A few years ago there was a movie by the name of “Sliding Doors” (see http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/6305210411/002-1493439-0644836), of which I remember very little except that the concept was pretty unique; it’s essentially the same plot line running in parallel with itself, where in one of the plot lines certain things happen which don’t happen in the other (and vice versa). In the end, there are-of course-two different endings. To stretch this just a bit (OK, a lot), sometimes I feel like I’m live a parallel life when it comes to Lawson. This has really just become abundantly clear to me recently.
You see, several years ago I worked for another software company. Now remember, I don’t work for Lawson, but I’m close enough to them and to the Lawson client base that I sometimes feel like I do. Let me tell you about some of the specific parallels.
It was the late 1980’s and there were two fellows, whose last names started with ‘L’-in this case, Lupfer & Long-or L&L for short. Now they were not brothers like Richard and Bill Lawson, but that’s were the comparison begins.
At L&L, the software products were business applications. There was Accounts Payable, General Ledger, and Payroll. The payroll product even interfaced with a certain tax calculation product-called-that’s right-BSI-just like Lawson!
After you peeled back the layers of the L&L product, which was wrapped in a scripting language, the applications themselves were written primarily in COBOL, just like Lawson. No surprise of course, since, after all, both are business applications.
One of the underlying themes at L&L was portability. The software ran on the Digital VAX/VMS platform as well as Prime’s PrimOS. Both were workhorse servers (we called them midranges way back when). The interesting thing about portability is that we had to deal with some of the same “least common denominator” issues that Lawson still deals with. Like form layouts. L&L had a program called “fmread” to provide platform-specific screen handling. We had to deal with user complaints about things like the lack of scrolling on detail lines (you had to use PF1 key combinations-by the way, anyone remember PFx keys?) Starting to sound familiar?
Another portability concept we used was that of “I/O primitives”-just like Lawson’s database APIs, we used them to decouple the applications from the datastore.
L&L “bet the company” a couple of times on third-party products, in particular a quirky database called INFO/DB+, which had some great features that were ahead of their time. Too bad the company was even less stable than the software. Again, the parallels continue: Who in the Lawson community remembers the embracing of Select Enterprise? How about Continuus and ezUpdate?
L&L also tried to re-write their software code base a couple of times. Kinda like Landmark, but hopefully this one ends better.
So, whatever happened to L&L? Well, there were some bad sales deals, along with the requisite over-promising to the prospects. The company teetered at the risk of insolvency for a while, before being swallowed up by a big fish in the software pond. And there-I hope-is where the parallels end. While the rumors continue about a buyout of Lawson by another big fish-some say Oracle, some say IBM-I think it would be just great if they survived.
By the way, if you ever used the L&L software (also known as COUNT and CIFS), send me an email at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to talk about how things have changed. Or maybe not.