Oracle VP Lyle Ekdahl can be counted on to be entertaining whenever he makes a public appearance as he did Tuesday at Collaborate 2011.  His annual state of the union address to over 500 of the faithful was energetic, articulate and informative as usual.  His declaration that we are entering a “new era for ERP” might be a bit of an overstatement but it did serve to make the case that ERP in general, and JDE specifically, remain vital components of every IT environment.  He cynically suggested that anyone not in agreement should try turning off their ERP applications for a day. 

Ekdahl offered the view that “big bang” ERP projects were a thing of the past.  From now on organizations that go to a new ERP will not tolerate the level of effort and cost needed in the past.  He also pointed out that ERP software now needs to be deployed three or more ways: on servers in customer data centers, in the cloud, or on mobile devices.  His final new era characteristic was that customers have come to expect engaging interfaces from any software put to use. 

The real purpose of the talk was to encourage every JDE customer to make plans to move up to one of the level 9 releases.  A show of hands demonstrated that most of the audience was already sold on this idea – the majority that raised hands were already on one of the 9 releases or had plans in place to get there.  The claim that the 9 releases represented a whole new strategy seemed to me to be a minor stretch but the point that they are a necessary building block for the future is definitely valid. 

Examples offered of recent enhancements were nice but fell short of spectacular.  It was pointed out that sales orders can now show tax on every line versus just at the bottom – something needed in China and a few other markets.  We were reminded that the new Apparel industry module is now out and were told that it could satisfy needs in some other industries as well.  The example provided involved a company that made heart valve replacements, hardly a traditional apparel company. 

Another major theme was that the newer releases can be upgraded to with much less effort than has traditionally been necessary as part of a campaign to lower upgrade costs. 

Ekdahl also made a commitment to keep providing major new releases for both E1 and World for a minimum of 6 years.  Given Oracle’s previously announced policy on ongoing support of releases, he calculated that support for both product lines could thus be counted on until 2026.  His excitement about this was contagious but I did not get a feel for whether very many of you care about dates that far in the future.  The point was clearly made by stating it this way that no one has to worry about either JDE product line going away any time soon. 

It would not have been a Lyle Ekdahl presentation without something zany going on.  This time he had someone in a clown outfit sitting on the stage the whole time reading the Wall Street Journal.  It made us all wonder when the clown would get into the act.  We found out at the end that the clown represented “irrational fear” – presumably the fear of upgrading.  He thus made a grand gesture of “ushering irrational fear out of the room” and implored the audience to do so as well.  It was cute and entertaining if a little esoteric. 

Hopefully none of you that missed Collaborate this year are afflicted with irrational fear.  Assuming that is the case, lots of you will be following Ekdahl’s advice and will be upgrading to a 9 release soon.