Late last week, many of us from Andrews Consulting Group came stumbling back to our offices under heavy loads of information from the COLLABORATE user conference. Now that I’ve sorted through my pile of data, I’m ready to share insights from the annual IT gala.

Let’s begin with an event that is a natural starting point for any COLLABORATE review. That is the keynote speech by Lenley Hensarling (Group VP and General Manager for JD Edwards) and John Schiff (VP and General Manager for JD Edwards World) that sets the stage for the rest of the JD Edwards presentations at the conference.

This year, Hensarling and Schiff kicked off their talk by quoting statistics from a Forrester Research study of corporate software priorities. According to the study, the top three priorities of companies today (in order) are to:

  • Improve integration levels between their applications
  • Upgrade their packaged applications to take advantage of new capabilities
  • Switch from a functional to a process orientation in how they support their companies with their software

The two GMs then explained how Oracle’s JD Edwards strategy is helping customers to meet these mandates. Here’s an overview of what they had to say on each priority.

Improving Integration Levels

Hensarling and Schiff pointed out how Oracle’s Application Integration Architecture (AIA) is helping JD Edwards customers to integrate their applications with other Oracle software. (If you want to know more about AIA, read our recent series of articles about how Oracle is weaving the architecture into EnterpriseOne and World.) While discussing AIA, both men made some interesting revelations.

  • Schiff disclosed that during Oracle’s upcoming fiscal year (which begins in June), Oracle will ship an integration between JD Edwards World and the Demantra Demand Management and Advanced Forecasting modules.
  • Hensarling stated that both EnterpriseOne and World will integrate with several Fusion Applications that Oracle will unveil soon. These include Fusion Sales Prospector (an application that Larry Ellison demonstrated last November at OpenWorld), an unannounced product called Talent Manager, and another application in the pipeline called e-Pedigree. According to Hensarling, e-Pedigree will help life sciences firms to trace the source of the ingredients in their products.
  • Both GMs noted that their applications will soon become more deeply integrated with Oracle Business Intelligence (BI) Publisher, Oracle BI Suite Enterprise Edition, and Oracle BI Applications. I will say more about these integrations in future articles. For now, suffice it to say that Oracle is developing native adapters and semantic models to integrate EnterpriseOne and World with these BI products.

Upgrades and New Capabilities

When it comes to helping customers upgrade to new releases, Hensarling and Schiff claimed they have been doing a great job. As evidence, Schiff pointed out that 13% of his customers have upgraded to World A9.1 in the first year of the release being on the market. Hensarling noted that 60% of his customers are now running on EnterpriseOne 8.10 or higher.

In a bid to make new releases easier for users to adopt, both GMs pledged to improve on the user training tools they offer. Hensarling promised to deliver User Productivity Kits (UPKs) — Oracle’s tools for developing web-based and classroom user training — in additional areas such as asset and supply chain management. These UPKs will be made available for both EnterpriseOne 8.12 and 9.0. Schiff revealed that World A9.1 will gain its own UPKs, making it the first World release to offer these tools. Look for Oracle to roll out World A9.1 UPKs in four areas: fundamentals, financials, reporting, and supply chain management.

As usual, both men talked up the enhancements that Oracle has packed into the latest JD Edwards releases. They also disclosed new capabilities they are planning for upcoming releases. I’ll discuss those new capabilities in upcoming articles on COLLABORATE, so stay tuned.

Adopting a Process Orientation

While Hensarling and Schiff touched on the subject of helping customers support end-to-end business processes instead of “functional silos”, they offered little in the way of specifics. Their main message was that Oracle is building a process orientation into EnterpriseOne and World by integrating its Fusion Middleware into the applications. This is enabling customers to treat their applications as modular services that they can reconfigure to support processes that run across departmental boundaries.

From where I sit, this is one area where Oracle needs to do more work to explain itself to the JD Edwards community. Too often, the company couches its discussions about process automation in marketing buzzwords or buries the topic in technical discussions about service-oriented architectures. If Oracle were to explain what it is doing in its applications to improve business process execution in terms that business decision makers could understand, it could compel many companies to embrace its recommendations.

In many ways, Hensarling and Schiff’s talk acted as a gateway to the more detailed discussions that their staffs offered in other sessions. As I have already indicated, I’m planning additional articles that will cover those sessions, so keep an eye on this web site over the coming weeks.