Late last month Rimini Street, a third-party maintenance and support provider, appointed Ray Grigsby vice president of global support services for JD Edwards lineup of enterprise software.
Grigsby, who worked at JD Edwards for 18 years as vice president in charge of support services, will be responsible for overseeing the global expansion of Rimini Street's third party support program for JD Edwards licensees.
Grigsby started at JD Edwards as a programmer and worked his way up through the executive ranks to oversee the implementation, upgrade and support of the World and EnterpriseOne product lines among Fortune 1000 accounts.
Grigsby, along with Dave Rowe, senior vice president of marketing for Global Alliances for Rimini Street, sat down with SearchOracle Site Editor Ed Scannell to discuss a range of topics on JD Edwards support, including what strategic guidance they will give JD Edwards clients and how some major industry trends might affect JD Edwards and other Oracle products.
Rowe: I think we are hitting a turning point where the whole idea of third party support is becoming a mainstream concept. For instance, if you look at the kinds of clients we have now, they are from every industry and companies of all sizes. Among the largest 100 companies in the world, we have nine of them as clients. It's a credible option for CIOs now.
SearchOracle: Is there an economic downside to having such mature and stable software, such as customers not needing as much technical support?
Rowe: JD Edwards has two product lines, World is the older product, written in native RPG code, which has been heavily customized, and runs globally with a lot of customers. Customers do have support in-house to handle custom modifications, but a lot of those customers are also trimming down IT support staff and programmers, so they need us to add custom modifications. The EnterpriseOne product, which is the client-server GUI Web software, requires very little support because it is mature and stable. Users still like to customize it and add upgrades to make it more user friendly. That does require support but minimal support. You don't need an IT staff of 20 or 25 people, but you do need updates for things like new tax regulations, localization and statutory requirements. IT shops still use us to support those things.
Grigsby: In a way Rimini St. is like an insurance policy. We have a staff of experts on call 24 by 7 across all the different technologies and functional modules related to the apps we support. That is very expensive for an organization to maintain those sorts of resources by themselves.
SearchOracle: Ray, what do you see as your primary mission over the next year?
Grigsby: My mission is to continue to grow my staff and grow the maturity of that staff. We already have a maturity level of 15 years (on average) of JD Edwards experience. I am also taking the JDE practice global. We want to be able to support all countries in terms of localization and statutory requirements. We are going to branch out even further from the U.S. starting next year looking at our global opportunities.
SearchOracle: Will Fusion Middleware 11g have any impact on your business in terms of better integrating JD Edwards with other Oracle applications?
Rowe: Oracle's integration strategy helps us but not in the way Oracle might think. With their integration strategy, they are not really making big investments in the core JD Edwards solutions. So that just gives JD Edwards users more reason to look at third party support because if it is not really helping them move forward. Users then say, 'why don't I just optimize the investment I am putting into that product from a support standpoint.' They also realize they could get 200,000 more miles out of that well-oiled machine and can pursue 11g and other apps whether they are on maintenance or not.
SearchOracle: What the strategic guidance will you be offering to JD Edwards users over the next 12 to 18 months?
Grigsby: Frankly every company is looking to downsize and be more efficient, so they are looking to JD Edwards to offer a more centralized or hosting solution. The strategic guidance I have given in the past has focused on making customers more efficient, or how to use the product to cut down on the number of programmers. For global customers who are very decentralized the guidance has been how do we get all those far flung AS/400s or One World instances running in a centralized location. My guidance now is to focus on how we can make this easier, how to get more ROI.
SearchOracle: Does cloud computing figure to have an influence on the direction of JD Edwards products?
Rowe: Here's the thing, if you have spent millions on deploying a JD Edwards product, why would you rip and replace to go through a whole new deployment of a SaaS platform? If you are doing a from-scratch analysis, then SaaS may be cheaper for the first five or six years. But if you already have sunk costs into deployments, customizations and your JD Edwards systems are just humming along, why would you spend all that money to rip and replace it? These SaaS platforms are not fully functional yet, we are only at the beginning of that lifecycle. Some of the SaaS players see us as a competitor because we give JD Edwards' users the ability to run what they have for another 10 years.
Grigsby: If you look at the history of JD Edwards you have a customer base that is generally pretty happy and is still running it today. That is why Oracle announced Application Unlimited. There were plenty of World customers who got up in arms when Larry (Ellison) made a comment at one of the early OpenWorlds that he was ending support for World and forcing everyone to EnterpriseOne. Well, very quickly you had a ton of customers stand up and say, 'we are not going to do that.'
SearchOracle: Ray you started as a programmer, how will that experience help you manage teams of programmers doing some pretty technical stuff?
Grigsby: We'll do our best to keep them hidden – only kidding. I think my programming background will help because I know what it takes to write a new functional spec and then turn it over to developers to write the fix for a specific client. And they can take care of their custom modifications as well.