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Oracle end users will soon gather together at Collaborate 14, a conference put on by three Oracle user groups that takes place April 7 to April 11 in Las Vegas. The Quest International Users Group, a community largely for PeopleSoft and JD Edwards applications customers, is one of the user groups hosting the conference. SearchOracle recently spoke with Quest President Patrick Kys, regional vice president and chief information officer at Lafarge North America, which is part of the Paris-based global construction materials supplier Lafarge. Kys talked about application upgrade challenges for Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1 and World 9.3, whether customizations are going the way of the dodo and what organizations should do after going into production on an application upgrade.
Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1 and World 9.3 have been available for about two years now. What kind of uptake are you seeing among Quest members?
Patrick Kys: Large customers are already starting to make their way to the '9s' [EnterpriseOne 9.1 and World 9.3]. From my company's perspective, we are moving more of our instances to the 9s. Over the next couple years, you'll see a wider penetration. I think you have to look at the size and breadth of the company and what processes they have that are using JD Edwards. In our case, globally it will take five to six years to fully implement the 9s in all our areas. In North America specifically we have a four-year plan to move.
What are the main business challenges to upgrading to Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1 and World 9.3?
Kys: Certainly the change management around going to the 9s. Version 9 has built in very efficient processes out of the box, and that hasn't been the case or was less obvious in the past.
With that in place, I think there is a bit more change management involved around the functionalities and what you should use out of the gate and what you should bring up as you adopt more mature versions of 9. For example, a lot of the BI [business intelligence] reporting is embedded. At Lafarge, we were in 8.9, and there wasn't a lot of BI-related reporting embedded in the product. Now you can embed those into the ERP [enterprise resource planning] system and thereby bypass your data warehouse. It makes it more effective for the user, but you need to retrain them on the new product, so that's a big one.
One of the good things about the 9s is it has a lot of functionality that didn't exist in the other versions. So what has happened in the past is people had to do a lot of customizations to get those functionalities. Now they are embedded into the 9s.
How should organizations handle customizations if they're upgrading to a version that has those features embedded?
Kys: It's all about unraveling those customizations. At Lafarge we have roughly 10,000 customizations, which is a lot. So what we're doing is examining all the customizations, comparing it to what's in the new product, and then we start scraping those customizations out. We've done that exercise, and now we're down to a couple hundred customizations when we move to 9. So the challenge is identifying the gap between customizations you had compared to features of the 9s.
I see customizations going away, and I think it's a good thing. When you look at some of your more vanilla generic processes, such as generally accepted accounting practices, there aren't a lot of changes you can make. It's configuration-based and not really customization-based. You're seeing [fewer] modifications because I would prefer to focus on customizations that are going to give me a difference in the marketplace -- either a competitive advantage or differentiate me [among] my competitors. So I prefer to look at the revenue side for customization, rather than the finance side.
What should organizations do to maintain their Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne 9.1 and World 9.3 upgrades after they go live?
Kys: The people in my organizations are focusing on the value-add once we get the product upgraded. The other thing I should also mention is that a new product usually allows for easier integration of other edge products, whether they be Oracle or non-Oracle products.
The other challenge when we talk about organizations is that it would be good to move some of your people away from core development and toward looking at driving revenue. It's also about leveraging the community of people that have already done this. Use the knowledge base that exists in communities like Quest, learn from it and ultimately give back to it.