The LawsonGuru Letter is a free periodic newsletter containing provocative commentary about issues important to the Lawson Software community. The LawsonGuru Letter is published by-and is solely the opinion of-John Henley of Decision Analytics. Visit Decision Analytics at https://www.danalytics.com. For subscription information, see the bottom of this message.
The LawsonGuru Letter is not affiliated with Lawson Software.
In this issue:
1. The LawsonGuru Letter Interview: Dean Hager
2. Reporting, Part 4: Crystal Reports
3. Worthwhile Reading
4. Reader Feedback
5. Lawson Tips & Tricks
If you've ever had the opportunity to meet Lawson's Dean Hager or see him in action, you know that he's energetic and enthusiastic, as well as caring and compassionate--about Lawson's products, employees and clients. This month, Dean answers some of my questions (and you'll see that, naturally, I didn't make it easy on him!). Let me know what you think. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. The LawsonGuru Letter Interview: Dean Hager
LawsonGuru: Dean, I really appreciate you taking the time to answer some questions. Let's start with you. Most people know you from your yearly keynote at CUE. You've worn a quite a few hats at Lawson. Tell us about yourself, your current position, and what you're doing at Lawson.
Dean Hager: I have worn a lot of hats over the years. I led R&D organizations at IBM for nearly 10 years before coming to Lawson in 1998. At Lawson, I've held jobs in marketing, R&D, sales, services, and support. So, I've done it all. My current role as Chief Product Officer returns me to my true professional love: products. At my core, I'm a software guy. However, my most important role in life is as a husband and father. My wife, Jenny, and my three daughters, Natalie, Nicole, and Carly are the real joy and love of my life.
LawsonGuru: Let's discuss the "It's Time" initiative. Lawson's obviously been a successful product company. But that hasn't often translated into its delivery mechanisms. In preparation for this interview, I solicited some questions from Lawson clients. Here's some that are typical:
"Is Lawson's "It's Time" 1000-day campaign going to improve their people services as well as products? A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from my CAM saying he had been reassigned and that his replacement would both call and e-mail to introduce him/herself. No one ever did. I currently do not have a point of contact for problem resolution. Not that there ever was much of that anyway. "
"I actually do very much want a long term business relationship with Lawson. Overall, I like their products but feel very strongly that they flat out don't care about their clients. If they do nothing else in the next three years but develop a better rapport with clients they would come out way ahead."
"In this era of the Internet, and downloadable software, why do we still have to wait 10 business days to get a software key/delivery?"
What can you say in response to these customers, and what can Lawson do to fix this?
Hager: A gap exists in this industry between what clients expect and what software companies deliver. The "client expectations" gap is wider in this industry than perhaps any other. Lawson's intent is to fill that gap. It's that simple... and that complicated. We are in the midst of this journey. As we mentioned at CUE, we believe it will take 1,000 business days (beginning June 1st, 2004) to completely fill that gap. Human beings and organizations can only absorb a finite amount of change at one time, which is why we've put together a 1,000 day roadmap.
With that said, I am not surprised by these questions from clients. As we've put together our "manifesto for change" recommendations, there were actually more "client-care" recommendations than there were "product" recommendations. Just a few days ago, I hosted a webinar with industry analysts where I articulated a vision called "continuity of care." We've borrowed the term from the healthcare industry. Continuity of care in healthcare means that a patient experiences care without disruption, start-overs, and transitions from care-giver to care-giver. We have concluded that our client's time is often wasted during Lawson's transitions - as one of your readers has pointed out. Therefore, we are working on a corporate structure that would provide more continuous and consultative care to our clients. Like I said, it will be a journey, but we are committed to get there.
I'm sure you share some of this with your larger accounts, but can't you make this information more readily available?
Hager: Yes, we should do a better job of this. In the past two years, I believe we have been pretty open that our client-interface strategy is 100% thin web browser via our Lawson portal built with XML technology (using the Design Studio to customize). On the server side, we have been transitioning to J2EE. This activity will continue. You'll see a major move in that direction with our 8.1 technology release. With that said, we can do a much better job communicating our technology plans. I will brainstorm ways to do this with my team. Thank you for the suggestion.
LawsonGuru: Early in 2004, Lawson signed an agreement with Xansa to open an offshore development center in India. It's clearly something Lawson feels it must do in order to remain competitive in the ERP software business. Can you update us on this?
Hager: This activity is continuing as we move forward. We ARE NOT moving our development to India. Rather, we are opening up an additional development office in India. In other words, our purpose to opening up the new office is to expand our development team, not move our development team. The folks at Xansa are a CMMI level 5 certified development organization. Top notch all the way! This office in India is simply another step in our expansion out of a Minnesota-only development team. In the past two years, we have opened up development offices in Massachusetts, California, Florida, and two different offices in the United Kingdom. Our plan is to consolidate our maintenance efforts and bring more operational excellence to the process. Meanwhile, we will have other teams primarily focused on innovation and providing new, fresh business solutions to our clients. Do we need to do it to stay competitive? No. Will it help us provide better support to our clients while providing more new solutions? Yes!
LawsonGuru: Let's talk about the ERP software market, and the Oracle/Peoplesoft hostile takeover bid. I know this issue is taking a lot of your time these days.
Part of the argument hinges on the relevancy of Lawson. I saw an article recently (http://www.reuters.com/financeQuoteCompanyNewsArticle.jhtml?storyID=5325735&ric=LWSN.O&infotype=news&articletype=RTR) where the Justice Department is using companies like Deloitte Consulting to prove that Oracle, PeopleSoft, and SAP offer products that set them apart from all other software makers such as Lawson and Microsoft. Comments like this must really irk you.
What can Lawson do to portray itself as a "top tier" ERP software vendor?
If Oracle does end up buying PeopleSoft, do you think they'll try to kill the PeopleSoft brand, and will that force PeopleSoft clients to abandon Oracle and perhaps buy other ERPs, like Lawson?
Hager: On one hand, we have the DOJ claiming that Oracle, PeopleSoft, and SAP stand above other business software providers like Lawson. On the other, we have Oracle saying that Lawson is extremely competitive with them. Of course, the latter is true. And they should know, because we've beaten them in head-to-head competition countless times, just as we've beaten PeopleSoft and SAP. What's become most evident in the proceedings is the strength of brand in this industry and you can see where the huge marketing budgets of PeopleSoft, Oracle and SAP have paid off in this perception that only they have the software to support large, complex organizations. In our view, Lawson's strong customer list of mid-size to large companies has been an effective response to the fundamental question: can Lawson compete? So what's clear to us is that Lawson needs to continue to build our brand as a tier one provider of software. That's why we went out and hired a marketing ace like Scott Meyer to come in and be our Chief Marketing Officer. He's one of the best in the business, and has already made his mark on Lawson.
Regarding the potential acquisition of PeopleSoft by Oracle....would you believe me if I said Lawson is neutral in this whole discussion? It's true! Whether the deal goes through or is blocked, Lawson's strategy remains unchanged and our focus on our clients and on bringing about change in our industry remains intact. I can list advantages and disadvantages either way but quite frankly, it's becoming white noise that we barely even notice any more.
LawsonGuru: You used to work for IBM, and I think you've said before that you had some involvement with the AS/400 (now the iSeries). For several years now, Lawson has been promising "version parity" for the AS/400-iSeries customers, but it's never happened.
Can you tell us what percentage of Lawson's revenue is derived from the iSeries platform, and whether or not Lawson can deliver on its promise?
Hager: I hope your readers can see the smile on my face when I answer this question. NO, I am not going to tell you the percentage of revenue that is derived from the iSeries. Nice try though.
Yes, I used to work on the AS/400. In fact, I began my career as an operating systems programmer for the AS/400. I'm quite certain my initials are still flagged on many lines of PLMI code in the system. I still believe to this day that the AS/400 (I still have trouble calling it iSeries) is one of the most wonderfully architected systems on the market. However, it is a very different marketplace than Unix and Microsoft clients. iSeries clients have different expectations. Plus, we need to manage a completely different set of software partnerships with the iSeries. This all creates a challenge in accomplishing "version parity."
Last fall, Lawson released 8.0.3 applications on the iSeries. This release was very carefully developed and offers technological advances that iSeries clients should enjoy a great deal. As I look forward, quite frankly, I don't think Lawson clients should ever expect us to come out with releases simultaneous on all platforms. I suspect iSeries will always lag for many good reasons. I hope one day that technology advances enough to allow total parity across all systems. But, with the complications we face today, I'd expect a delay.
With that said, we do NOT short-change our investment in iSeries. For instance, the 8.0.3 release last fall has proven to be our highest scaling platform by a wide margin. We are proud of that. Like I said, the iSeries is a wonderfully architected machine.
LawsonGuru: Last year, I wrote about problems I thought Lawson had with their product release quality (see https://www.danalytics.com/guru/letter/archive/2003-06.htm). I recently saw a Lawson presentation on its new software methodologies and strategies, and I was very impressed. You've talked a lot recently about the high quality of the 8.1 Applications.
Can you share some of what Lawson is doing differently, and do you think Lawson's turned the corner on this?
Hager: Lawson is implementing CMMI methodology throughout our development shop. We have a lot of improvement still in front of us, but it has definitely made an impact. Just today I was reviewing quality of 8.1 during the first 4 months of availability and comparing it to 8.0 during its first 4 months. When comparing priority 1 and priority 2 client-reported problems, we have seen a 75% improvement. In fact, Lawson has not had a single priority 1 client reported problem since 8.1's GA last December. All-in-all, there is dramatic improvement over 8.0. Yet, we know we have a long way to go in order to accomplish the goals we stated at CUE. And we intend to get there.
LawsonGuru: While we're on the subject of quality, I've got to ask you about CTPs. Every client I work with complains about how they're packaged. Lawson has promised to make CTPs more granular, and therefore, easier to test. Yet, it seems like every CTP touches hundreds of programs.
Is this something Lawson is working on?
Hager: This is a very tough problem to solve. When you have a system as integrated as Lawson, there are a lot of touch-points between programs - which causes CTP's to pull in enormous amounts of code.... as you all have experienced. We've worked hard to automate the process, but ultimately, to change the core problem, an architecture change is needed. Our objective is to make patch management nearly transparent to the client. This is a goal that we will need the full 1,000 days to accomplish.
LawsonGuru: Let's talk about some specific technologies.
- LawsonGuru: With the upcoming 8.1 Technology, Lawson is obviously taking the position that J2EE is the right direction for interoperability with Lawson's architecture. Is Lawson considering a similar Microsoft .NET strategy?
Hager: We need to integrate with .NET. However, we will not duplicate our J2EE strategy. We have cast our vote.
- LawsonGuru: SAP has released its new NetWeaver architecture, which is built on the concept of web services. I've been a big proponent of web services (see https://www.danalytics.com/guru/letter/archive/2003-07.htm), and was really hoping that we'd see an offering from Lawson this year that embraced web services standards (e.g., SOAP, UDDI, WSDL). Does Lawson get much pressure to offer this?
Hager: This is a huge topic. Today, we are not getting a lot of pressure from our clients to offer this. However, that's a typical innovator's dilemma. We see a heck of a lot of value for clients in enabling our system for web services. We are working diligently in that direction.
- LawsonGuru: Other ERP vendors are adding (or have added) RFID functionality to their products. What are Lawson's plans for RFID?
Hager: We consider RFID a very exciting technology with substantial uses in healthcare, retail, and other industries. We have a team investigating uses for it, and possible applications right now.
- LawsonGuru: Given the Lawson architecture, you can run the database and web tiers on Linux. Is there enough market demand for Lawson to consider offering a Linux version of the environment, so that a client can run their Lawson applications on Linux?
Hager: We've run prototypes of it internally. We know we can get there more formally if needed. Frankly, the demand hasn't been very high yet.
- LawsonGuru: We've been "teased" on some of the 8.1 Technology enhancements. In particular, I'm excited about scalability possibilities using the J2EE application server support and the new "roles and rules" security model. What other enhancements are coming?
Hager: The J2EE and security work in 8.1 are truly spectacular. Every Lawson client should step back and re-look at their IT strategy. In addition, you'll want to check out the ProcessFlow improvements coming in 8.1. We've really opened up the possibilities for use outside of Lawson-only applications. In addition, the space to watch is Lawson's application development tools strategy. We are investing in a process which will allow both our developers and our clients to produce higher quality code with more functionality -- and faster -- in the future. The new environment is post-8.1, but it's worth waiting for.
- LawsonGuru: I'm concerned that because 8.1 Technology is such a huge initiative; it will take a long time to get it right. What can people do to start getting ready for it?
Hager: You should start getting ready for it now. It will GA later this fiscal year (our fiscal year runs June - May). By "getting ready for", I mean developing J2EE skills, looking at either Websphere (IBM) or Weblogic (BEA), solidifying your LDAP strategies, and planning your upgrade project.
LawsonGuru: Let's talk about Lawson as a company of people. We forget sometimes that life's not always about chasing every last dollar, but about doing the right thing. In my mind, Lawson's been a benevolent type of company. Lawson's employees are extremely loyal, Lawson was a catalyst in the revitalization of St. Paul, and is supporting projects like the Digital Ride (http://www.thedigitalride.com). What other things is Lawson doing?
Hager: A couple of months ago, the President of Rwanda visited our St. Paul headquarters. Lawson has engaged in a partnership called "Project Cure" (http://www.projectcure.org), which has been instrumental in delivering healthcare aid to developing nations. The Rwanda story is incredible, and Lawson is honored to be helping.
Not every cause involves presidents of countries. Most of what Lawson gets involved with involves children. This really stems from Pat Lawson's passions. Pat is Richard's wife, and really spearheaded much of Lawson's charitable activity years ago.
LawsonGuru: Has this changed at all since the IPO and Jay Coughlan became CEO, and if so, how?
Hager: Yes, it has changed. We are doing more. After the IPO, Jay Coughlan appointed Winston Hewett to be our director of community relations. Working through Lawson employees, Winston has established Lawson as a company that longs to serve the community.
LawsonGuru: Dean, thanks again for taking the time for this, we certainly appreciate it!
Hager: I was happy to do this. Looking forward to receiving a copy [of the newsletter].
2. Reporting, Part 4: Crystal Reports
Continuing our multi-part series on reporting, this month we'll look at Crystal, which comes in two parts: Crystal Reports (the report designer) and Crystal Enterprise (a web-deployed report viewer/management application). Crystal Reports has been around for what seems like forever, and up until about version 8.5, I absolutely couldn't stand it. I would install it, try it out, and then uninstall it in total frustration. But, with version 8.5 (and now version 9), things just seem to work well for me, and it's a truly useful tool. Although Crystal 10 is what's currently available, we're going to be focusing on Crystal 9. That's because it's most likely the version that you're using, and because Lawson's OLEDB data provider and Lawson Enterprise Reporting has only just recently been certified for use with Crystal 10.
Crystal vs. Lawson Enterprise Reporting
Which leads me to the question I probably get the most about reporting: "What's the difference between Crystal and Lawson Enterprise Reporting?" For the answer to that, you'll have to read next month's issue. But here's the bottom line: Lawson Enterprise Reporting can add some value to Crystal for your reporting needs; however, you can do a lot with Crystal's products alone, including adding Lawson DrillAround to your reports.
Installation and Deployment
Installation is straightforward, and consists of separate installations for the Windows-based report developer, and the Crystal Enterprise server components, which can be installed on Windows as well as UNIX servers. If you go with Crystal Enterprise for report viewing, you have several different viewer options (all of which run via a browser, so there's nothing at all to install separately for the end users who aren't developing their own reports).
Data Sources Galore
One of Crystal's strengths is its robust support for a variety of data sources. I honestly have to say that you can use Crystal to get data from just about anything. You can connect via OLEDB or ODBC driver, including Oracle, DB2, SQL Server etc., and can include data from multiple data sources on the same reports. You can use Lawson's OLEDB Provider. You can also report from Excel files, Outlook and Exchange (want to print your own contact list?), Lotus Notes, XML files, IIS Web Server log files, etc.
Report Authoring Features
With some basic training, almost anyone can tackle report creation with Crystal Reports. The product is packed with wizards, and has almost every feature I've ever needed. In contrast to some other products, you don't create "queries", you just point-and-click on which tables you want to report:
Of course, if you do want to report off of a custom query or database stored procedure, that option's readily available.
You also get all the reporting features you'll likely need, including subtotals and running totals. You can create reports that include other reports (subreports). My only complaint about subreports is that you can't nest them (i.e. put a subreport inside of another subreport).
Part of Crystal's power is its formulas. In addition to reporting data fields from your tables, you can also write your own formula-based fields, using either Visual Basic syntax or Crystal's own macro language:
Embedding Lawson DrillAround into a Crystal Report
One of the ways that you can use Crystal formulas is to embed Lawson DrillAround into your reports. This example report shows detailed "transactions behind the transactions' from GL-this report "reaches back" into the source systems to report the details of the GL "summarized transactions". The report also includes a Lawson DrillAround link on every report detail so that a user viewing the report (shown here as an exported PDF) can then drill into Lawson for more information:
Crystal Enterprise: Report Deployment/Management
Crystal Enterprise provides a comprehensive web-based framework for managing reports. Reports can be viewed either on demand or on a specified schedule. Reports can be exported to all the usual standards, including Adobe PDF, XLS, RTF, and XML.
Using the scheduling tools, you can build a rudimentary reporting/notification process. Here's an example, where the Trial Balance is executed and e-mailed every morning:
One of the features that I really dislike about Crystal Enterprise is its selection parameter list capability (or perhaps I should say lack of capability?) If you create parameter-driven reports, you're limited in two critical ways:
- Parameter lists are static, so, for example, if you create a report that allows for selection by Accounting Unit, and you add an Accounting Unit in Lawson, you have to manually change all affected reports in Crystal Enterprise.
- Unlike SQL Server Reporting Services (see last month's article at https://www.danalytics.com/guru/letter/archive/2004-06.htm),Crystal Enterprise does not allow for cascading parameters, such as selecting a Company, and then selecting from only the Accounting Units for the selected Company.
These limitations pertain only to "out-of-the-box" Crystal Enterprise. You can also choose to deploy your reports via your own custom framework (see below), which obviously overcomes these limitations.
Alternative Crystal Report Deployment Options
To put it simply, Crystal provides the ultimate versatility for deploying reports. Crystal provides a variety of options in addition to (or instead of) Crystal Enterprise. Based on the idea that a Crystal report is simply an object that can be run inside a container (e.g. via ActiveX, Java, etc.), a report can be viewed inside a custom Windows or a web browser (here are two samples I've developed):
So, in addition to developing and delivering your reports via Crystal Enterprise, you can use Crystal to integrate reports into your custom applications as well. IT organizations can embed Crystal Reports content in any application and make the content available to users over any Web interface. This open model allows organizations to deploy reports to employees, customers and partners in whatever setting or context is most appropriate. The run-time licensing is pretty flexible (my only real complaint here is that you'll want the more-expensive "named users" instead of "concurrent users" licensing, especially if you're reporting sensitive HR/payroll data).
There's a lot to like with Crystal Reports and Crystal Enterprise. You can report from practically any data, and integrate pretty nicely with your Lawson applications (more on that in the next issue!)
- QUOTE OF THE ISSUE -
"It's true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?"
- Ronald Reagan
3. Worthwhile Reading
Scanning the Globe
The humble bar code began as an object of suspicion and grew into a cultural icon. Today it's deep in the heart of the FORTUNE 500.
Fortune, May 31, 2004
Standing at the Crossroads
Should you outsource, upgrade, or simply leverage existing technology to improve ERP system performance?
Intelligent Enterprise, June 2004
Book Excerpt: How Tomcat Works
by Budi Kurniawan, Paul Deck
Green Bay Packers: Reel Time
The football team keeps its winning tradition alive by using digital video clips and data to improve player performance.
Baseline Magazine, May 2004
4. Reader Feedback
|Send your comments to mailto:email@example.com.
|Some comments on the June 2004 issue (see https://www.danalytics.com/guru/letter/archive/2004-06.htm):
|Your comments on Lawson's commitment to the iSeries:
||"Good to see an article about the iSeries in your newsletter. Hope there will be more. Articles and information about the 7.2 to 8.0 upgrade would be really great."
||"Yes, I would like to see more iSeries coverage.
I am, however, taking any Lawson announcements regarding the iSeries with a grain of salt.
It wasn't that long ago, the CUE in Nashville I believe, where Lawson committed to having iSeries releases available at the same time as Unix. Not even a quarter or month delay. The same time.
Then at the next CUE the iSeries release was 12+ months behind Unix, and slipping further behind.
It seems like Lawson goes through an multi-year cycle where they make wild commitments to making the iSeries something other than the poor step-child to Unix, but they do not deliver, and then after enough grumbling they make another bold pronouncement that is again not met.
Time will tell if this one is different."
5. Lawson Tips & Tricks
Share your tips. Send them to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
(This month's tip comes from E.J. Hikel at Eastern Maine Healthcare.)
Clearing populated data fields with the Lawson Add-In for Microsoft Excel
If you are using MS Add-in and you want to clear out some fields that already populated with data, you cannot just leave the field blank in Excel and upload.
Put a single space (with the space bar) in the cell (or column), in Excel, and upload that to clear out a field.
The LawsonGuru Letter is a free periodic newsletter providing provocative commentary on issues important to the Lawson Software community. The LawsonGuru Letter is published by--and is solely the opinion of--John Henley of Decision Analytics. Visit Decision Analytics at https://www.danalytics.com
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Copyright 2004, Decision Analytics. All rights reserved. Please share The LawsonGuru Letter in whole or in part as long as copyright and attribution are always included.
Decision Analytics is an independent consultancy, focusing on Lawson technical projects, and specializing in customization/modification, data conversion, and integration/interfaces. Please visit https://www.danalytics.com
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