I just returned from Orlando, having attended Inforum 2013. Last year’s Inforum, which quickly followed the acquisition of Lawson by Infor, was really just a combination of Lawson’s annual conference (CUE) with Infor’s name and logo slapped on for good measure. This year was quite a different story. Starting with the fact that I was actually invited to attend, and helped present two different sessions.
What follows is my own analysis of the keynote/general sessions, off-the-record conversations with Infor employees and customers, and of course, my usual eyewitness reports and unsubstantiated rumors. In addition, I’ve included some article links at the bottom.
The Business Value of Modern Apps
I may never “get” Facebook or Twitter, or whatever the latest fad in social software. And that’s OK. In fact, that’s the point: It’s not for me to get. And, it’s not even about me. It’s about the next generation. If you and your organization have any responsibility, it’s to ensure that your organization is ready for what lies ahead. I’m not talking about next year. I’m talking about 10, 15, 20 years from now. The next generation of users will be different than you, and certainly me. They will be evermore mobile and connected. And, clearly, Infor gets that trend. And, it’s your job, perhaps your destiny even, to make sure that your business applications are ready for the next generation. You may not like it, or even understand it yet, but it’s not about the green screen any more.
Soho and Ming.le
Shortly after Infor’s acquisition of Lawson, Lawson 10 was introduced, which brought Lawson S3 into the Infor Workspace UI. Workspace is built on Microsoft SharePoint, a pervasive solution running in many organizations. Using the Infor Workspace UI, you can seamlessly switch from Infor SyteLine ERP system running on a local server to Lawson S3 on-premise or hosted by a managed services company to Infor Expense Management in the cloud, or to Infor EAM deployed at another site. The user experience remains consistent across all of the applications.
Infor’s new Soho design introduces a clean UI across Infor’s applications, while Ming.le injects a social aspect into the business applications hosted in Infor Workspace. At first I thought it was utter nonsense. Who needs a Facebook feed for their journal entries or Twitter embedded into their HR application? Seriously? Then, I got it. It’s just another way to look at, work on, and collaborate over transactions in your Lawson S3 and other Infor applications. Think of it as a news feed with Lawson object IDs! There are certainly some serious questions, particularly with regard to security. Is your organization really ready to hire someone using no more than an iPad application?
What scared customers about Soho and Ming.le was when Infor referred to version “10x”. Most Lawson-ites are just starting to think about migrating from 9 to 10. Does “10x” mean another upgrade? Should I just skip all that 9-to-10 stuff we’ve been planning and go to “10x”? No, it just means that a near-future version of Lawson S3 10 (say 10.0.4 or 10.0.5) will be “Soho-looking and Ming.le-enabled”, so Lawson S3 “10x” will consist and co-operate with other Infor “10x” applications, sharing the same feeds within Workspace. It’s not about another huge upgrade from 9 to 10 to 10x. Once you’re on 10, it’s just going to be what Lawson customers are used to calling a cyclical release.
It’s Still A Complicated Platform
Preparing for Lawson S3 10 (and now 10x) is a beast. Under the covers, yes it’s still Lawson, so you still have GEN and the Lawson Environment. But you also need a Landmark runtime environment to support Process Automation, which replaces ProcessFlow. You need Infor10 Workspace to replace Lawson Portal. You need SharePoint 2010. If you use Lawson Smart Office, you need that too. Trust me, if you’re a small shop, it might not be beneficial to learn, install, and/or maintain all of this yourself. You’ll want some help. I think a hosted/cloud-delivered version might be in your future. I talked to one customer who asked my advice: “doesn’t anyone ever just say ‘I’ve had enough’, and get rid of Lawson?” Sure, I replied, but perhaps that’s not the right question. If the software works well for your business, your end users are satisfied, etc, etc, but it’s just the IT staff that’s running themselves ragged, then perhaps you need to look at a hosted version of Infor/Lawson, not getting rid of it.
Infor ION Integration
The main theme I picked out from “Dr. Soma” (by the way, Dean Hager he is not) was that Infor has made significant strides in end-to-end process integration across their various acquired products. Bits and pieces of Infor’s products, e.g. Lawson S3, IPA (Infor Process Automation), Strategic Sourcing, EAM (Enterprise Asset Management), LTM (talent management), Cloverleaf, Enwisen (on-boarding), Workbrain (workforce scheduling), Approva (governance), end up sprinkled across Infor Workspace and Ming.le to form a cohesive process, facilitated by Infor’s ION integration hub, demonstrating flexibility, mobility, and motion.
Picking up additional Infor products that integrate well with legacy Lawson S3 products can provide a “quick win” for customers. In particular, consider Corporate Performance Management (CPM), the Infor budgeting and planning solution, with significantly more power than Lawson Budgeting and Planning (LBP). A quick installation–either on-premise or hosted, a short learning curve, and integration with Lawson S3 Financials (General Ledger and Human Resources for now, and Activity Management expected in May).
I told you before that I was bullish on the Infor acquisition of Lawson. I still am. It’s still a work-in-process, but remember that–like like I said then–Infor didn’t spend almost TWO BILLION DOLLARS to flush away Lawson and its customers.
He was pretty loud. And he might not be your cup of tea, but he did put on a good show, catered to a younger crowd, and turned Inforum 2013 into a feel-good atmosphere. Which is the whole point, right?