J.D. Edwards users push for support

Users of the World ERP applications developed by J.D. Edwards & Co. are lobbying new owner PeopleSoft Inc. to keep the aging green-screen software from falling behind the vendor’s other products in terms of functionality.

The campaign is being launched by members of the World user advisory panel, which was set up by J.D. Edwards and has been continued by PeopleSoft. It’s the latest example of customers banding together to prevent a venerable technology from fading away (see page 20) – and to save themselves from costly migrations.

World runs on IBM Corp.’s iSeries systems, formerly known as the AS/400, and is still used by nearly half of the J.D. Edwards installed base. PeopleSoft plans to focus most of its J.D. Edwards-related development on a newer product line that’s now called PeopleSoft EnterpriseOne. But World Advisory Council members are calling for the software vendor to make a larger investment in the green-screen applications so they don’t have to switch to EnterpriseOne or other ERP suites.

“We’re taking this as an opportunity to (encourage PeopleSoft to) take another step and make three viable lines instead of two and a half,” said William Gabby, North American operations manager at Cargill Inc.’s Global Financial Solutions business unit in Minnetonka, Minn. In addition to World and EnterpriseOne, PeopleSoft offers its flagship PeopleSoft Enterprise suite.

Cargill has about 7,000 end users worldwide running general ledger and other financial applications in green-screen mode and would like to keep World going instead of paying for an upgrade, Gabby said. He added that Cargill officials are seeking the continued development of new software releases and bug fixes, as well as an effort by PeopleSoft to market World to new users so it’s not treated as just “an iSeries cash cow.”

The IBM 5250 terminal user interface that World supports can process financial data more rapidly than the Web-based screens included in the EnterpriseOne software, said Julie Mauser, IT manager at the Cargill unit. “Green-screen works very nice in certain types of data entry,” she noted.

Cargill isn’t alone. At this point, about 10 of the 20 companies that belong to the World Advisory Council have expressed interest in trying to create a groundswell of support for more spending on World, said Bill Tritch, a Cargill product manager who is the council’s president.

By year’s end, the advisory council plans to launch a survey of companies running World to gather input that will be presented to PeopleSoft, said Dave Hyzy, director of IT at Benderson Development Co., a Buffalo, N.Y.-based real estate developer that uses World’s financial modules.

Hyzy acknowledged that some companies “have grown fat and lazy with the idea of not having to migrate anything over and just want to keep going on indefinitely” with technology they already have in place. But, he added, “I don’t think that’s representative of World customers. Most of us realize over time the product has to grow or we’re going to have to do something else.”

In particular, Hyzy said he would like to see PeopleSoft add an HTML interface and integrate World with IBM’s WebSphere middleware so developers could craft Java applications that would help streamline data workflows and electronic data interchange transactions.

PeopleSoft acquired Denver-based J.D. Edwards in August and last month announced an EnterpriseOne upgrade that finally gives the six-year-old multiplatform software a functionality edge over World.

Craig Conway, PeopleSoft’s president and CEO, said in an interview that World will remain “a third line of business” for the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company. Conway agreed that PeopleSoft has an “absolute desire” to see continued enhancements to World as well as EnterpriseOne. But most development will be targeted at the Web-based EnterpriseOne line, he said, adding that World users can migrate without paying new software license fees.

World has been updated with about 200 enhancements annually over the past three years, said John Schiff, director of product strategy for the green-screen line. PeopleSoft plans to maintain a “very active engagement” with users of the software, he added.