The Logic Behind Growth at JDA Software

Walt Opaska heads the legal review of JDA’s ever-growing processes with an analytical eye and an open mind

Saying JDA Software is still a start-up is like saying Walmart is still a mom-and-pop shop. According to Walt Opaska, despite the incredible growth of JDA, its mission has never changed: to deliver technological solutions that fit the needs of any company. Although growth implies and requires a move away from a start-up mentality, JDA has made efforts to transition into its new billion-dollar shoes while remaining as flexible as a small business. As expected, with this adjustment comes a great deal of legal review. That’s where Opaska steps in.

As associate general counsel, Opaska’s job is to ensure that JDA’s transition goes smoothly, that all holes are patched, and that new strategies are implemented to ensure the continued growth of the company. His goal is not to forgo the progress that JDA has made throughout its years as a lucrative start-up but rather to proportion the growth of the company to fit the full-scale corporation it has become.

“We’ve moved toward a mixed model,” he states. “We’re trying to move everything fast enough to keep up but give our more traditional or risk-averse companies options until eventually they get there, too.”

Walt Opaska, Associate General Counsel, JDA Software Group Courtesy of JDA

Over the last year, Opaska treated updates to internal systems like a sieve, separating major bumps from the body of existing processes and figuring out ways to improve them so they integrate into the new model. So far, through trial and error, Opaska has recognized several bumps in need of modifying. First and foremost, the company needs to remain modern through its adjustments. Second, it needs to polish relationships with third-party vendors. To attack the first issue, JDA made the decision to move away from a perpetual licensing model to a software as a service (SaaS) model.

For most consumers, the latter model has become fundamental to the way technological services are consumed. Subscription-based services not only provide customers with the ease of no long-term commitment or upfront lump sum but also allow companies that use the model to automatically update services for consumers using a central hub. (Ergo, farewell to the days of relying on customers to manually download an entirely new set of software every few months. These days, it’s all about hands-free technology refurbishing.) The transition to the SaaS model will provide JDA with a new sense of profitability and flexibility while helping it stay relevant within its market.

“To JDA, the benefit is the nature of the sale,” Opaska says. “Instead of one sale of a license, you have recurring sales. They get a new version of the software every month, and we have a nice, ongoing revenue. Really, the software is staying at the same pace our client is moving. Streamlining our services provides new functionality to customers, allowing them to do updates easier and quicker.”

Essentially, this update is a win-win for both JDA and its consumers. The inspiration for the change stemmed from a seemingly simple question: how do we make things easier for ourselves and our customers, and how do we keep it that way? Every change Opaska makes aims to answer this question. As a result, the company has implemented numerous procedures to verify that policies that have been in place since JDA’s beginning are usable for years to come. Starting with the vendor-hiring process and moving toward the signature-agreement process, Opaska and his team are working to repair the holes that have become apparent as a result of JDA’s growth.

“We find problems through practical experience, then try to operationalize them to make sure we’re bettering issues, not creating them.”

Throughout his years at JDA, Opaska has assembled a team that approaches the revisions of these policies from a meticulous, analytical point of view. He says that because of his extensive background in physics, he rides on his team’s wavelength. This allows him to “speak their language”—the language of logic.

“Everything is very precise,” Opaska says. “Because I’ve done similar things in the past, I understand what they’re trying to do, so I rely on them to help notice areas that we could improve upon. We find problems through practical experience, then try to operationalize them to make sure we’re bettering issues, not creating them.”

The team’s eye for errors allows problems to be fixed accurately and efficiently. For Opaska, this sometimes means going back to basics: ensuring there are copies of every document on file, filing agreements in the correct place, and “building relationships with third parties to develop programs when we want to.” The goal is to make JDA’s processes scalable and appropriate for the range of businesses they serve, from start-up to massive corporation.

Opaska has watched JDA’s structure transform into one that is flexible and progressive. Over the span of his career, with new procedures in place, he has noticed the company’s advance—most notably in the patent program, which has grown significantly over the last eight years.

JDA has developed into a company that thrives in change without losing touch with its original roots. Opaska believes that the company’s unique dichotomy of continuous innovation and customizable services has allowed it to remain relevant despite competition from cloud-forward counterparts.

“We are investing in creating,” he says. “Moving forward, we are building new ideas that align with our core mission and making sure everyone gets involved to make sure we are running a successful, profitable business long-term.”