companies’ integration woes and enable extensive collaboration over heterogeneous enterprises.

At its Focus 2002 user conference in Denver yesterday, the company detailed work it has done integrating the YouCentric set of CRM applications that it bought last November into its own enterprise resource planning and supply chain management suite. That suite is now called J.D. Edwards 5.

The company also said it will incorporate Web services technology such as Universal Description, Discovery and Integration for more widespread business collaboration, and is rolling out improvements to its supply chain and other applications.

Additionally, J.D. Edwards CEO Bob Dutkowsky said at a news conference that the enhancements are being offered for users to exploit at their own pace. “We show our customers a very smooth pathway,” he said. “Customers migrate when they want to. Everything we announced today is evolutionary for customers because that’s what they asked us to deliver.”

He emphasized the modulatry of the suite, which users can install one piece at a time with or without other pieces of the lineup, saying J.D. Edwards 5 is a “small bite” for customers.

The Denver-based software maker has made good on last year’s promise to focus on the midmarket, where it has its core expertise, said Joshua Greenbaum, an analyst at Daly City, Calif.-based Enterprise Applications Consulting. It also appears that the company, which had been ailing financially for several years, appears to be moving beyond turnaround mode and is making progress in selling its vision to its installed base. In particular, Greenbaum said he likes the way the company is embedding application integration technology to enable business process collaboration.

The ability to tie front-end customer-facing software into back-end supply chain applications appealed to several users. At gauge and switch maker Murphy Control & Instrumentation Solutions in Tulsa, Okla., the J.D. Edwards CRM suite is so appealing that the company is actually ripping out its Siebel Systems Inc. installation. According to Mitch Myers, vice president of operations at the firm, Murphy bought the Siebel suite in 2000; however, the lack of integration technology between Siebel and the J.D. Edwards ERP systems is a roadblock.

Because there was no prebuilt data integration available to connect the two sets of applications, a consultant had to write an interface. That solution could have proved troublesome when Murphy upgraded either set of applications, so the company preferred to let J.D. Edwards handle the integration.

“We feel ERP is the dog, and we don’t want to let the tail wag the dog,” he said.

Ultimately, Murphy’s customers can look into its ERP system and access data via Web portals as well as get information about sales orders or product returns and other functions. Murphy is currently running financial and other applications from both the World and OneWorld XE suites simultaneously off a single database; eventually, it plans to completely migrate to J.D. Edwards 5. Murphy plans to go live with the CRM application in August.

The city of Fort Collins, Colo., is evaluating the CRM suite for some of its municipally run operations, which include a public golf course and four utilities, said Sherrie Temple, assistant finance director. Fort Collins is currently running OneWorld XE financials, payroll, human resources and distribution and purchasing modules.

However, the CRM application may be a bit too bleeding-edge for the city, she said, which is why Fort Collins is still weighing the decision. Temple said she would like to see J.D. Edwards end development on the World suite and dedicate itself to subsequent versions of its software. While she is satisfied with the current development of OneWorld XE, Temple explained, she wants even more resources devoted to it.

Among the product announcements yesterday were:

— The release of ERP 8.0, which contains new functions for project management, real estate management, workforce management and asset management. Among the enhancements is the ability to more efficiently manage human resources to hit budget and time goals during projects.

— The company will offer a new Tactical Network Optimization (TNO) product, designed for midmarket companies to improve their production and distribution related operations.

— The warehouse management application has been beefed up to cut labor and material costs.

J.D. Edwards is online at http://www.jdedwards.com/