Lawson Pitches SOA for the Midmarket

The success of Lawson Software's new Strategic Sourcing SOA-based application could make or break the company's next-generation app dev platform, Landmark.

ORLANDO, Fla.—At its CUE user conference here the week of April 10, officials of Lawson Software emphasized the companys focus on service-oriented architecture for the midmarket.

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

Its also a groundbreaking application for Lawson in the sense that it utilizes the companys next-generation development platform.

But because Lawson develops software primarily for midsized 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 Dean Hagar, chief product office at Lawson, based in St. Paul, Minn. "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 equals more complication. Lawsons focus is on simplicity, and on the business needs of the mass market.

The Strategic Sourcing application, geared toward governmental agencies (particularly local governments), is designed to reduce the time and costs around sourcing events by automating certain functions like 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.

Because Strategic Sourcing is based on the needs of governmental agencies, with a healthy does of health care processes thrown in, Lawson believes it covers the bases for mass market adoption, according to Hagar. The idea is to continue that development approach with a whole host of SOA-based applications.

But Strategic Sourcing is, in a sense, a make-or-break deal for Lawson. The application is built on Landmark, the companys next-generation application development platform. Landmark enables two important technology innovations: code generation from application models, and a pattern-based development methodology. If Strategic Sourcing works, and Lawson is able to build a good success story around it—and several others like it expected next quarter—the company can build a good case around Landmark.

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Lawsons new development platform is based on LPL, or Lawson Pattern Language, technology that essentially picks up on patterns of how things are done, as opposed to what code is used, and generates code—which should cut down Lawsons development cycles. Because the resulting applications are SOA-based, the idea is that users will be able to react to changes more quickly as well.

"SOA is a nice word for yall, but what that means for us is things got a lot easier, and a little faster," said Sonia Burgin, Project Manger for Buncombe County, N.C., a Strategic Sourcing beta tester. "Within two days of issues [with the application] IT was able to fix things. Were very excited by that."

The Strategic Sourcing application is proving itself internally as well, according to Lawsons chief architect, Richard Patton.

"There are 13,101 lines of code [in Strategic Sourcing] using Pattern Language," Patton said. "Thats a 15-times reduction in the lines of code."

Patton said the beta phase of Strategic Sourcing was dominated by design issues—not bugs—and the application issue list was in the low tens, as opposed to hundreds.

/zimages/5/28571.gifLawson unveils its product road map. Click here to read more.

"We want to get to where we dont experience bugs. Were not there now, but were working on it," Patton said. "We really were astonished by the results [of Strategic Sourcing development]. We feel like weve just discovered this thing. Were very hopeful about the next things we can do" with a full suite of applications, he said.

The Strategic Sourcing application currently has two customers: Buncombe County in North Carolina, and another local government entity. In its fourth beta cycle now, Buncombe County plans to go live with the application in July.

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