Bringing ERP Apps Up to Speed

PeopleSoft, SAP bolster Internet support in older enterprise resource planning applications.

Even in the Internet age, many enterprises continue to use ERP applications that are not wired for the Net. Some IT departments havent opted for Internet-enabled upgrades from enterprise resource planning software providers such as SAP AG and PeopleSoft Inc. for any number of reasons. Some didnt have the resources, some didnt think the payback would warrant the business disruption an upgrade would involve and some didnt see enough functionality enhancements in the Web-based applications to justify a migration.

While recognizing that they cant simply turn off maintenance on their older software suites, PeopleSoft and SAP are nudging users of their software into 21st-century computing by upgrading older suites and making newer, Internet-enabled applications more attractive.

PeopleSoft, at CeBIT in Hannover, Germany, last week, announced it is upgrading World—a client/server suite of business automation software gained in its J.D. Edwards & Co. acquisition last year—with a whopping 250 enhancements. Awkwardly named World A7.3 Cumulative Update 15, the newest version of the software adds an HTML interface that gives users access to legacy applications from any browser.

Additional upgrades in Worlds Manufacturing and Distribution Management module enable sales order demand information to be included throughout the forecasting processes for better supply chain visibility, said officials at PeopleSoft, of Pleasanton, Calif.

This is not the first opportunity World users have had to upgrade to an Internet-enabled suite. JDE upgraded the suite four years ago, introducing an upgrade called OneWorld (which PeopleSoft has subsequently renamed Enterprise One) that did just that, but thousands of JDE customers didnt upgrade.

"In 2000, people didnt see the benefit [of migrating], so the business case was not there for us," said John Salaski, manager of application development at Hoffman Enclosures Inc., a World customer. "The functionality between Enterprise One and World was pretty much the same thing at that point in time. Because of that, why would you as a company migrate to a new software if it doesnt give you new functionality?"

A lot has happened, however, since Hoffmans initial World implementation in 1997, according to Salaski. With Hoffmans 2,500 distributors and 400,000 customers, a Web-based environment for collaboration is beginning to look attractive. The Anoka, Minn., company, a division of Pentair Inc., is considering upgrading its ERP applications to Version 8.11 of PeopleSofts namesake suite, because the HTML-based front end on World just wont cut it for Hoffmans current and emerging needs, Salaski said.

"At the time, we were confined to our four walls and e-business was just starting to go," said Salaski. "To be more collaborative and have an open environment, we need more than we have."

Separately at CeBIT, SAP unveiled 5-1-2 Program, a software service and maintenance program that looks to clear up confusion around the Walldorf, Germany, companys newer R/3 Enterprise offering. Because R/3 Enterprise added a Web application server to SAPs decade-old R/3 client/server suite, some R/3 customers considering a move into Internet-enabled computing were uncertain if they should opt for that upgrade or jump to SAPs entirely Web-based MySAP ERP offering, according to officials.

The new 5-1-2 Program puts a finite amount of time—five years from general release—on the maintenance life of SAP software packages, with clear steps and costs involved in maintaining the software after that period.

SAPs goal is for the estimated 8,000 R/3 users to upgrade to SAPs NetWeaver integration platform, which enables Web services-based application integration, said Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP America Inc. "Its very important for us to move [R/3 users] to MySAP," said McDermott. "[With that] customers get human resources, operations, enterprise management—and it comes with NetWeaver."

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