Lawson’s ‘Landmark’ Plans Following Infor Acquisition
June 11, 2012 Alex Woodie
Prior to Infor‘s acquisition of Lawson Software, Lawson had embarked upon an ambitious project called Landmark, which would standardize the way the company and customers developed, integrated, presented, and ran Lawson software. Now that Lawson has been absorbed into Infor, the work on Landmark continues, but it’s no longer the overarching priority that it once was. Instead, getting Lawson products to work with Infor’s various ION components and Infor’s Workspace user interface appear to be higher priorities.
Lawson unveiled Project Landmark in 2005, soon after its acquisition of Intentia. The main idea behind Landmark was to standardize the way that Lawson developers wrote software and the ways that Lawson customers modified and maintained their systems. The project has several components, including a 5GL development environment that was based on the Lawson Pattern Language (LPL), a Landmark runtime operating within a J2EE-based Web application server (IBM WebSphere running on AIX is the preferred solution), a user interface (later dubbed Smart Office), and a services oriented architecture (SOA) integration environment.
Writing in Landmark was supposed to dramatically decrease the lines of code needed to create applications. Utilization of the patterns in LPL would require up to 95 percent fewer lines of 3GL code (including J2EE, RPG, and COBOL), Lawson’s lead developer and chief architect Richard Patton said in 2005. This would result in much cleaner J2EE code, and significantly speed up the development process.
Before being acquired, Lawson wrote several new products entirely in Landmark. The first pure Landmark application was the Talent Management portion of its Human Capital Management (HCM) suite, which shipped in 2006. More recently, Lawson used Landmark to build new modules in its S3 Supply Chain Management suite, including Strategic Sourcing, Contract Management, Supplier Order Management, and Recall Management.
The Landmark roadmap called for new modules in the areas of accounts payable automation and operational cash management. The roadmap at one point called for S3 and M3 to be “refactored” within Landmark, but it’s unclear how far the company got down that road before the acquisition by Infor. M3, after all, had already been converted from RPG into J2EE by Intentia, so there was not as much to gain. S3, with its heavy dose of COBOL, had much more to gain.
Now that Lawson is officially under the Infor umbrella and things are settling out, it’s worth looking in on the Landmark roadmap, and seeing how things have changed. Darci Snyder, Infor’s director of product development for the Lawson products, was kind enough to speak with IT Jungle on the topic.
According to Snyder, Landmark will continue to be used in the development of Lawson applications, but it won’t play much of a role with other Infor applications. “It will be a key component for the Lawson-related applications,” Snyder says. “But with as broad of a footprint as we have at Infor, Landmark won’t be as big as it was within the Lawson portfolio. It will have basically the same footprint in Lawson as it had in the past. But it’s not going to be something that everybody at Infor will necessarily use.”
The exact role that Landmark will play within Infor hasn’t been fully determined. “We need to basically figure out which pieces of technology we have across Infor and Lawson and all the other acquisitions are the right components” to use going forward, she says. “But Landmark is going to be a key component in doing that for the future.”
Existing Lawson applications that were developed with Landmark, including the Talent Management System and other components of the Human Capital Management suite and Supplier Relationship Management, will be adapted to work with the ION middleware suite and the Workspace GUI. Specifically, Lawson Process Automation (LPA), which was used to connect Lawson’s Landmark and non-Landmark applications in tightly coupled and loosely coupled configurations, is being modified to work with ION, which uses a strictly loosely coupled paradigm. This is the same bit of work that all Lawson applications, including S3 and M3, need to have done to be considered strategic Infor10 applications.
The work continues, Snyder says. “We’re in the process with Landmark of building BODs [business object documents] to be able to send the XML transactions into ION to then be able to leverage the Pulse deck and Workflow and Business Vault components within ION for processes that go across multiple systems,” she says. “It’s not all the way there yet. We were working on a lot of stuff for Talent Management customers and finishing a lot of stuff on that roadmap right when the acquisition occurred. So we need to complete those customer commitments before we jump into all of the ION pieces. But that’s well underway. Richard Patton has that started within his development team.”
There is also some new development planned using Landmark. The pattern-based environment will be the key underlying technology used to create the new collection of double-byte character set (DBCS) compatible financial applications, which Infor CEO Charles Phillips briefly mentioned during his keynote at the recent Inforum show in Colorado. This Office of the CFO suite would contain at least two modules: Close Management and Reconciliation Management.
The Office of the CFO suite would be a best-in-class system that consolidates information from other sets of financial apps, including all of the stand-alone financial systems in Infor’s various ERP systems (M3, Infinium, etc.), or even non-Infor GLs. “We can code that application in Landmark and use ION to be the connector to pull data from those systems to basically help manage the close management process or the reconciliation management process,” Snyder says.
It’s difficult to have a discussion about the future of Landmark without talking about ION, too. “Landmark applications are flexible enough that they can plug right in [to ION and Workspace], just like any other applications can,” Snyder says, “and we can continue to do the rapid build out of modules, completing the vision for best in class HCM and best in class financial applications, including that vision for the Office of the CFO.”
Interest in Landmark from customers was high at the recent Inforum show. Some customers (including an IT manager for a midsize healthcare organization who shared a taxi with your friendly IT Jungle editor for the trip from DIA to downtown Denver) are dissatisfied with the results from their Landmark investments, and went to Inforum to find out what the roadmap held for Landmark.
For Lawson customers who have been on the Landmark trail for a while and don’t have a lot to show for it, future investments are more likely to go to ION integration or cloud-based applications. For those that like what they’ve seen so far and are willing to continue their investment, Landmark will continue to be one the of the technology options offered by Infor.