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When to Upgrade Your JD Edwards ERP System and How to Apply Best Practices

| May 18, 2018

By Jim Miller, Vice President of Managed Services, CSS International, Inc.

To get the most out of your JD Edwards Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, it’s crucial to be on a fairly current version. If you aren’t running at least the 9.1 version of JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, you cannot receive its full benefits, from its financial planning and project management capabilities, to its manufacturing management, product lifecycle capabilities, and more.

What Happens When You Don’t Upgrade?

When you choose not to upgrade for more than just a few years, you face several significant risks. Older software often only runs on older Operating Systems, older Database versions, older integration technologies, older security, etc. Moreover, crucial third-party software may only interact with your older JD Edwards ERP using their older versions, as well. Problems can compound with all these interdependencies and can lead to gridlock, all the way down to older, or even obsolete, hardware. We’ve seen clients buying used machines to use purely for replacement parts that are no longer available. This situation leads to a loss of ERP support services, as well as higher risks for known security vulnerabilities with older technology, many of which have likely been resolved with newer technology.

Some falsely believe that running an old system is cheap and saving them money, but in reality, in just a few years, it can become quite inefficient, stagnant, unwieldy, risky, and very costly just to maintain status quo. Meanwhile regulatory and tax updates are mandatory, and business requests for change and new needs keep coming, and soon you are forced to become your own custom software house, and forced to work with an aging and dwindling workforce, as well. The real costs of maintenance are high, and simultaneously the cost to get updated is continuing to grow as well.

Overall, when you don’t leverage new technology, and your competitors do, you can quickly find your enterprise is at a significant disadvantage. Is that where you want your company to be?

How can you tell if you’re already suffering from the ill effects of an outdated JD Edwards ERP system? If you notice that users are becoming increasingly frustrated, or management complains about not getting quality insight into the business, people not getting good reporting data, people aren’t using the system but doing workarounds, or you’re building applications to circumvent the system, then these are all warning signs that your JD Edwards system is outdated. Here’s another good question: Are you confident that you can scale your current system to meet your anticipated enterprise-wide needs? Can you extend beyond the four walls of your organization and empower your customers and vendors to use self-service or to interact meaningfully with you? Do you believe that will be true next year? How about five years from now?

When You Do Upgrade, What Are the Benefits?

When you upgrade your system to the latest version, you should enjoy the following benefits:

  • Gain access to new features, functions, and applications. These can:
    • Position your organization well to meet business objectives
    • Allow your enterprise to leverage the latest built-in business processes
  • Enable mobility, self-service, easier work on-the-go, and extensions of functionality beyond the four walls of your enterprise
  • Facilitate tax and regulatory compliance at lower costs, which is especially important in this complex environment
  • Reduce the footprint of modifications, customizations and enhancements by retiring them and adopting new and improved functionality
  • Leverage the latest performance and usability enhancements to boost productivity, speed, ease-of-use, and efficiency
  • Stay in the sweet spot of premium-level ERP support, via vendors, and staff resources
  • Modernize and improve your Technology Stack (hardware, OS, DB, prerequisites, etc.)
  • Lower your Total Cost of Ownership

You’ve Decided It’s Time to Upgrade

To determine the best timing and processes for upgrading, there are multiple issues to consider, including your company’s technical infrastructure, functional capabilities, business needs, and support timeframes.

It’s also important to understand how upgrading your JD Edwards EnterpriseOne may be quite different from the original implementation process. As well, when managed by experts, the upgrade process can often be much better. Professional help can improve your upgrade the following ways:

  • Plan more succinctly, reduce rework, minimize risks
  • Upgrade in both a more proficient and more efficient manner
  • Execute it while addressing human change factors and risks
  • Built upon and improve your previous implementation(s)

Understanding the Potential of the JD Edwards ERP Upgrade

When determining the value of your applications upgrade, first assess the enhancements and capabilities available, and determine how they provide improvements for the business and/or for IT. The more you know and understand what’s available, the more you can determine how it will boost value for your enterprise. This understanding will also help you calculate return on investment, something crucial when you need to get executive buy-in, because you’ll have a better sense of precisely how the upgrade will benefit your organization.

Here are initial questions to ask. Whenever possible, quantify your answers, but also consider qualitative benefits to your enterprise:

  • What operational costs will be lowered?
  • How will business value be increased?
  • What new business capabilities are enabled?
  • What regulatory, compliance or tax requirements are met or improved?
  • What benefits will you see:
    • immediately?
    • within the first year?
    • in the next three to five years?
  • How much easier will it be for your IT team to:
    • operate your ERP solutions?
    • install software?
    • implement the application’s use?
    • integrate applications?
  • How are the long-term costs lowered for continued maintenance, compatibility, and upgrades in the future?

No two enterprises will use or benefit from upgrades in exactly the same way, and no two upgrade implementation processes are the same. To get a good, overall sense of what’s available in an application upgrade, read the release notes first. This will allow you to evaluate features and functionalities, and then you can dig in for more details in areas that particularly affect your enterprise.

Technology Status, Pre-Upgrade

As an estimate, the technology portion of the upgrade typically involves one-third of the workload. Technical infrastructure elements to consider include overall IT architecture, hardware, operating systems, database options, applications servers, web services, data centers vs. hosting vs. cloud, or hybrids, and more.

The upgrading process for the core of the JD Edwards ERP system includes the upgrading of base applications, upgrade/retrofit of custom apps and data, and data conversions for configuration data, master data, business transactional data, and historical business data. Because the core comprises such a significant and important portion of the process, the foundation steps are crucial. They include:

  • Determine the Minimum Technical Requirements (MTRs) for your upgrade
  • Inventory your current hardware and software for JD Edwards
  • Size your JDE database and servers, with assistance from your hardware vendor
  • Analyze your infrastructure gaps and develop a plan for upgrades, retirements, and new hardware
  • Inventory your JDE applications used, custom apps and data, and any retirements, or new additions
  • Inventory your JDE-integrations and third-party systems affected
  • Inventory your JDE data usage, plan your final data archivals and purges

This is also the time to ensure that your data is accurate and complete. Besides verifying the integrity of your data, determine how you will address duplicate records and archive/purge records, before the upgrade takes place. Will you use Unicode? How much data storage will that require?

Do you need to change architecture? If so, and it’s commonplace to need to do so, the complexity of the project increases. If you need to upgrade your hardware, you’ll need to have that complete before the application upgrade takes place. Is this a good time to change Data Centers or move to hosting and “get out of the hardware business”? Do you need to upgrade your Disaster Recovery capabilities? What middleware platform makes sense now?

Again, no two enterprises have the exact same requirements. If you’ve kept up with each JD Edwards upgrade and are fairly current, then you can generally upgrade directly to the most current release. For older versions, you may need to perform a multi-step upgrade.

To quote the white paper created by Oracle, entitled Best Practices for Upgrading JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, “evaluate the complexity of your upgrade effort based on the number of modules implemented, number of integration points, number of interfaces, total number of business process scripts and number of customizations that need to be brought forward.” What are the costs of each?

Human Resource Preparation

It’s important to carefully prep your IT team and others in the enterprise who will be involved in the upgrade or who will have their job duties change because of the upgrade. Let them know the benefits of the upgrade, both to the enterprise overall, and to their jobs specifically. Prepare everyone for changes that will take place and get buy-in from all stakeholders. Face-to-face meetings work best, whenever possible. Double-check to make sure you have executive buy-in, as this must be a company-wide decision and process.

This is also the time to structure your task management approach and have a plan in place ahead of time to determine how you will address challenges. What is the project scope? The scope must be well-defined so you can contain both costs and time spent. The more clearly that is defined and the more effectively the project is managed, the better the upgrade process will likely go and the more quickly you will see benefits from the upgrade.

Does your company have someone in-house with the ability to oversee this project? If not, it’s important to get that in place early on, choosing someone who is highly experienced in managing technical projects and can help you anticipate what’s next and manage anything that is out of scope or otherwise unexpected.

Besides the expertise needed for leadership roles, it’s important to assemble the right steering committee to direct this project. People on the committee must be engaged and active, able to efficiently make smart decisions. Project failures, the white paper notes, are “often traced to the lack of an effective governance body.” Do you have everyone you need in-house for these roles?

Evolving Business Processes

Upgrades typically improve your processes and automate tasks, with the degree of the changes varying from project to project. A critical decision that needs to be made: “whether you will implement the new functionality as part of the upgrade, or upgrade your current processes without change, and implement new functionality as a follow-on project.”

If you can implement current processes into your new system, this will minimize change and that helps mitigate risk. But that may not be practical in your situation, especially if processes in the application upgrade significantly improve operations. On the other end of the spectrum, if you want to take advantage of the latest and greatest applications, features, and functions that the new system has to offer, that will naturally require some business process change, data changes, and user training. You will get the benefits, but it will be change and therefore introduces more effort and also some risk. There are pros and cons to every approach, and it’s important to determine and then refine the best strategy for your needs.

Risk Mitigation

Identify risks. There are almost always multiple other projects ongoing while the upgrade is taking place. Prioritizing work and determining how to divide resources, supplement resources, backfill, defer, etc., will all come into play. How will you manage the competing projects, resource needs, and risks? What areas of your enterprise need to be strengthened to handle this added workload and for how long?

Duplicate Environment

Preparation is key. Before any upgrade starts to take place, you should copy your entire production environment into a separate system environment that will be part of your initial upgrade. This will allow your team to have the latest system, business, and transactional data for testing purposes, along with access to custom modifications that are currently in production. This copy will also likely serve as the pilot environment for the upgrade. Be mindful of all integrated systems and bolt-ons, as well as any “hard coded” or “soft set” system names, drive letters, links, folder names, external systems, etc., so nobody accidentally affects live productions systems.

In preparation for your upgrade, make sure you’ve addressed all Minimum Technical Requirements (MTR) gaps as identified in your assessment process, including software, hardware, operating system, networking, sizing, performance, etc. This typically will include installing and validating new servers. Also, specifically for JDE:

Make sure that all objects and versions are checked in

  1. Build full packages and deploy
  2. Review logs and reports for errors
  3. Review and clean up your Object Librarian

Upgrade

After you’ve completed all planning and preparation work—including your goals and objectives, your technical and human resources, your business processes, and risk mitigation—and created your duplicate environment, you can then proceed into the core body of work for the technology upgrade.

The heavy lifting parts of the upgrade include several major components:

  1. Initial hardware, system, software installations and setups, loading the latest patches and updates, development environment setup, Spec Merge, and initial Data Conversion
  2. Programming the Upgrade/Retrofit and Unit Testing of all custom code for Reports, Integrations, Conversions, Extensions (RICE)
  3. Multiple test rounds beginning with full Data Conversions from the current production system over into the new upgrade system, and Data Validations by the business and IT, plus functional testing using documented business scenarios and scripts. These are usually called Conference Room Pilots, Integrated System Tests, and User Acceptance Tests. For example, a typical series of 5 would be: CRP1, CRP2, IST1, IST2, and UAT.
  4. Include Security Testing within those rounds, including Security Roles and Tasks, Segregation of Duties, Audit, etc.
  5. Performance Testing for heavy interactive and batch workloads, response time, scheduled jobs completion time, etc.
  6. Documentation and Training for Trainers, End Users and Support Staff
  7. Practice Go-Live Cutovers, using and improving your Cutover Task Lists
  8. A Readiness Assessment of all areas
  9. Remediation and Final Preparations
  10. The actual Go-Live, Support, and the prioritization of ERP support incidents/resolutions
  11. A Post Go-Live Assessment, and beginning follow-on targeted improvements

As you work through the body of work for the upgrade, there will be several parallel streams of technical and functional work. Track each stream with measurable progress metrics. These streams of work must collaborate, unit test, and ultimately converge on the major test cycles. So, you will need to adjust resourcing and priorities for all of this to happen.

Along the way, document issues and risks that you encounter during your upgrade. Include screenshots, reports, log files, and so forth for more detail. Have leadership review regularly and assign issue resolution or risk mitigation to the appropriate person or team. Be very specific when documenting, listing specific applications, forms, and actions. Also rate how urgent a particular issue or risk is and where addressing it is located on your priority list.

When it comes to training, train your team on the new features and functionalities that you targeted during the upgrade, along with your new and improved business processes. They should go hand-in-hand. Some employees will need training from the ground up, including logging in and navigating through the system and running reports, while others, who have been involved in at least part of the upgrade process, may not. Schedule and conduct a comprehensive formal training program with multiple courses, per job roles.

While executing the multiple rounds of testing as insurance, you should fine-tune your Cutover Task Lists. Refine the best detailed sequence of events, including validation steps, pre-conversion, pre-processing, staging, and parallel processing, to properly execute your cutover and reduce your system downtime window. Treat the test cycles very seriously and have team representatives from the business execute the test scenarios and scripts and sign off on each step. Keep records of all tests and results, and improve the scenarios/scripts for the next round of testing. Progressively involve more and more business people in ensuing rounds of testing.

After all this testing and the Practice Go-Lives, the actual go-live event should be very smooth. After each round, the level of changes should be decreasing in number and scope. Retain tight change control. The final Go-Live event should be a repeat performance from the last two. But there will still be post Go-Live issues. If you’ve done good testing, history has proven that most issues will be UserID/Password requests, security access to programs people missed, and training. There will be lots of additional training opportunities.

Triage issues and assign priorities. Schedule system changes and development deployment overnight when possible to avoid business disruption, except in true emergencies, and maintain tight change control. Too much change or going too fast and loose can create even bigger problems.

Post-Upgrade

First of all, celebrate the victory! The team has worked for many months on your upgrade. Recognize the hard work, the sacrifices made, and the good leadership. Good people are your most valuable resources, and they need to be appreciated!

Once issues have died down, take the time to assess your overall upgrade project. Note the areas of great success as well as areas of challenge, and how you could do better in the future. Review your wish list of items, items that were deferred, and features and functions targeted for post-upgrade. Plan these out at a more measured pace and let your teams work on these as smaller projects.

Continue to get even more benefits from your upgrade, as you are already live and well on your newly upgraded system. Finally, consider getting yourself into a Continuous Delivery model for updates, upgrades, patches, and, most of all, delivering new features, functions, and technology to your business on a more regular basis, quarterly or even monthly.

CSS for Your JD Edwards ERP Upgrade

When it’s time to upgrade your JD Edwards ERP system, you’re addressing one of the most critical components of your technology footprint that supports your daily business, so it’s crucial that all goes well. At CSS, we customize ERP solutions, so whether you need a straightforward technical upgrade, some improvements, or a more complex upgrade, or even a re-implementation, you’ll want our experience on your side. Contact us online or call 1-800-814-7705 today.

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