Tools Smooth Collaboration

Lawson Software, SAP hone products, solutions platform for enterprises.

Lawson Software and SAP Ag are sharpening their respective enterprise software suites to facilitate collaboration among users inside and outside the enterprise.

Lawson, at its Conference and User Exchange in San Antonio, last week introduced its Services Automation Suite, which lets managers in collaboration-intensive service businesses automate their work from beginning through completion and measurement of the results.

The software, generally available in May, comprises 10 modules to help customers source, negotiate, track, bill for and analyze professional services. It is also integrated with back-office automation applications from the St. Paul, Minn., company, including financials or human resources.

Lawson is expanding the collaborative business intelligence capabilities of its software through its acquisition in April of Keyola Corp., of Orlando, Fla. Keyola technology is enabling Lawson to ship Smart Notification, software, due next quarter, that lets Lawson applications deliver event-driven notifications and push key information to designated people.

Also at CUE, Lawson previewed Version 3.0 of its Portal software, available in May, which includes active notification and the ability to embed knowledge databases in Lawson applications.

Separately, SAP, of Walldorf, Germany, earlier this month moved to speed delivery of its collaborative applications by creating a Collaborative Solutions business unit. The division combines the enterprise software companys SAP Portals and SAP Markets subsidiaries.

The group will provide the open integration platform that SAP introduced with its mySAP platform last fall. On top of that, Collaborative Solutions intends to deliver new collaboration applications this quarter, including some that are part of SAPs supplier relationship management package.

By bringing the two subsidiaries in-house, SAP hopes to signal to its customers that it considers collaborative applications to be a strategic area, officials said.

Some users of SAPs enterprise automation software said the company may be going too far outside its expertise with its collaboration pitch.

"I dont want to say bad things about SAP; we have a wonderful working relationship with them," said Paul Hoogenboom, senior vice president and CIO at manufacturing holding company RPM Inc. "But all the new stories that are being woven [around SAP Portals and SAP Markets], Im kind of shrugging my shoulders.

"They provide a little structure but no unique capabilities that a [true product life-cycle management software] would provide," said Hoogenboom, in Medina, Ohio.