At its annual CUE conference in San Diego March 4-7, Lawson Software is announcing a slew of new and expanded products, including an IBM-hosted version of its enterprise resource planning software, new business intelligence capabilities, upgraded software for manufacturers and an expanded middleware partnership with IBM that will embed WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus in Lawsons System Foundation technology stack.
The company also announced Total Care Platinum, an upgrade to its Total Care program, which is designed to help users get the most out of their Lawson investment by allowing the ERP provider to manage and host their applications.
"Total Care Platinum gives our customers a top-notch hosted ERP solution tailor-made for their industry with much less up-front investment than is required in traditional implementations and use of their Lawson applications," said Jim Anderson, executive vice president, Lawson Professional Services, in a statement.
Lawson officials also hinted at an on-demand offering in the works.
But even with all the development work underway there is still a lingering question: What of Landmark, Lawsons seemingly ground-breaking pattern-based development environment announced at CUE 2005, and sidetracked at the 2006 conference as Lawsons acquisition of Intentia took center stage?
During his March 5 keynote address (modeled after the Late Show with David Letterman, right down to the pencil-filled coffee cup and quirky sideman) Lawson CEO Harry Debes touched on Landmark, but only for a moment. It turns out Lawson is using Landmark to develop applications internally, a plan that Debes said will ripple out to customers in terms of cost savings.
But the technology is not quite ready for prime time as a development tool for customers and partners.
"Were not quite there yet," said Barry Wilderman, Lawsons vice president of business strategy. "We believe it is just a matter of time."
With all the upheaval in the ERP market over the past several years—in 2005 Oracle bought PeopleSoft, which itself had acquired J.D. Edwards—the short list for top tier ERP vendors became even shorter.
Lawson, primarily a midmarket vendor with some notable enterprise wins like Wal-Mart Stores, was once thought of as a real up and comer, poised to fill the gap left by PeopleSoft and JD Edwards.
But the company seems to have faltered over the past two years. Due to regulatory concerns its acquisition of Intentia took nearly a year longer than anticipated, and there was some customer confusion in the interim. During the March 5 keynote Debes trotted out a number of Lawson executives who promised to make customer service their number one priority; one executive said the company plans to call every one of Lawsons 40,000+ customers to make sure they know who their appropriate contact person is at Lawson. This years CUE announcements could make some headway for the company. The expanded technology partnership with IBM provides both S3 (services) and M3 (manufacturing and distribution) users with a SOA (service-oriented architecture) based integration platform—a necessity if Lawson hopes to compete against the likes of SAP and Oracle, each of which is heading downstream with midmarket offerings.
"Were making it easier for our customers to deploy a service-oriented architecture," said Dean Hager, senior vice president of product management at Lawson, in St. Paul, Minn.
New upgrades to Lawson Business Intelligence 9.0—now at 9.0.2—bring a more global flair to native BI, with the ability for several Lawson applications to run in non-English languages in different locals. French and Swedish translations within the application have been added to the upgrade.
At the same time, M3 System users are able to link Lawson BI with Lawson Business Performance Warehouse data warehousing app, for a "single version of the truth" with data, officials said.
Finally, the 7.1 release of Lawsons M3 suite brings a new user interface, increased functionality through Supply Chain Orders, industry specific upgrades, and a new system foundation that separates M3 applications from M3 technology (so the application layer can be upgraded separately from the technology layer, and vice versa).
M3 7.1 is geared toward the fashion, food and beverage and asset intensive manufacturing and distribution industries. The suites new UI, dubbed Smart Client, will become the de facto standard for all Lawson apps moving forward, officials said. It allows user-specific customization and personalization, and can incorporate things like documents, graphics and videos.
A Supply Chain Orders module links various orders with a supply chain for better visibility. For more specific industry functionality a Fashion Production Planning module provides quicker information access for fashion manufacturers, while a Demand Planner application provides statistical forecasting, better demand planning functionality for more accuracy in forecasting, and the ability to lock and store budgets for future comparisons.