Integrating on Their Own

SAP and J.D. Edwards develop software tools that tie together systems and improve collaboration

Sometimes, to do a job right, you have to do it yourself. Enterprise application vendors that have long depended on third parties to link their software for business-to-business collaboration are increasingly accomplishing that integration with their own tools.

Even as leaders such as SAP AG and J.D. Edwards & Co. last week introduced new and enhanced software to integrate business processes running in diverse environments, users are expected to take a cautious approach to the solutions because of concerns over complexity and security.

"Were not doing [collaborative commerce] yet, though its moving fast," said Ricardo Gross, director of information management for the Latin American and South African regions of Minneapolis-based Pillsbury Co. "Theres a lot of skepticism from both customers and suppliers."

Before true B2B integration can take hold, application vendors and their customers must build "acceptance, the culture, transparency and trust"—factors that arent there, said Gross, who is based in Miami and attended J.D. Edwards Focus user conference in Denver.

Vendors such as SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, are openly acknowledging that integration is an integral IT function they previously have not offered outside their own suites.

"Concentrating on [SAPs] R/3 [enterprise suite] ... we missed what is going on outside the system," said SAP CEO Hasso Plattner in a speech at the companys Sapphire user conference in Orlando last week. "We have to face the situation that there is a heterogeneous landscape within a company."

To address this world, Plattner laid out a vision of B2B e-commerce for SAP based on exchange- and portal-building software for tying together heterogeneous systems and three application suites to improve B2B collaboration: Supply Chain Management, Customer Relationship Management and Product Lifecycle Management.

SAP officials said the company will create adapters that capture data from many third-party applications so the information can be shared among internal and external business partners through the SAP Portal.

The basis for much of this integration comes from the iView technology SAP gained when it bought TopTier Software Inc. this spring. iViews are software objects that can be used in an SAP Portal to let users drag and relate bits of information from SAP and non-SAP systems.

SAP won a strong vote of confidence for collaborative commerce with the announcement of a deal that will have IBM installing some of SAPs iView technology in IBMs WebSphere Portal Server.

Meanwhile, J.D. Edwards introduced its own slate of new and updated products designed to improve collaborative e-commerce.

The centerpiece was the introduction of real-time integration of its Advanced Planning Solution module with its OneWorld enterprise resource planning system, which will enable customers to respond instantaneously to events anywhere in the supply chain.

To further integration outside the firewall, the Denver-based company announced the general availability of its Extended Business Processes, which provide preset, executable business processes for combining a number of applications.

In December, J.D. Edwards will release Version 2.0 of its Order Promising module, which will add profitable-to-promise and capable-to-promise features, officials said.

"This is clearly a case where were out ahead of the customers," said J.D. Edwards CEO Ed McVaney. "The IT industry really sees this collaboration as an important and powerful next wave."

Some application buyers welcomed easier integration from their primary technology providers.

Ron Wood, logistics team leader at Vincore International Inc., came to the J.D. Edwards conference to scope collaborative purchasing software. Though he has not made a final decision, Wood, of Niagara Falls, Ontario, is certain about his implementation approach. "Whoever we buy the package from, our expectation is that they would integrate [in-house]."