Lawson Debuts New Offerings at User Conference
March 25, 2008 Alex Woodie
The Lawson Software nation descended upon The Venetian resort in Las Vegas last week for the CUE 2008 annual user conference, where they were presented with hundreds of sessions to attend, and more than a few announcements. Among the notable products introduced at the show is a new Talent Management system that Lawson will deliver to S3 and M3 customers using the software as a service (SaaS) model, as well as the new Smart Office offering. Lawson also acquired a product lifecycle management (PLM) vendor.
Like other ERP software vendors, Lawson recently has been improving the user interface, which is often cited as a major impediment in user adoption of ERP. This was a major area of improvement at last year’s CUE, where Lawson rolled out its Microsoft.NET-based Smart Client interface for M3. The interface, which was previously available for S3, delivered a faster, more intuitive, and more customizable Windows-based GUI than the Web-based Workplace interface that most users worked with before. The Smart Client has been a huge success at Lawson shops that have rolled it out, according to Lawson product managers.
Now Lawson is taking its use of Microsoft .NET presentation technologies up a notch with the launch of Smart Office, which allows users to access Lawson ERP business processes from the comfort of Microsoft Office products, like Outlook, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and Groove.
Smart Office is all about giving users the flexibility to access Lawson business processes in a way they feel the most comfortable, says Lee Kilmer, Lawson’s global director of product management for technology. “Everybody uses software a little differently,” he says. “As a prime example, think about how you organize your start menu or organize the folders in Windows Explorer. Those are all personalizations you do in Windows environment. What we’re doing with Smart Office is bringing some of those concepts to the use of enterprise applications as well.”
Smart Office functions in large part as a Web-based application. Once it’s been downloaded and installed to a Windows XP or Windows Vista desktop, it functions as an integration mechanism linking M3 and S3 with Office applications. In most instances, users are required to construct integrations themselves. But in the future, Lawson plans on delivering more prepackaged “point solutions” that leverage the Smart Office technology.
One of the point solutions available out of the starting gate is the capability to manage M3 maintenance schedules using Outlook’s calendar function. This solution could enable a fleet manager at a trucking company, for example, to view and update the maintenance activities for the week from the comfort of Office’s intuitive and flexible calendar mechanism, instead of using the ERP software’s native interface.
While there are similarities with “Duet,” the codename for the joint program SAP and Microsoft developed to access SAP ERP business process from within MS Office, Smart Office is fundamentally different, according to Kilmer. “SAP with Duet provided some 12 different business processes. What we’ve done is provide more pervasive functionality across all of our applications. It’s based on all the processes our applications manage, so it’s a lot higher than 12.”
Smart Office is available now as a separately licensable product. Pricing has not been set yet, Kilmer says. The software requires the version 7.l release of the M3 application and technology platform, or the version 9.01 release of the S3 application and technology platform.
Another major addition to the Lawson lineup is Talent Management, a new Web-based human resources application that is delivered using the SaaS model and integrates directly into the S3 and M3 product lines. Talent Management, which Lawson developed in-house using its Landmark development environment, enables customers to manage all aspects of recruiting and keeping people with the right skills for the job.
Talent Management is the third major component of Lawson’s new Strategic Human Capital Management (SHCM) product line. The other two components of SHCM are the human resources applications (payroll and time and attendance), which were formerly part of Lawson’s S3 suite, and the new Workforce Management offerings, which Lawson is in the process of obtaining with its acquisition of Vastech. Workforce Management is due to become available sometime this month, and will provide complex workforce scheduling for the healthcare, hospitality, and gaming industries.
With the launch of SHCM, Lawson now develops and sells three major product lines, including SHCM, M3, and S3. Lawson decided to deliver SHCM as a separate entity to reflect how M3 and S3 customers use the software, said Cecile Alper-Leroux, director of global HCM product strategy with Lawson. “Human capital management applications in general, although they have industry-specific angles, overall they’re much more horizontal applications,” she says. “We have a strong demand on both the S3 and M3 sides for world-class HCM apps. So we’ve really broadened and launched this whole new line of applications.”
Lawson also announced its acquisition of the product lifecycle management (PLM) division of Freeborders, a San Francisco software firm. Freeborder’s PLM software is designed to help fashion manufacturing companies quickly source the materials they need to move a product from design to production. Lawson will deliver the PLM solution as a standalone product for the time being, until it decides how best to integrate it with M3, which is used frequently in the clothing and fashion industry.
Lawson also announced M3 Trace Engine 3.0, an application designed to help companies in the food and beverage industries improve product quality and help prevent and manage potential food safety and quality risks. The software works with M3 and other ERP systems, and provides a Web interface. Although it’s been used in Europe, M3 Trace Engine 3.0 marks the first time the software has been available in the U.S.
In other news, Lawson announced a version of M3 7.1 that works with IBM‘s AIX operating system. Up to this point, the majority of M3 implementations have occurred on the i5/OS operating system. Lawson also announced QuickStep Government, a bundle of ERP software that’s preconfigured for local, regional, and state governments and school districts. The offering joins other QuickStep solutions for the food and beverage, fashion, distribution, healthcare, and asset-intensive industries.