Lawson Forks Development

App stacks will stay separate; product road map also includes midmarket SOA.

With its latest applica-tion suite, Lawson 9, on the market since March, and the acquisition of Intentia International expected to close April 24, Lawson Software laid out its product road map through 2008—in other words, the foreseeable future, if youre talking software years—at its annual CUE, or conference and user exchange. At the same time, officials emphasized the companys focus on service-oriented architecture for the midmarket.

On April 10, Lawson, during the second day of its four-day conference here, outlined the precepts of its product vision that include industry-specific product packages, business intelligence capabilities, adaptability through SOA and a scalable technology stack.

The biggest item in terms of the companys road map is its decision to keep the Lawson and Intentia application stacks separate.

Where the two products will converge is around infrastructure—both are standardized on IBMs middleware platform—and around new application development using Lawsons Landmark development platform.

The company has split the two application stacks to separate sides of the organization chart. Lawson will focus on procurement, human resources and financial management for services companies in its suite, labeled S3 (for source, serve and staff). The Intentia applications, called M3 (make, move and maintain), will focus on manufacturing and supply chain distribution.

"We will expose and exploit two different product lines. Integration is everything," said Lawson Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer Dean Hagar in St. Paul, Minn. "Youll get [the] functionality you need without the complexity of manufacturing. For Intentia [customers], its the same message."

A single Enterprise Performance Management suite will sit on top of both application stacks.

Lawson also announced April 10 that it has committed to developing the third generation of Intentias software. The first generation of Intentias software was written in RPG (Report Program Generator). The second generation took on more open concepts with the introduction of XML and Web services. It was also a complete rewrite from RPG to Java (a six-year, $100 million development investment).

This next generation of software will expand on interoperability capabilities, and it will take on a completely new look and feel, according to Henrik Billgren, president of Intentia R&D, in Danderyd, Sweden.

"We will make use of business logic that is flirting with SOA," said Billgren. "If you get too granular, it is too difficult to put objects [somewhere]."

Billgren, who will take on the role of head of application development at Lawson, overseeing both M3 and S3 development, said the company is also developing new technology, code-named Ada, that will enable business documents to interoperate.

Hes also taking some leaps with the user interface, working with San Francisco-based design company Frog Design to develop a completely new user experience for Intentia users.

"We need to get creative people in ERP [enterprise resource planning]," Billgren said. "With the UI development, we said to Frog, Go wild."

With regard to other product strategy, the company announced April 10 its first SOA-based application, Lawson Strategic Sourcing, which is built using service concepts and is designed to be deployed in a services-based architecture.

Its a groundbreaking application for Lawson in the sense that it uses the companys next-generation development platform. But because Lawson develops software primarily for midsize companies, its taking a pointed approach to SOA.

"The midmarket is not going to invest in SOA—they dont have gobs of cash to reinvent their architecture," said Hagar. "They are going to invest in applications that are created for SOA."

The problem with current SOA approaches, according to Hagar, is overwhelming complexity; more objects equal more complication. Lawsons focus is on simplicity and on the business needs of the mass market.

Lawson Strategic Sourcing is geared toward governmental agencies (particularly local governments) and is designed to reduce the time and costs around sourcing events by automating certain functions such as bid analysis, requests for proposal and bid awards.

The application comes with predefined information so that users can quickly create events, such as standard terms and conditions, questions and templates, purchase orders, and vendor agreements. There is also a supplier portal whereby suppliers—and prospective suppliers—can log on to a buyers site to manage the bid and award process.