Are you considering Cloud ERP? We recently sat in on a conversation with John Walczak, Corning Data Vice President of Software Solutions, and Richard Garraputa, Corning Data Executive Advisor and Senior Solution Architect, in which they discussed the challenges, strategies, approaches and steps for the Cloudification of JD Edwards. John, CPIM, has 30+ years implementing ERP; Richard more than 25. This Part 2 of that conversation. You can catch up on Part 1 here.
John Walczak: When I look at the process of evaluating, implementing and supporting Cloud ERP versus that of JD Edwards, I see some differences, but many similarities. The first thing that anyone evaluating new systems should do is make sure they understand- up front- the business value. This hold true whether they are looking at entire packages or individual functional modules. You have to know what you want. This ensures that you choose the right tool for the job and focus your efforts on what matters. In the end, it also lets you know that you actually accomplished something. You won’t be able to recognize success if you don’t define it up front.
Richard Garraputa: John, you and I spend a lot of our time with business executives and managers in companies evaluating JD Edwards as a replacement for their existing systems. We have spent the better part of our lives helping clients define their strategies and mapping their requirements to process and software functionality. I haven’t seen a change to this basic activity with the Cloud. What I do see is how the same disciplined approach we have used for decades is being used to paper over the limitations of Cloud ERP, with implications that can catch customers off guard. Two of the major messages I keep hearing are:
“Leverage standard best processes where you can, and focus your configuration efforts where it drives unique competitive advantage.”
Cloud ERP’s limited functionality almost forces you to do this. It means that when functionality falls short, you are stuck with the reality of bolting on additional solutions or dealing with manual work-arounds while you wait for the vendor to build out the solution. We all know that, with the right approach, you can implement a feature-rich solution like JD Edwards pretty rapidly. We have been doing it for years. The challenge isn’t the tool, but the discipline to focus on the important value drivers during the implementation. This discipline is something JD Edwards customers can implement today, without going through the pain of dismantling their entire system.
“Implement quickly to go live with an appropriate system to handle core requirements. Then, fine tune and improve the deployment over time.”
We have always advised our clients to create an environment of continuous improvement. The Oracle JD Edwards team in Denver has done an incredible job of making that easier with the Simplified Upgrade Process, extension of support and the Continuous Delivery approach to delivering enhancements. Our clients are embracing this, using Corning Data’s JD Edwards Managed Services to update their system two or more times a year. Many customers are using our Remote Application Services to support their continuous improvement because they want to eliminate external systems and manual processes by using existing and new functionality. The difference between this and Cloud ERP is that clients retain control over the priorities and timing.
“Configure, don’t customize.”
I am not talking about the myth of the “no-mod” deployment. But once again, avoiding modifications is a matter of discipline and control. You have heard my golden rules of software modification before … modifications must do one of the following in a way that provides more value than it costs over time. They must:
- Drive revenue.
- Reduce costs.
- Support your competitive advantage.
Then, when you do make modifications, you need to follow best practices for maintainability. These rules apply in ANY environment, not just an on-premise one. A lack of control and discipline will lead to a train wreck in a Cloud environment just as much as it will in an on-premise one. The one advantage you have in a JD Edwards environment, however, is rich functionality that helps you avoid the need to customize or bolt on.
I see a lot of clients first become interested in the Cloud by the idea of eliminating the investment in infrastructure, support and upgrades.
John Walczak: You bring up some good points, Richard. Our clients are experts at manufacturing and/or delivering products. They don’t have- or want- a core competency in managing technology or a data center. They would rather invest in new equipment and staff for their shop floor than new servers, databases and system administrators. This makes a lot of sense. Which is why a lot of our clients choose to outsource their JD Edwards infrastructure to Oracle and our other partners. Oracle’s Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) have become great options for our clients. Coupled with Corning Data’s JD Edwards support, there is little need for a customer to buy and support their own infrastructure. This isn’t new. We’ve been doing this since World A7.3 and OneWorld Xe.
I do take issue with your “eliminate upgrades” comment, however. We’ve all been through enough upgrades to know that the technical part of the upgrade—moving from one application version to the next—is the smallest part of an upgrade project. The hardest parts are dealing with customizations and testing the system. Most customers don’t have the internal skill sets to do all of this themselves without disrupting their business. But even with Cloud, these tasks don’t go away. Unless a customer follows your advice to configure rather than customize, they will still have to wrangle with their customizations come upgrade time. And with limited end-to-end functionality that is tightly integrated like it is in JD Edwards, customizations to core code or custom integrations of “best-of-breed” solutions are still inevitable for even moderately complex supply chain operations.
My bigger concern is the way Cloud updates are pushed out to customers on a regular, timed basis regardless of how ready a customer is to deal with them. That means that customers need to implement a process of continual testing and validation on a schedule controlled by their software vendor. This is a real concern for many of our clients with seasonality, ISO/quality requirements and in regulated environments. This is why JD Edwards has remained so strong in precision manufacturing, food and beverage and life sciences.
Richard Garraputa: Okay, let’s talk next about how Oracle’s new approach to continuous delivery of features and functionality makes upgrading easier without having to surrender control. I’d like to ask someone else from our team to join us on this topic.
Join us next Thursday when John and Richard bring another member of our Corning Data team of experts into the Cloud conversation.