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Unusual business model requires customized JD Edwards software

Merit Service Solutions implemented JD Edwards to get a more scalable platform for a growing business, but its unusual business model meant it was in for a lot of customization.

Editor's note: This is part one of a two-part article. Read about the mobile application Merit developed to match its unusual business model in part two.

Merit Service Solutions' unusual business model meant that both times it pursued ambitious Oracle projects -- once with a JD Edwards implementation and once with a mobile application -- it had to customize.

Before the JD Edwards software implementation, Merit handled everything manually, and Chris Carroll, IT director at Merit, said, "It was just a disaster." The company used to run on a SQL Server ASP, before it grew to the point where the server couldn't handle the volume. Carroll added that, during this time, "We had people calling in saying 'When are we going to get paid?'" Merit lost some of its contractors before it migrated to JD Edwards software.

Carroll said, "Our goal was to take this $100 million business to a $100 billion business. So we had to scale up, and we needed a good system to do that. This place wouldn't really be up and running if we didn't scale up."

Merit Service Solutions maintains outdoor areas for big box stores and smaller companies. It offers services like snow removal, landscaping, parking lot maintenance and other similar services. However, Merit doesn't provide the services itself. Instead, the company manages the site and contracts for maintenance with local service providers. Because Merit is sending contractors rather than employees to sites, it doesn't assign schedules. Instead, it suggests times and dates and receives feedback. Snow removal services, in particular, are dependent on snowfall and can't be scheduled in advance. The company needed a database that could handle the demands of its unusual business model.

Carroll joined Merit in December 2015. Previously she'd worked as a senior technical consultant for Terillium, the company Merit hired to set up its JD Edwards implementation. When Carroll first visited Merit, it had hardly any IT infrastructure, so she stayed at the company to build and manage its IT department.

She explained that senior management selected JD Edwards software thinking that there would be very little modification needed. They investigated SAP and Oracle E-Business Suite before settling on JD Edwards. Carroll said that Merit found Oracle E-Business Suite "too constrictive" and SAP "too large." It selected JD Edwards because of a "good job costing system." Merit is currently using JD Edwards E910.The original plan was to start the implementation in January and have it finished by April. However, Carroll explained that because Merit doesn't control the work its contractors do or their schedules, making JD Edwards work for the company required extensive customization. She added that JD Edwards Financials mostly stayed the same.

Carroll doesn't think that there is a system out there that wouldn't have needed modification. "I don't think there is another system," she said. "There's nothing out there that would have done this. It's just a different business model."

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