Lawson, IBM Target the SMB Market Together
February 19, 2007 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Everybody seems to be courting the small and medium business market these days. Not necessarily with a lot of success, but with a lot of talk and even some coordination between partners to share resources to take on the burden of attacking a market that has millions instead of a few ten thousand customers. Last week, ERP software supplier Lawson Software and systems maker IBM said that they would work together to bring solutions to market aimed at SMB customers.
Of course, when IT vendors say SMB, they mean customers with fewer than 1,000 employees. But they generally do not mean customers with a few dozen employees. (Except in some high-cash, low-personnel businesses like biotech startups or niche financial services businesses.) When companies say SMB, what they really mean most of the time is MB–which is what we used to simply call the midrange market before that word went out of vogue. By my definition, the midrange is comprised of companies that have perhaps $10 million to $250 million in annual sales, have several hundred to 1,000 employees, and that have computing needs that are complex enough that they require real midrange systems–or these days, clusters of X64 servers with lots of different workloads scattered across the sprawl. These companies may not be easy pickings like the Global 20,000, but the do have IT budgets and professional, full-time IT staffs and they do buy a respectable amount of IT wares.
According to IDC statistics cited by Lawson and IBM in their “expanded relationship” announcement last week, the SMB market accounts for $404 billion in annual spending, with the midrange portion of that representing about half of that figure. IBM and Lawson want to chase that opportunity together.
Under the agreement they signed, IBM’s vertical industry experts in its Global Business Services division of the Global Services group, which accounts for just around half of IBM’s sales these days, will use their knowledge of the financial services, fashion and apparel manufacturing, food and beverage manufacturing, and other key midrange verticals to pitch customers on a combination of IBM hardware, systems software, and middleware and Lawson application software. For its part, Lawson will work to package its software on IBM’s wares in such a way that it is ready to go for niche verticals and can be implemented faster and with less effort.
Lawson’s M3 and S3 software suites–formerly known as Movex and Lawson ERP–are already being tailored with SOA technologies from IBM to allow modules to be integrated and to reach out into other applications. IBM and Lawson share about 3,000 joint customers today, with most of them using System i5 or System p5 platforms or their predecessors, but System z and System z platforms are also supported by Lawson’s software. As part of the deal, IBM is throwing in go-to-market sales resources, including SMB account managers in precise geographic territories around the globe.
Financial terms of the expanded agreement were not revealed by IBM or Lawson.