Lawson Software talks SOA, upgrades

Lawson Software is wooing customers to Lawson 9, the latest version of its ERP applications suite and the bridge to the next generation of its Landmark set of products.

At the annual Lawson Customer and User Exchange 2006 (CUE) conference in Orlando, executives touted the performance and function that Lawson 9 would deliver. Most customers are now using Lawson 8.x versions of the software, and the company wants to see its installed base start moving toward version 9, which was announced last month.

Lawson Chief Product Officer Dean Hager emphasized improvements in how the applications are supported and a variety of new functions added throughout the suite -- which also has a business intelligence application. Lawson 9 is also the gateway to Landmark, which is built on a service-oriented architecture (SOA) that enables the creation of composite applications.

"It's your path to the future," Hager said in a keynote address earlier Tuesday.

Ultimately, customers will be able to easily create composite application workflows that can sit on top of both Lawson and third-party software, he said.

Migrating to Lawson 9 comes with a price, because customers must also standardize on the Lawson System Foundation 9. That means using the IBM WebSphere technology stack as the Web server and servlet container. But Hager said such a move would actually mean improved support, since Lawson plans to be a single source of support for both the applications and the underlying technology.

In the past, if a customer had problems with the Web server, Lawson wasn't always able to help troubleshoot glitches. "We want to be the first in the line of contact," said Hager.

Buttressing that point, Lawson this week announced its first application based on Landmark and SOA technology, Lawson Strategic Sourcing. The software is meant to enable customers to more efficiently source goods and automate procurement processes such as creating a request for proposals (RFP), doing bid analyses and awards, and -- for the public sector -- ensuring compliance with governmental procurement regulations.

Lawson also announced a new performance management application, which will be part of the Lawson 9 Human Capital Management line of products. The software will enable a company to measure employee performance against corporate policy and help create specific goals for personnel. The application is the first of a number of products soon to be rolled out to bring a greater degree of sophistication to recruiting and workforce optimization and compensation, said Larry Dunivan, vice president of human capital management products at Lawson.

Some users are already using the Lawson 9 applications and rolling out Landmark. For instance, the city of Greensboro, N.C., is already deploying the Landmark Strategic Sourcing application and hopes to be live with it by fall. The application was designed by procurement business users working with developers, according to Chris Payne, deputy finance director for administrative services in Greensboro. The result was that there were virtually no functional gaps in the software and the first release delivered to the city was nearly as feature-laden as it needed to be. Any remaining issues with the software focused primarily on usability. "The functional gaps were just about gone," he said.

Moreover, because of the SOA-based architecture underlying Strategic Sourcing, developers could quickly make changes to the application as needed, said Payne. The city is already live with Lawson 9 human resources and financial applications, a move that required migrating to WebSphere.

Landmark and Strategic Sourcing were also of interest to Sandi Klos, business project manager for materials management at HealthPartners Medical Group & Clinics. The St. Paul, Minn.-based health services provider currently runs version 8.x of Lawson's procurement, payroll and human resources applications but is interested in upgrading to the Lawson System Foundation 9 by next year.

The Strategic Sourcing application, expected to ship sometime during the current quarter, could help automate contract management processes, said Klos. It would also allow suppliers to come in through a portal to access RFPs and submit bids without being directly solicited. Additionally, there is a built-in audit trail that would assist with Sarbanes-Oxley Act reporting compliance, she said. The company has already started deploying Lawson Business Intelligence 9 to deliver role-based dashboards to executives.

"Business intelligence is starting us on the road of bringing the applications together," Klos said, adding that Landmark's composite applications capabilities can further that goal.

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