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HR Technology Column

Suddenly Lawson Doesn't Look So Small Anymore

After years of being dismissed as a "mid-market" not-quite ERP, Lawson Software now has a laser focus on HCM, on selling its new manufacturing software in the United States and on moving up to compete against the Big Boys: Oracle and SAP.

Monday, March 12, 2007
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Lawson's Conference and User Exchange in San Diego last week displayed a full ERP software company -- newly merged with Sweden's manufacturing ERP vendor Intentia -- with 3,800 employees worldwide and gross revenues of $700 million, growing far above its historical mid-market roots running on IBM's "little iron" minicomputer systems.

In fact, the 6,000 attendees (from 4,000 customers) saw a vendor determined to claw into the first tier and get prospects thinking, "Oracle, SAP and Lawson." And most importantly, they heard a companywide commitment expressed by the most senior executives to focus on its Human Capital Management system.

In some ways, HCM is a target of opportunity. In his keynote, Dean Hager, senior vice president of Lawson Product Management, noted that "HCM still sells stand-alone and is vulnerable now," a thinly veiled reference to the thousands of PeopleSoft and Oracle customers facing major decisions about the new Fusion products expected next year.

In an interview, Larry Dunivan, vice president of Global HCM Products, said he is already recruiting beta clients for the four new applications produced with Lawson's new Service Oriented Architecture "Landmark Application Development" environment. He did not predict general availability dates.

Right now these SOA applications are the following:

* A global version of the personnel-recordkeeping part of Core HR,

* Compensation,

* Talent Acquisition (the new term for recruiting) and

* Performance Management.

Onboarding is under development and Succession Planning, Career Development and Competency Management are all on the product roadmap, perhaps Time & Attendance as well. No decision has been made on a Learning Management System to complete Lawson's Talent Management Suite.

Intentia did not come with an HCM, so Lawson is creating new country versions, which Dunivan plans to have written in-house (rather than localizing with partners in each country), with Sweden and France the likely first two versions. "Core HR will be global with no base language," he said. "The U.S. product itself will be a localization." He has no plans yet for a global payroll, relying on local payroll providers or partners for localization.

In the United States, Lawson will be available as Software as a Service by May 31, the application hosted by IBM in a newly announced partnership that does not include business process outsourcing services at the moment.

Lawson has long specialized in the health-care vertical, which represents 35 percent of its HCM customers. Its recently released Performance Management for Healthcare is available as SaaS only and has already sold to three dozen customers. An acquisition allowed Lawson to add 500 specific health-care job descriptions and 5,000 related competencies to the application.

In what some may see as a step backward (Remember PeopleSoft's cry of "no code on the client" during the early Web applications days?), Lawson will be offering a pure Web client but also a new Smart Client, taken from Intentia, which does download application code to a client's computer. Customers have the choice of either, and Dunivan contends that Smart Client will offer a "dramatically better client experience."

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Lawson does not have the vast eco-system of software client partners that Oracle and SAP have built, but that, too, is growing. A partnership has been signed with Enwisen to integrate its benefit content to support self-service and total-rewards statements.

In potentially the most significant move, not yet inked, Lawson is close to a non-exclusive partnership with Vemo, one of only two vendors in the world known to have a stand-alone Workforce Planning system, a new critical function that HR lacks the tools to perform. Initial targets will be heath care, retail and financial-services companies. If Vemo's software works as well as it seemed to in a demo, this could be Lawson's biggest competitive differentiator since they led the pack introducing self-service in 1996 with their pioneering Self Evident Applications.

So while Lawson has not abandoned its target sweet spot of upper mid-market companies with $100 million to $2 billion in yearly revenue, it is clearly after bigger fish with Johnson & Johnson (50,000 U.S. employees), McDonald's (120,000 employees) and Wal-Mart (still in rollout but a potential 1.4 million employees) already in its nets. Definitely not looking so small anymore.

HR Technology Columnist Bill Kutik is also co-chairman of the 10th Anniversary HR Technology Conference & Exposition® in Chicago, Oct. 10 to 12. The full agenda will be available in late April at www.HRTechnologyConference.com. He can be reached at bkutik@earthlink.net

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