As part of Quest’s 2019 Orchestrator Week, Tim Randall, ERP Applications Manager at Granite Construction, spoke about how to leverage Orchestrator to support multiple business processes, transform integrations, and replace manual processes with scripted automation within JD Edwards. Randall started with an overview of JD Edwards Orchestrator, gave Orchestrator use cases, and then talked specifically about Granite Construction’s Orchestrator journey.
- JD Edwards Orchestrator leverages core JD Edwards applications and external technologies to automate tasks and the distribution of information.
- Orchestrations allow businesses to modernize integrations with real-time data interchanges that require minimal development efforts and have tremendous error handling and notification capabilities.
- Artificial intelligence will escalate the effectiveness of automation in the future.
- Granite Construction made the decision to move to Oracle’s JD Edwards Orchestrator after acquiring a company and evaluating possible solutions for streamlining the data and processes that resulted from the merger.
About Granite Construction
Granite Construction is a nearly 100-year-old company with more than 7,000 employees and an annual revenue of $3.4 billion. As an industry leader in the transportation, water resources, and mineral exploration markets throughout North America, Granite provides infrastructure solutions for construction, program management, and alternative procurement. Granite is a vertically integrated contractor with aggregate materials reserves throughout the United States.
Granite Construction started using Orchestrator when it acquired Layne Christensen Company in 2018. Leadership evaluated tools for the two companies to merge and for data from both sources to be consolidated. Layne was already using JD Edwards multicurrency, but Granite was not. Moreover, Granite did not have any established infrastructure for AIS or orchestrations.
Granite’s first steps in the transition were infrastructure design and setup, UDO administration, and WebOMW administration. The next steps included connection set-up, UDO security, and training. Randall describes how Granite got its “feet wet” with Oanda Currency Exchange and demonstrates how quickly exchange rates are processed.
With the success of exchange rate integration, the stakeholders of Granite could see the proof-of-concept. Buy-in from stakeholders is vital because Orchestrator requires a major shift in IT ideology and new technology. Granite resolved one notable challenge – no exception handling required Granite to use Dell Boomi – and reported many wins including replacing the batch-based interface with real-time interface and scalability built into orchestration.
The success of the exchange rate implementation and the resulting time saved made it possible to get buy-in from shareholders to implement Certify Expense Management Integration as well.
An Orchestrator Overview
The JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Orchestrator is a gateway to digital transformation. It leverages core JD Edwards applications and external technologies to automate tasks and the distribution of information.
Randall makes five basic points when explaining JDE Orchestrator:
- Orchestrator uses Application Interface Services (AIS) Server as its foundation. This is important because it processes orchestrations that are saved to the AIS Server to transform external data into actionable business processes in EnterpriseOne.
- It has invaluable features like the ability to automate business processes, facilitate connections and integrations with ease, and increase the sharing of information between JD Edwards and key decision-makers.
- Orchestrator was designed to be used by “developers,” a term he uses for analysts, developers and super users of JD Edwards.
- All Orchestrator components are user defined objects (UDOs) that were created in Orchestrator Studio and administered in JD Edwards.
- Components can be created and then grouped together to execute functionality inside JD Edwards.
Randall provides a short list of components, created in the Orchestrator Studio and used to transform incoming raw data into data that can be used by EnterpriseOne:
- Orchestration: The master process that defines the inputs for the orchestration and provides a unique name for the orchestration process in the Orchestrator.
- Notification: A notification can include inputs, criteria, and messages.
- Service request: A sequence of actions for invoking a particular process in JD Edwards EnterpriseOne applications of Java programs.
- Rule: A set of conditions against which the orchestration input is evaluated to produce a true or false state.
- Cross-reference: A set of data relationships defined by the designer of the orchestration that enriches the minimal input from devices.
- White list: A list of authorized input values. A white list provides an additional layer of security to the Orchestrator security.
How to Leverage Orchestrator + Granite Construction Use Cases
Service requests are a key component for Granite. There are multiple types of service requests including those for forms, data, message, reports, watchlists, and connectors. Granite Construction uses form service requests to interact with JD Edwards application forms and connector service requests. Granite also uses connector service requests to connect to external systems, databases, or orchestrations.
The orchestration component of Orchestrator is also key to Granite. It provides the sharing, security, and promotions features. Randall describes orchestrations as “powerful” but not a catch-all. He provides a list of practical considerations when determining if orchestrations are a good fit:
- What processes are we trying to improve?
- Is the process stable and repeatable?
- Is the problem something that can be corrected with an automated process?
- How complex is the business problem?
- Can we break the problem into smaller problems and automate those?
For businesses that are prepared to take the next step after determining the feasibility of implementation, Randall provides a follow-up list for considerations before creation. The list refers to data, transactions, and UBE and applications. Once a process has been selected and determined a fit for an orchestration, there are some points to consider prior to creating the orchestration:
- What is the data required for this process?
- What transactions need to occur?
- What data will need to be updated for this process?
- What UBE or applications will need to be used for this process?
It is highly recommended that you map out each step and action within a process prior to creating the orchestration. Remember, an orchestration is just a robot user that needs to be taught every single step – no matter how minuscule it may seem.
The Evolution of Automating Processes
To understand what Orchestrator can do for you, Randall advises reviewing the evolution of automating processes. He divides the evolution into three stages:
- Subsystem/batch automation was the first incarnation. It required a high level of effort, limited error handling, and notification capability, and it used extensive resources and contributed little to decision-making processes.
- Robotic process automation, fortunately, replaced the subsystem/batch approach. Robotic process automation uses bots to automate roles and repetitive tasks and execute actions based on predefined conditions.
- In the near future, though, automation via artificial intelligence will elevate communication and decision-making processes by monitoring and analyzing data to find exceptions, inefficiencies, and inconsistencies and by making decisions and executing actions based on prior-learned events.
Orchestrations allow businesses to modernize integrations. Early integrations relied on delimited files and hogged resources, and they did not operate in real-time. Later integrations moved to real-time data interchanges but required extensive effort and cost. Modern integrations will provide real-time data interchanges while being lightweight, require minimal development efforts – thanks to Orchestrator Studio, and have tremendous error handling and notification capabilities.
Tips and Tricks for How to Leverage Orchestrator
Keep these helpful tips and tricks in mind when you being to leverage Orchestrator in your organization:
- Remember, an orchestration is just a robot user. It needs to be taught every single step.
- Keep it simple. Break down orchestrations into steps as small as possible. Layer the complexity across multiple orchestrations.
- Leverage JD Edwards EnterpriseOne whenever possible. Do this by maintaining data in EnterpriseOne. By addressing problems upstream in EnterpriseOne, you will simplify orchestrations downstream.
- Test the limits of your data set.
- Use trusted and experienced resources to help you on your journey.
To learn more about how to leverage Orchestrator and Granite Construction’s Orchestrator journey, check out the Orchestrator Week presentation attached below. To access all of the recordings from Orchestrator Week, check out the Orchestrator Week landing page.
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If you’re looking for more JD Edwards content, join us next year at INFOCUS 20, the premier deep-dive JD Edwards focused event of the year! The event will take place August 25-27, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. Keep an eye out for more information on this event!