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Lawson Talks Product As ERP Consolidation Looms

Vendor highlights analytics, BI, mashups and cloud deployments at Boston user conference. But with one takeover bid on the table and rival Epicor now in play, Lawson seems headed for acquisition.

In product news at Lawson's Conference and User Exchange (CUE), Lawson introduced Analytics for Healthcare, an industry-specific offering that will serve as the model for future industry-specific analytic apps going after areas such as procurement or order management in manufacturing. The healthcare application features 14 prebuilt cubes combining Lawson and external-system data sources that can be exposed through prebuilt dashboards or third-party business intelligence systems.

The analytic app cubes and data services are built on Microsoft SQL Server and SQL Server Analysis Services, which serve as the database and OLAP foundations, respectively, of the Lawson Business Intelligence module. Plenty of third-party BI systems can tap into Analysis Services should customers choose to deploy outside of the Lawson BI module.

The dashboards created for Analytics for Healthcare were built with ViewPoint for Lawson Business Intelligence, a new analyst- and power-user-oriented design environment announced at CUE for creating personalized reports and dashboards without help from IT.

The optional ViewPoint module is available immediately for Lawson S3, an ERP system geared to service-oriented organizations. An equivalent ViewPoint studio for the M3 (manufacturer and distributor-oriented) ERP system is said to be in the works, but a release data has not been set.

In an announcement aimed at customers who routinely customize their ERP systems, Lawson introduced a mashup designer today to help companies create applications combining Lawson and third-party system data. As an example, beta customers have used the tool to mashup Lawson HR and personnel-performance and personnel-productivity data with time-and-attendance information from online services such as Kronos.

The optional mashup tool provides a code-free integration environment and is said to eliminate the need for application-level customizations that might break during system upgrades. The costs of the ViewPoint and mushup design environments were not disclosed.

Trading on the popularity of resources such as the Saleforce AppExchange and Apple App Store, many enterprise applications vendors have introduced online ecosystems and marketplaces. Lawson joined the crowd today by launching Lawson Marketplace, a site that the vendor has seeded with more than 180 items. The list includes more than 60 free items such prebuilt Microsoft Excel scripts for uploading data into various Lawson applications.

The items for sale on the marketplace range from $99 to $249 dollars and are said to include prebuilt, ROLE-based interfaces for HR, supply chain and financial analyst users. Customer Norton Healthcare, a network of hospitals and providers in Kentucky, purchased an address validation applet on the site for $99 and has deployed it across the enterprise to check names, addresses and plus-four zip codes against an online United States Postal Service database.

Lawson said the marketplace might eventually add partner and customer tools and customizations, but for now it's simply testing the concept with low-cost vendor-supplied content.

Much as Lawson's current management team might like the luxury of time to see the company's analytic apps, cloud-deployment options and marketplace offers multiply and mature, the growing prospects of consolidation make it seem like Lawson's days an independent may be drawing to a close.

Company CEO Harry Debes pointed out that acquisition offers have come and gone over the company's 36-year history, but sub-$1 billion ERP vendors are starting to look like a target for consolidation.

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