J.D. Edwards Fights Back with Web-Based Apps Suite

In a do-or-die comeback bid, J.D. Edwards & Sons Inc. last week released Web-based, supply-chain collaboration software called OneWorld Xe for online purchasing and data sharing between trading partners.

A suite of 300 applications for financial planning, purchasing, fulfillment, warehouse and customer relationship management (CRM), OneWorld Xe represents J.D. Edwards' bid to transform its older enterprise resource planning (ERP) software into a fully Web-enabled application suite that can be extended for supply-chain management.

According to analysts, OneWorld Xe admirably succeeds at doing that, giving the 23-year-old firm a good shot at fending off its main competitors in this arena - Oracle Corp., SAP AG and i2 Technologies Inc.

"We'd give Edwards the edge," says Bruce Bond, vice president and research director in Gartner Group Inc.'s enterprise and supply-chain management division. He says the Oracle 11i suite lacks the CRM and supply-chain strength, while SAP makes it harder to exchange data between trading partners because it has to support SAP's Business API technology.

"With i2, you have to use their so-called 'i2 engine,' and there's no way to pass data through disparate systems," Bond says. But OneWorld Xe uses XML for more flexible data sharing. J.D. Edwards is supplying ready-made software connectors for transmitting Web data directly in back of electronic data interchange systems, databases, mainframes, and e-commerce applications such as BroadVision Inc.

On the other hand, Bond notes that OneWorld Xe lacks online auction capabilities, while the SAP and Oracle suites have these capabilities.

At its core, OneWorld Xe is a well-structured composite that combines software licensed from e-commerce vendors Siebel Systems Inc. (the CRM piece), Ariba Inc. (the e-procurement capabilities) and Netfish Technologies Inc. (XML business-to-business data sharing), plus others. J.D. Edwards bought Numetrics for the supply-chain piece.

For corporations considering using OneWorld Xe, this arrangement makes it simple to work with the Ariba online marketplace. One thing OneWorld Xe will not be is a stand-alone business-to-business marketplace, J.D. Edwards CEO Ed McVaney said in an interview following the launch last week.

"[Business-to-business] exchanges are just electronic co-ops," McVaney said. "Our decision has been not to participate in that market, but we'll integrate with them."

He predicted that although the number of online exchanges will mushroom into the thousands, many will collapse - and J.D. Edwards doesn't care to be in the midst of it.

Comeback trail

Nevertheless, McVaney has his hands full getting his own house in order as J.D. Edwards fights to come back after a net loss of more than $25 million reported so far this year, and millions more the year before. McVaney - also a co-founder and 30% shareholder - returned to run the day-to-day operations in April when J.D. Edwards, once financially strong, suffered a downturn last year.

"The downturn in ERP came in '99, and it killed us, as it did PeopleSoft and SAP," said McVaney, who blamed slow ERP sales on the Year 2000 computer glitch that preoccupied many businesses.

In a re-organization, J.D. Edwards in May laid off 700 employees, about 13% of its workforce, and closed some offices in Europe, Japan and the U.S.

McVaney unabashedly acknowledged that J.D. Edwards had become "its own worst enemy" by failing to map out a cohesive product strategy early enough.

The company has come to see that old-style, back-end ERP systems aren't sufficient as businesses focus on giving trading partners Internet-based access to supply-chain information. Not surprisingly, J.D. Edwards now talks about "collaborative commerce" rather than ERP.

Although it now has to battle software giant Oracle, which CEO Larry Ellison has moved aggressively into the online business-to-business arena, there is early evidence that J.D. Edwards is winning customer acceptance for OneWorld Xe. The company claims to have 1,000 existing customers for its OneWorld ERP suite.

According to officials, Archer Daniels, Midland, Johnson & Johnson Co., Clorox Co., Kimberley-Clark Corp. and Proxair are among the firms licensing OneWorld Xe, which starts at about $300,000.

Proxair Chief Information Officer John Hill last week praised OneWorld Xe as a suite of components that are easy to assemble, "like Lego blocks," adding: "Oracle and SAP don't have components in this sense."

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