World users want more training, upgrades from Oracle

World ERP users last week said they hope that Oracle's promise to support the software indefinitely will also mean improvements to the vendor's technical assistance programs and a clear upgrade process.

Users of the former J.D. Edwards software noted that Oracle's commitment to World, announced late last month, comes after years of uncertainty about the product's future.

Despite the resurgent support for the World green-screen applications, users at last week's Collaborate 2006 Oracle user conference in Nashville, Tennessee, said there are still problems that need to be fixed.

For instance, at a time when World training is vital for users, Oracle has been "behind the curve" in providing such programs, said conference attendee Gary Riley, a systems analyst at Matanuska Telephone Association Inc. in Palmer, Alaska.

Riley said that as veteran World users leave companies, such training programs are needed to prepare the next generation of IT staffers.

Riley is a member of Collaborate co-sponsor Quest International Users Group, which includes users of Oracle's World and its follow-on OneWorld and OneWorld XE ERP applications. All of the products were developed by J.D. Edwards, which is now owned by Oracle.

Some attendees at the conference also noted that Oracle's decision to extend World support beyond the previous 2013 termination date comes too late to help many longtime customers.

J.D. Edwards' lack of support for the line in recent years, which was not addressed until it was acquired by PeopleSoft Inc. and then by Oracle, along with a lack of upgrades, led many sites to replace the software, users said.

For example, the IT staff at Benderson Development, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based real estate firm, is preparing to replace World with Enterprise-One, said Dave Hyzy, director of IT at the company. World has served Benderson well, Hyzy said at the conference, but real estate industry-specific upgrades have been lacking.

Hyzy said Benderson decided to replace World rather than have its internal development team customize the software.

Elizabeth Goins, systems analyst for the Manatee County School District in Florida, noted that many of the problems with World began long before Oracle acquired the product.

Goins, who is also director of World advocacy at Quest, said that many customers stopped participating in user group activities as support for the product languished while it was owned by J.D. Edwards. Therefore, many users lost the ability to communicate directly with Oracle developers and managers through Quest's channels.

Since Oracle's acquisition of PeopleSoft, she noted, the lack of communication has caused confusion among some World users about Oracle's plans for the applications.

In addition, a number of World users said they don't know what will be in the next iteration of the product, Version A9.1, or exactly when it will ship. A couple of customers at the conference said they were unsure of what educational and training resources were available from Oracle.

With Oracle's renewed commitment to the product, Goins said the user group and Oracle will more aggressively reach out to World users through Quest's Web site and by conducting surveys on user needs.

John Schiff, vice president and general manager of the World product line at Oracle, said the company is indeed working to improve communication with World customers. Oracle is also beefing up World technical and training resources for users, he added.

Schiff also noted that Oracle has created a World-specific blog for users and online training programs. In addition, company executives have been attending regional user group meetings.

"We can never do enough with communication," Schiff said. "But it's a two-way street. We've got to share information through the staff with users. And we need them to also participate, to listen and respond and give us feedback."

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