At its annual Conference and User Exchange, held March 18-20 in Las Vegas, Lawson Software introduced a new Smart Office user interface, a Human Capital Management suite and an upgraded traceability engine for process manufacturers.
But perhaps the most interesting news is what's buried in the company's new functionality-the use of Lawson's Landmark application development environment to build new applications.
However, while Lawson has utilized Landmark to develop new applications like its Strategic HCM System, which is both SOA (service-oriented architecture)-based and available on demand, the development environment itself is still not available to users-three years after it was initially introduced and six years after internal development began.
"Our goal is to provide [the Landmark environment to customers] in the very near future," said Pramod Mathur, director of product marketing for Lawson.
Announced in 2005 and code-named Landmark (the moniker has apparently stuck), Lawson billed Landmark as a new technology environment under development by a special team put together by the company's founder, Richard Lawson.
The environment, according to company statements at the time, would "mitigate the very source of application complexity ... the new model dramatically reduces the source coding required and will result in virtually error-free, consistent Java code." It was also said to have the potential to allow business analysts-the people who understand their company's business processes-to develop applications.
The idea was that applications developed in Landmark, by either Lawson or its customers, would be SOA-based and would enable developers to quickly and easily modify and customize business processes. The reduction in code would also help companies implement Lawson's software a lot faster, for a lot less money, company officials said.
Fast-forward three years: Landmark is released as a run-time engine with Lawson's custom Foundation software, which Lawson's internally developed products use to execute Landmark applications. However, the tools that allow users to extend the platform to build their own applications have yet to be released. That capability is coming, according to Mathur.
"Our goal is to provide that in the very near future," Mathur said.
For CUE, Lawson has developed more applications and its new user interface using the Landmark platform. The company's Strategic HCM System is a suite of applications available to both S3 and M3 users. It includes talent management, work force management and human resource management suites.
The suite uses Landmark to, for example, expose Lawson Process Language to different sites on the Internet like Facebook. If a company develops a widget that links HCM to a Facebook page, users can take advantage of Web 2.0 social networking capabilities to let friends and colleagues know about open positions within the company.
The HCM Suite also utilizes Smart Office-an "intuitive, personalized user interface [also built on Landmark] that allows users to directly access Lawson and Microsoft applications and updates data pervasively," according to Lawson.
Coupled with Microsoft Windows Presentation Foundation, which Smart Office was developed around, users are able to access Excel, Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Groove from their Lawson ERP (enterprise resource planning) and business intelligence applications.
At the same time, because of the underlying development platforms, Lawson can support "virtually limitless business processes using Microsoft applications," company officials said.
According to Mathur, in addition to releasing the tools that will enable users to develop their own applications using Landmark, the company will continue to develop stand-alone Landmark-based applications like HCM and Smart Office.
"We have a lot in the works," he said. "All I can tell you is that we have a number of products in development, which we would be announcing as we move into the future with Landmark."
But with three years of development under Lawson's belt prior to the 2005 announcement of Landmark, and another three years tacked on and still no developer tools, the question remains: How soon will customers be able to utilize the Landmark environment?