Over the last several months, Oracle has provided significant evidence that it will continue to enhance JD Edwards World well after it rolls out the first release of its Fusion Applications. This is an encouraging sign that the software giant is living up to its Applications Unlimited pledge to invest in JD Edwards software rather than orchestrate a forced march to new products.

The latest evidence of Oracle’s commitment to World surfaced at the COLLABORATE 08 user conference last month. Here is a summary of what we learned from the sessions we attended and the executives we interviewed at the event.

Upgrades to World A9.1 are on the rise. While the latest World release has only been on the market for a year, it has already gained a sizable following. At COLLABORATE, Oracle confirmed that 13% of the World customer base has upgraded to the release. Indeed, World General Manager John Schiff noted that on many Monday mornings, he learns of customers who went live on A9.1 over the weekend without telling Oracle about their intentions beforehand. This is a good indication of the interest level in the release as well as the ease of upgrading to it.

Oracle is considering new revenue opportunities for World. After years of doing next to nothing to build the World revenue base, Oracle is taking a fresh look at the product’s potential. Admittedly, much of what the company wants to do is to expand the number of modules and user licenses within existing accounts rather than mount sweeping campaigns to attract new customers. However, Oracle is also considering plans to market World within selected industrial and regional niches. That marks a turnaround in the vendor’s thinking about the product.

A new release is in the works. The JD Edwards development team in Denver is working on World A9.1.2, a new release of the product that should become available in 2009. Among the changes planned for the release, the following ones stand out for us.

  • Improved integration with other Oracle applications. The new release will be the first to feature packaged integrations with other Oracle applications. Among them will be an integration with Demantra Demand Management. While the integration will be a simple one based on batch file transfers between the two products, it will likely open the door to more sophisticated integrations in the future. These could include an integration to Siebel CRM On Demand that would significantly extend World’s customer relationship management capabilities.
     
  • Notification Services. Another enhancement that will improve integration levels will be web services that notify external processes of changes within World, such as the update of a customer record. This will enable real-time interoperability between World A9.1.2 and other applications via open industry standards.
     
  • Enhancements for project-based industries. The upcoming release will focus on functional improvements for construction firms, government agencies, and other project-based organizations. Among the enhancements will be support for “pay when paid” policies that only compensate subcontractors when customers pay. World A9.1.2 will also offer an expanded Approvals Management system and support for employee purchase cards, among other enhancements.
     
  • Manufacturing and distribution enhancements. While Oracle will focus on project-based industries in the new release, it will not forget World’s large base of manufacturing and distribution customers. For manufacturers, World A9.1.2 will offer the automatic generation of shop floor calendars by shift as well as “work orderless” processing. These features will improve World’s support for lean manufacturing environments. Distribution organizations will appreciate the new release’s batch ship confirmation program that will simultaneously confirm multiple shipments.
     
  • Enhanced document generation and distribution. World A9.1.2 will incorporate XML-based technologies to enable the bursting and electronic distribution of documents to World mailing lists. The same technologies will integrate the new release with Oracle BI Publisher, Oracle’s strategic platform for document design and management.

While World A9.1.2 will be the primary benefactor of these and other improvements, some technologies could find their way back to World A9.1. For instance, sources within Oracle indicate that the integration with Demantra will support World A9.1 as well as the upcoming release. Indeed, the Demantra integration may ship before Oracle ships World A9.1.2. To learn more about World A9.1.2, customers can access a Statement of Direction on the release that Oracle has posted on its Customer Connection web site.

Our Key Takeaways

Oracle’s latest investments in JD Edwards World indicate that the company has gained a deeper appreciation for the product. For more than two decades, World has held a unique position among medium-size manufacturing and distribution firms that few vendors have ever been able to challenge. By planning to ship a major release of the product just two years after unveiling a new version, Oracle is acknowledging World’s market position and taking concrete steps to protect it.

Just as importantly, Oracle executives are giving us every indication that the investments will continue beyond World A9.1.2. As a result, we would not be surprised to see Oracle announce another release of World two years after it ships A9.1.2.

In short, Oracle is making the right moves to maintain the viability of JD Edwards World. That gives its customers more good reasons to stay on the product and expand their investments in it.

If your company is considering a World upgrade or a new deployment, Andrews Consulting Group offers a full range of technical and business services to help you succeed. To learn more, send us an email to request a no-obligation consultation.