Even though I didn’t attend Lawson CUE this year in Orlando, I did get a number of eyewitness reports. I also viewed webcasts of the keynotes and listened in on a couple of the executive briefings.
CUE ’06 officially got off to a rousing (and loud!) early start thanks to a marching drum corps. What exactly was the message Lawson was trying to convey–perhaps that they march to a different drummer? It was all too Orwellian and reminiscent of Apple’s 1984 ad.
Then it was on to CEO Harry Debes. Harry is a no-nonsense executive who has obviously been very successful thus far in re-focusing and re-energizing Lawson. His theme was “Matching Reality to the Promise” or conversely, “Turning promises into reality.” Part of that promise is that Lawson will never manage the company based on its share price. Harry showed a video featuring “Crazee Eddie” who was trying to sell Ginzu knives as well ERP software. I found it annoying and somewhat embarrassing.
Harry’s overall message was pretty vanilla, and if you’ve been paying attention there really wasn’t a lot of new material except for a few highlights:
- The debut of the new “Lawson Community” message board
- A fleeting mention about Lawson’s plans to start providing a hosting solution
- Some new support options, including an interesting one in which Lawson will “own” the maintenance of your customizations
- And, oh yeah, that new Lawson logo
Regardless, Harry got the job done and–more on this in a moment–actually showed some moments of levity the next day. He then brought Richard Lawson out for a brief update on Landmark.
Featured keynote speaker Malcolm Gladwell was next up, recounting stories from his books, Blink and The Tipping Point. If you’ve read the books, you know the stories, but it was still an engaging and entertaining talk.
Dean Hager started his Tuesday keynote with his usual showmanship and self-deprecating humor. In a video portraying his obsession with bettering Lawson’s technology, we saw Dean in action. This included his ice fishing adventures (he even found a way to work his wife and three daughters into the story!), culminating in his "vision" of "9 on your mind" and the five reasons why it should be on your mind:
- Great application functionality
- New BI features
- Delivers on the promise of technology excellence
- Delivers improved support to you
- Path for the future
Following the video, Dean’s message included in-person testimonials from beta clients of LSF 9.0 and the first Landmark app, Strategic Sourcing. Dean’s keynote concluded with a cameo appearance by Lawson old-timer Matthew Allbee, who–using LID–raced against Dean–who was using Portal 9.0–in a test of application productivity. What it clearly demonstrated was that Portal, like Lawson, has finally come of age!
Following Dean’s keynote, Harry Debes came out to explain that the next speaker was a no-show after having a bout with food poisoning (which also afflicted my frequent LawsonGuru Letter contributor Keri White, who ended up missing most of CUE!) Debes then proceeded to warn the audience that he was forbade by Lawson’s PR folks from telling jokes to kill some time. This–of course–was exactly what he proceeded to do!
It was an anxious and what could have been an embarrassing moment for Lawson, and clearly some of the audience wasn’t sure how to react. It showed a human side of Harry Debes that I don’t think many of us had seen before. Now, perhaps if Lawson had allowed me to attend, they could have called me in to pass the time! Dean, I know you’re reading this…whaddya think?
The Tuesday night entertainment was Chicago, which wowed the crowd with old favorites as well as new material. In a "7 degrees of Kevin Bacon" way, I felt like I WAS there. See, a friend of one of my college dorm-mates now plays guitar for them…
So, what were the key takeaways from CUE?
- While Landmark looks like it may be the real deal, it sounds like it is still living in the ivory tower and hasn’t yet been exposed to many people. As soon as that happens and the defects start to surface…then we’ll know more. Ever the skeptic, I’m starting to worry about it. The people behind it are so starry-eyed, it’s scary. There was an interesting question on one of the conference calls, the gist of which was "if this is so great how come nobody was able to invent before? There is no silver bullet, no free lunch…".
- The user response to the Lawson Community forums will be interesting. I’m curious to see how well they do and what impact they have on the LawsonGuru.com forums and topica listserves.
- Lawson’s products continue to show maturity not only in the technology area, but in both the presentation layer and the application business logic as well. The new portal is vastly improved. The new Security and BI integration are what you’d expect from your ERP vendor. And the application enhancements continue to improve the core products.
- Vendor/exhibitor participation at CUE was remarkably decreased.
- The dual logistics of hosting the show at the Marriott World Center & Caribe Royale didn’t go over well.
- I found the lack of enthusiasm during the keynotes embarrassing for Lawson. There were several times when there should have been applause, but the audience was nearly silent—notably during the unveiling of Lawson’s new logo.
To wrap up, my advice for those attending CUE is to not drink too much of the Kool-Aid, and remember that this is Lawson’s show. Even so, here are a couple of customer comments that sum it up:
- "After attending CUE for nearly 10 years, I was (finally) very impressed. The show itself was well attended. Chicago played their hit songs and were a smash hit. The crowd was thoroughly satisfied."
- "This is my 5th CUE, and it was the best yet. Our CIO was in the executive sessions and was very impressed – as a result, we will be making a rather large (for us) investment in our Lawson systems."
After all is said and done, this is exactly what Lawson wants to hear!