CUE 09 Descends On San Diego
When Lawson CUE was held in San Diego this past April, Lawson invited some software industry bloggers to attend the annual event. I’ll let you read their reviews:
Unlike the LawsonGuru Blog, which targets you—the actual Lawson customer, each of these bloggers targets the larger enterprise software marketplace. But, hey, it’s Lawson’s conference, so they have to right to invite whomever they want.
Alas, I stayed home.
Of course, I did receive my usual eyewitness reports, and viewed the video feeds of keynotes and executive/analyst briefings. While I was encouraged, I have to say it: I was little underwhelmed.
My thoughts on this year’s CUE:
- Harry Debes’ keynote—themed around the “Who wants to be a (M/B)illionaire?”—was much more relaxed than in previous years. Of course, Harry did manage to sneak in a couple of his corny jokes.
- Enough already with the Lars Lawson videos.
- Dean Hager never disappoints. I do wonder what Dean will do when his girls graduate from college and move out?
- Lawson projects itself as a stable company, even in these uncertain times. Including the Lawson CFO in the keynote highlights Lawson’s strong financial position, particularly in cash balances and achieving enviable operating margins.
- One of the points I heard repeatedly is that—in order to remain viable—Lawson absolutely refuses to lower maintenance fees—and I wholeheartedly agree. I’m not an economist, but I feel there are 3 paths a company can take during a recession: 1) Lower prices and have a fire sale, 2) Stay the course, and 3) Raise prices and innovate. I would say Lawson is about halfway between 2 and 3: keeping the same (maintenance fee) prices, but enticing customers to adopt more products via the VIP program, all while continuing to develop new products. Contrast that with SAP, which recently increased maintenance fees.
- Lawson’s Value Improvement Program (aka “VIP”) is a masterstroke. By enticing customers to purchase additional products in exchange for extending their current maintenance and/or locking-in future fees, Lawson increases the adoption of add-on products. Who wouldn’t purchase a $50,000 add-on in order to save $60,000 in fees (I’m making up the numbers, but you get the idea). I know a number of clients who have taken advantage.
- Lawson’s new market-focused team approach. Wake me when it’s over. Most clients don’t even hear from their reps except to get a maintenance bill. It’s one thing for Harry and Dean to stand on-stage and unveil strategy, but it’s execution that matters.
- Lawson SmartOffice got a minor upgrade. It’s still a compelling product (read my previous thoughts on Lawson SmartOffice), with some new features, my favorites being 1) the ability to work offline in Excel and later re-synchronize the data [although I think we will need to find out more about this—what happens if someone else changes the data in the meantime???], and 2) the creation of Outlook tasks for action items. These additional features should be enough to push SmartOffice beyond lead adopters and make it a mainstream product choice for many clients.
- Does Lawson have to get permission to reference trademarked terms, like “Who Wants to be a M/Billionaire?”, “Extreme MakeOver, Lawson Edition”, and setting up SmartOffice alerts let’s you “Tivo your Lawson”?
- The debut of Lawson Enterprise Search. Built atop the open-source Lucene Project, Lawson Enterprise Search combines Lawson S3, LBI, and non-Lawson (like Office data and email) data sources into a search engine. Think Google, but for Lawson. This one caught me by surprise, and I’m still not sure about it. Why not just build in hooks for a Lawson-branded Google Search Appliance?
- Landmark—now dubbed “Lawson Application Designer (LAD)”—continues to mature, and is now available to Lawson Professional Services for the development of custom customer applications. Dean said that one of his visions is to make it available to a broader audience, thereby encouraging development of complementary products that further the Lawson ecosystem. [Note to Dean: you can send me a copy anytime, and I will develop an app and share my experiences.]
- Lawson is working on what Dean describes as an “I-Switch”, where Lawson can be installed and then implemented with industry-specific options. This builds on previous themes of purchasing industry best practices from Hackett, Lawson’s ImpleMentor and QuickStep programs, etc. and depends more on the customers than on Lawson delivering a set of solutions. Many customers, in my experience, pride themselves in “how unique we are”, and are unlikely to buy in.
- The M3 Opportunity Analyzer didn’t get a lot of notice in the keynotes, but look for it to be available at some point for S3 customers who want drive further improvement into their operations and processes via better decision support.
- S3 and M3 product convergence is continuing, with Strategic Human Capital Management (SHCM) is being sold as a product that bridges the gap. In other words, both the S3 and M3 target markets have HR needs. What is discouraging, however, is that lack of true integration between the products where it really makes sense, particularly with M3 Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) and S3 Purchasing, Inventory, and Financials. The strategy still appears to be loosely-coupling them via ProcessFlow Integrator.
I still can’t seem to shake this final thought. Lawson is supposed to be an applications company, not a technology company. Yet, most of what was talked about and demonstrated was related to the technology—either on the desktop (SmartOffice) or the server (Lawson Enterprise Search). Sure, UIs demo well, but Lawson needs to stop thinking of itself as a technology company and focus on the apps. What about improvements to the actual business applications?
- Is Payroll multinational? Does it work in Sweden? Or Dubai?
- Can I use Lawson Budgeting & Planning with Projects/Activity Management?
- Can I use Time & Expense in Germany?
So, one thing I always have to remember (and remind all of you): This is Lawson’s show, and that is what it is—a show. After the party’s over, execution is always the bigger challenge.
If CUE was in the same city as you are, would you have gone?
More importantly, would Lawson invite me to go?
good question. Why apps companies, not just Lawson, are not delivering apps quicker.
As I blogged, not sure Lawson is delivering enough in many verticals, which they have carefully targeted. Also in infrastructure it is not moving its customers aggressively into newer, cheaper development, hosting, SaaS options.
where I disagree with you is on maintenance. Look at your own household budget. if you don;t watch enough TV or do not need a landline you cut it off or get a cheaper alternative – you don’t keep paying the monthly cable or telco bill.
There is no God given right for a sw vendor to charge same amount of maintenance each year to every customer. They need more tiers of pricing so customers can swing back and forth as their needs evolve and delivery intensity ebbs and flows or people will self support or look for third party maintenance. The inordinate amount of bad will sw vendors during each renewal cycle because of their stubborn “maintenance is not negotiable” BS is mind-boggling…
The clients DO have the option to “turn it off” if they don’t want to pay maintenance. And, Lawson does have 3 tiers of maintenance for S3 products.
John, I mean at a single digit rate not just 2% less -something basic which gives users access to bug fixes, regulatory updates, and a few hours of support a year. No new functionality…
today it is a game of brinkmanship – pay me full rate or turn me off…
these days you can even negotiate prices at Best Buy, so why is maintenance so off limits to negotiation?
John, great post, picking up a number of points that I missed at the show.
Regarding maintenance though, I only heard of a two tier program, bronze (22%) and silver (20%). What is the third?
Well, I’m assuming Lawson still also provides their Gold (managing customer-hosted applications) and Platinum (IBM-hosted) options. While these are more “managed services” support options, they are still good solutions for certain customers.
Lawson’s Conference and User Exchange 2009 ….. There were a lot of hoopla about new SW products Lawson is releasing, new technology that is on the way, how well Lawson is doing, and “show-case” customer successes stories.
These are all good, BUT, doing the same things or things that’s comfortable, is a sure way to lose market share and eventually disappear. General Motors and Chrysler come to mind. I will give credit to Lawson for their ambition with the products / technology under-development; however, there is nothing really new.
What is lacking? Focus on core competency and genuine focus on the customer’s needs.
Lawson Software is an ERP software vendor. There is no need to develop “Lawson’s search tool”. There is no need to create a business reporting tool, there is certainly no need to create timesheet and expense report modulus. There are other SW vendors that do it well TODAY, and will continue to do better than Lawson tomorrow. Focus on the ERP part. Make it run more efficiently and fix the bugs users are complaining about. Just look at the long list of user enhancement requests that’s still open. All the other add-ons are just that, ADD-ONs. At the end of the day, no matter how pretty your add-ons are, your “car” is still not going to run.
I would much rather Lawson is “giving away” services to help their customers use what they already own better. Instead of telling the customers Lawson is keeping the fees the same; help your customers use their Lawson product better. How about providing more ready to use MS Add-In templates, Process Flows, and SaaS? These are the tools and services that will really help your customers. Everything else is just, well, fluff.
Very interesting post and thread.
Lawson is working on what Dean describes as an “I-Switch”, where Lawson can be installed and then implemented with industry-specific options. This builds on previous themes of purchasing industry best practices from Hackett, Lawson’s ImpleMentor and QuickStep programs, etc. and depends more on the customers than on Lawson delivering a set of solutions. Many customers, in my experience, pride themselves in “how unique we are”, and are unlikely to buy in.
As someone who’s routinely on the ground floor, I agree with this sentiment. Many clients are (for better or worse) unlikely to think of themselves as being part of The Larger Bowl, to quote a song from Rush.
Why there are separate HR products for M3 and S3 is beyond me.
One other point from the videos and blogs: many clients are nowhere near ready to go to SmartOffice and Enterprise Search. They’re struggling with upgrades and basic operations. By the time that they are ready to even consider some of these new products, Lawson will doubtless have renamed or rebranded them.
Came across this Article in Business Week.
SAP, the King of Corp SW, is trying to become more customer focused.
“We need to be closer to the customers so we know what they require and deliver on what we promise,” concedes Erwin Gunst, SAP’s chief operating officer.”
They are working to provide SaaS, and “select what you need” model of selling software. These are the things that helps customers.
If I was “Lawson”, I would put some folks on studying what others are doing, even Toyota.
The question, I suppose, is what does Lawson really want to be when it grows up. If they are just “surviving” to get bought up later, than, just continue on. Otherwise, make a REAL effort to become different. Lars Lawson is “cute”, but a cartoon is not enough.