An interesting thing is happening in the SAP world today.  SAP has a new release to give to their customers. What makes it interesting is the release is a ground-up rewrite of their software.  The release is supposed to be much better and run far faster than the versions prior. All great news!! Except there is one minor catch: none of the customizations will transfer.  None. SAP has announced their end of life for support of their current release as of January 1st, 2025.  That’s 5.5 years, plenty of time!!  Well, one might think so… 

Let’s take another look at it.  If you have 5 developers at your company who’ve been creating applications on your current release for the last 7 years, you’ve put in 35 man-years of custom changes to your ERP.  Now they all need to go. Also, you still need to run your business and keep up with the mountain of new changes being requested by the users. This is a serious issue. 

Why do I bring this up?  Because the same thing is happening to JDEdwards. The fact that its further down the road doesn’t change the truth.  JDE support will go away in 10 years, and your company is going to have to move to another ERP, whether that’s Oracle or something different.  Time gives us perspective and a chance to make this right. 

The opportunity 

With a decade to plan, you have a chance to ‘agnosticize’ your ERP.  The opportunity to take the systems of differentiation and run them connected to your ERP, yet not inside the ERP itself.  This process separates the core functions of an ERP from the IT systems which make your business special/ competitive. A strategy like this gives you the flexibility you deserve when coming down the pipe to the end of support for your existing ERP.  You’re no longer beholden to the ERP vendor when it comes to these difficult decisions. Now there are options.   

  1. Take the most vanilla upgrade of the latest release of the ERP 
  1. Shop around for core systems which might run at a lower total cost of ownership. 

The challenge 

Once I had my first child my father said to me, “welcome to a world of incredibly long days and incredibly short years.” I had no idea what he meant while I was holding a newborn.  I know exactly what he means now. 10 years passed in the blink of an eye. The same moniker can be used for IT. Long days fighting fires with limited staff and a breakneck schedule which makes a year go by so quickly.  How can I focus on this with so many other things happening? Making the necessary changes inside the ERP might not be right, but it’s certainly easier than any other option I know. Better stated: 

“How can I go about doing this with limited IT staff and an already near-impossible stack of change requests coming in?” 

There are a whole bunch of companies out there right now with the answer to that question.  They identify as ‘low code’ vendors. Low code software providers have software platforms that allow developers and non-developers to write applications 4-10 times faster than traditional coding methods.  They exist specifically because of the question above. The vendors range in strengths and weaknesses and are priced from very inexpensive to very expensive. Some specialize in creating read-only applications, some specialize in BPM, some are mobile-only, and some do all three.  Some are cloud-only; some have hybrid implementation models. 

Considerations 

If you want to check these out, what should be important to you? 

  1. Knowledge of your ERP landscape.  This cannot be stressed enough. No one can help if they have no expertise on the platform you’re currently using.  Building custom systems with limited to zero knowledge of the underlying system of record is a disaster waiting to happen.  Make sure they understand JDE, its strengths, and weaknesses. 
  1. Portability.  The vendor needs to have an open enough architecture that when you are ready to move to another ERP your custom systems can transition seamlessly. Without this the entire exercise is worthless. 
  1. Roadmap. What is the vendor doing about blockchain or AI?  It might not be important today, but sure enough will be. Find out how they are using cognitive services and what they can do beyond your custom systems today, but the custom system tomorrow will require. 
  1. References.  Find out what their customers think, how they use the platform.  Make sure you’re comfortable with their answers as well. 

Summary 

2028 will be here before you know it.  Starting to plan for the eventuality cannot start soon enough.  Look at the systems you have in place, what is vanilla and what is custom.  Start putting a plan in place to extract the custom parts into a new platform you can take with you to the future.  Find a tool that can get you there, and get started. Imagine the look on senior management’s faces when you tell them, “this ERP upgrade/ new implementation will be a breeze.”  It’ll all be worth it.