'Collaborative Commerce': ERP, CRM, e-Proc, and SCM Unite! A Series Study: J.D. Edwards

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'Collaborative Commerce': ERP, CRM, e-Proc, and SCM Unite! A Series Study: J.D. Edwards
R. Garland - September 18, 2001


In the early 90's, ERP came of age. Everyone had to have the functionality ERP packages promised. Since then, as Web and Internet technologies have matured, CRM on the front end, and e-Procurement and Supply Chain Management on the back end, these packages have come into their own.

Now in 2001, the catchphrase is "Collaborative Commerce," where we unite all of the above elements into one coherent system within and between organizations. This is the Big Kahuna, the zero latency, fully transparent, 360 degree exposure that is the stuff systems integrators dream of. Is it here? Are the technologies mature enough? Simple enough?

This, the second of a series of articles on Collaborative Commerce (C-Commerce) takes a look at the effort J.D.Edwards is making in the push.. The first examined what it is and can be.

A Look At J.D. Edwards 

If you go to the J.D. Edwards web site at http://www.jdedwards.com/, the first message that hits you is: "The Future of Collaborative Commerce Experience it for yourself. A realm of collaboration on a global scale." Well, it looks like J.D. Edwards believes in the possibilities (both in terms of technology and sell-ability) of Collaborative Commerce. How far have they gotten in that vision? Are they a good bet if you also have visions of C-Commerce dancing in your head?

The Pieces

J.D. Edwards' roots are in mid-market ERP, as a vendor known for its good and honest support and relationship practices, but with a spotty product quality record going back to its original product, the WorldSoftware application suite built to run on AS/400's, which first shipped in 1988. In 1996, as it attempted to branch out from both the mid-market and ERP, it launched OneWorld, one of the most technologically advanced ERP products of its day. Further on, as its competitors products evolved, it's own thinking evolved toward support of higher-end customers and, very notably, toward the notion that ERP wasn't going to be the end of the line for J.D. Edwards' product offerings.

P. J. Jakovljevic, here at TEC, has documented in several articles the J.D. Edwards strategic decision was to NOT perform all R&D in-house to capture burgeoning markets such as CRM and Supply Chain. Instead, J.D. Edwards formed a long string of alliances, licensing arrangements, and conducted some outright corporate acquisitions to get the capabilities into their hands more quickly, and to focus on the "sticky stuff in the middle" that would link all those disparate systems together. Their plans have changed slightly, with the recent acquisition of YOUcentric's YOUrelate suite of CRM components. (To locate Mr. Jakovljevic's articles, perform a search on J.D. Edwards.) Briefly, here are some of the key actions taken by the company since 1999:

  1. Sales Automation and Supply Chain - February 1999, acquired Premisys Corporation to better enable sales people to visually illustrate how products are configured, as well as being able to deliver those accurate illustrations back to the company's supply chain for quicker and more accurate fulfillment.

  2. Core Front Office (CRM) components - May 1999, agreed to resell Siebel's suite of Web-based Front Office tools. As late as May 2001, the link between the two companies appeared tenuous, although several publicly-released statements to the contrary were released by J.D. Edwards.

  3. B2B e-Commerce and e-Market - May 1999, agreed to integrate and resell Ariba's e-commerce solution for purchasing goods and services, and as an e-marketplace solution for centralized, online purchases.

  4. Internet-enabled Supply Chain Management software - May 1999, acquired privately held Numetrix, and fully integrated the Numetrix solution with their own.

  5. Knowledge Management - September 1999, alliance with Open Text to enable J.D. Edwards' OneWorld users to access unstructured data scattered across their enterprises.

  6. Information Management - October 1999, alliance with FileNet to allow OneWorld users to automate the capture, display, storage, retrieval and management of OneWorld-linked images and documents.

  7. Bar Code Reading enhancement to ERP - October 1999, alliance with Sirius Computer Solutions to integrate Sirius' bar code data management solution with OneWorld.

  8. HR Enhancements to ERP via Travel and Expense Reporting - January 2000, alliance with Extensity.

  9. e-Business - February 2000, alliance to re-sell IBM's electronic storefront technology, IBM WebSphere Commerce Suite (WCS), and integrate to OneWorld via IBM's Commerce Integrator Server and its MQSeries messaging and information middleware.

  10. HR enhancement via web-based Employee Information Portal - February 2000, licensed technology from Lifemap Communications.

  11. Business Intelligence - May 2000, reseller agreement with Microstrategy;

  12. CRM - August, 2000, J.D. Edwards announces the purchase of YOUcentric, to replace Siebel in J.D. Edwards' CRM arsenal (see related article J.D. Edwards fires Siebel, wants YOU.

The Vision 

In a statement released on June 20, 2001 J.D. Edwards rolled out its new marketing positioning: it announced their " 'Freedom to Choose' business strategy to enable the next phase of e-business: Collaborative Commerce (C-Commerce)." C-Commerce would "deliver open, collaborative technologies that allow communication among vendors, suppliers and customers the supply chain, thereby maximizing value in business-to-business environments."

So this rolls up into the following software components (trying to go from Front Office to Intra Office to Back Office):

Storefront solutions from IBM; Sales Automation from Premisys; core Front Office components, including Customer Service, Salesforce Automation, and Marketing Automation from YOUcentric; B2B e-Commerce and e-Market solutions from Ariba (and others); Knowledge and Information Management from Open Text and FileNet; Business Intelligence from Microstrategy; J.D. Edwards' own core ERP components; Travel and Expense Reporting for J.D. Edwards' HR solution from Extensity; Bar-code Reading from Sirius, and; Internet-enable Supply Chain Management from Numetrix;. etc.etc.

J.D. Edwards also announced the next release of OneWorld, dubbed OneWorld Xe ("eXtended Enterprise"), using a technology they called eXtended Process Integration, or XPI to provide pre-integrated applications to deliver "inter-enterprise collaboration." They also announced embedding Netfish's XML-enabled tools in OneWorld Xe to further inter-connect disparate systems.

This all rolls up into the "connective tissue" of this Body Business, with OneWorld Xe sporting a workflow integration toolkit called XPI; their own brand of Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), as well as continued support for third-party EAI tools from such companies as Tibco, Oberon, and Viewlocity; support for common middleware working on the COM/DCOM, CORBA, Java, and XML protocols (including the RosettaNet and Microsoft Biztalk XML business definitions); a published set of C-language API's, and finally; support for IBM's MQSeries middleware.

User Recommendations 

J.D. Edwards is a major, Tier 1 ERP vendor at the very least, and won't be disappearing any time soon. If you're a current user, you really don't have too much to fear, but you do have some work keeping up with the shifting strategies and multitude of integrated, semi-integrated, and not-so-integrated solutions that are woven into OneWorld Xe. If you're a potential buyer, keep in mind J.D. Edwards' core: ERP, and their plan to develop CRM as another part of their core around YOUcentric's CRM components model. If you're looking for a Tier 1 ERP vendor, it should be in the mix of vendors you evaluate. If the core functionality you require lies elsewhere at this time, be sure to take a look at the leading vendors in those spaces, too.

Coming back to the question of how close J.D. Edwards appears to be from the ultimate vision of Collaborative Commerce, we'd have to say, they're mixing it up and scrapping in the sandbox, but they're not walking tall yet. They have too many balls in the air, and not enough proof-of-concepts to show for it. In our opinion, they're likely ahead of their time, as most executives are still too tied up in CRM implementations to think about the next logical step. And, J.D. Edwards has too many third-party companies that it's relying on, which increases risk by assuming that the vendors will continue to do the "right thing" and continue to help themselves by helping J.D. Edwards. In today's technology environment, where sales are fewer and farther between and small companies are being swallowed whole, functionality can disappear in the blink of an acquisition press release.

If J.D. Edwards scoped the vision with 1) a core set of rock-solid ERP functionality, and; 2) an intense focus on Front-Office integration by natively integrating with YOUcentric, to at least show the world tangible, Front-Office to Back-Office efficiencies, and; 3) slowed down on other integration while refining its vision of integrated "application objects", it may very well lead us into the Promised Land. If not, the blur of technologies at J.D. Edwards may very well hold it back from realizing its dreams.

Look for future articles in this series on Baan, SAP, IFS, Oracle, and PeopleSoft.

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