Looking back, moving forward

Looking back, moving forward

Ed McVaney - JD Edwards co-founder

JD Edwards original logo

For how long do you work with JD Edwards? You may work for just one year, or maybe 10 years. I know people who work for almost 30 years! Can you imagine that? How many software companies do you know that has more than 35 years? It may be easy to think on the top of your mind on Oracle, Apple, Microsoft, right? So, think now an ERP software company with more than 35 years and things became more difficult.

Now, I have another question for you: did you really know the history of JD Edwards? What are the facts and the events that shaped the company success? In this post we’ll deep dive in JD Edwards’ history, discussing the early ages of a data processing consulting firm that came from $159,000 in revenue to nearly $1 billion, from 4 employees to 5,000, from 31 customers to over 6,000 worldwide. Today, we’ll go for a revival in this company and I want you to join me in this journey! Happy reading!

The JD Edwards story start like many others. The entrepreneurial bug bites colleagues who share a dream of doing things their way and going into business for themselves. Leaving behind the safety and security of established careers, they venture into the unknown. The early days are characterized by big ideas, small budgets, and long hours. The future is a question mark.

JD Edwards didn’t start as a software company. On March 17, 1977, Jack Thompson, Dan Gregory, and Ed McVaney pooled their names and talents to create a data processing consulting firm. McVaney, the partner-in-charge of management services at the Denver office of Alexander Grant & Co, recognized the talent of colleagues Thompson and Gregory, and broached the subject of starting their own business.

Gregory – who passed away in 1987 – recalled, “One night, when we were working late, Ed said to me, “How would you like not to work for Alexander Grant anymore?” My heart stopped. I thought, great, three months on my first job and I’m getting fired”. For Thompson, the proposal immediately struck the right chord: “Having my own company had been a lifelong goal. I wanted the freedom of being my own boss.”

In 1978, Bob Newman came on as the company’s fourth principal. Trusting Ed’s judgment, Thompson gave Newman the go ahead to join them. Newman brought with him some impressive credentials. He had finished first in the 1975 nationwide examination for Certified Data Processors. In the coming years, he would be instrumental in keeping JD Edwards at the forefront of evolving technologies.

Early on, job descriptions didn’t really matter as much as doing what had to be done. “During our first year of operation, I did anything and everything from loading desks into the back of my station wagon to answering phones, programming, writing reports and selling”, says co-founder Ed McVaney. The unique strengths of the founders began to shape the company. Dan Gregory was the company’s “firefighter,” a talented generalist who did everything from programming to getting new offices up and running to starting the training department. Jack Thompson was the techie among techies, designing the CASE tools that automated many of the routine programming tasks and enforced consistency across JD Edwards’ applications. McVaney also acted as the company’s front man and visionary in multiple stints as CEO, president and chairman until his retirement in January 2002.

Going global, going public

What started out as a small Denver-based business, continue to expand: Dallas (1981), San Francisco (1982), Houston (1983), New York (1985), Chicago (1986), and Atlanta (1987). And in 1998, JD Edwards opened its first international office in Brussels, Belgium. 

Others soon followed in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Brazil, Sweden, Spain, Japan, Hong Kong, South Africa, Korea, Mexico, Italy, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc… Headquarters kept pace with the international growth, and in 1997 JD Edwards finally had a place to call its own – a new campus at One Technology Way, Denver, Colorado.

With a state-of-the-art product, a worldwide presence, and a blue-chip customer base, it was time to go public. On September 24, 1997, JD Edwards listed on the NASDAQ, completing the largest and most successful initial public offering for a software company that year.

World Software

In 1981, the Denver area was rich with oil industry prospects. A strong interest in an oil and gas system on the System/34 helped JD Edwards build its client base and reputation as an application developer. With the oil industry downturn in 1982, JD Edwards began targeting prospects in other industries – and new platforms like IBM’s System/38 and eventually the AS/400.

The JD Edwards formula of balancing innovative product development with an unwavering focus on practical business need was the perfect fit for scores of business worldwide. The JD Edwards CASE tool enforced design standards and automated a high percentage of the tedious work involved in programming. WorldSoftware, introduced in 1984, was an unqualified success. It’s soft coding allowed customer to tailor system processes, menus and reports to fit their unique needs without reprogramming – keeping IT costs down and facilitating ongoing change. While JD Edwards continued to grow and thrive, it was clear the company had to look beyond a single platform and embrace emerging technologies.

OneWorld

With the release of OneWorld in 1996, JD Edwards made its mark in the open systems and client/server arenas. The company used the lessons learned with WorldSoftware. Many of the same concepts – especially architectural consistency and user-defined flexibility – guided the development of OneWorld. Customers could run a single software version on multiple platforms (IBM, UNIX, and Windows) and move data and logic among various servers and clients throughout a network, including the Internet, to meet changing needs.

Well, the rest of the history you already know: PeopleSoft, then Oracle… I hope you had a nice and fun reading with this article. Hope now you understand better the history and foundation of this software we love so much, and by understanding the past, we can look forward for a better future in our career and personal life!