The LawsonGuru Letter is a free periodic newsletter providing provocative commentary on issues important to the Lawson Software community.
The LawsonGuru Letter is published by-and is solely the opinion of-John Henley of Decision Analytics. Visit Decision Analytics at http://www.danalytics.com. For subscription information, see the bottom of this message.
The LawsonGuru Letter is not affiliated with Lawson Software.
In this issue:
1. Guest Spot: Business Process Outsourcing
2. Power Tools
3. Yes, Architecture is Important
4. Reader feedback
5. Worthwhile Reading
6. Lawson tips & tricks
This month I again turn the Guest Spot over to Bill Ianni, who writes about the current trend in outsourcing your business processes. Done correctly, BPO can reduce your costs, and allow you to focus on your core competencies.
Let me know when you're ready to take your turn in the Guest Spot--send me an email at mailto:email@example.com.
1. Guest Spot: Business Process Outsourcing
(by Bill Ianni, Independent Lawson Consultant; contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Now more than ever, businesses need to find ways to cut expenses to remain competitive. One way they are doing it, say recent independent studies from Deloitte Research and Accenture Finance Solutions, is through outsourcing F&A processes. Both studies are currently highlighted on http://www.outsourcing-financial-services.com/.
It's not just IT anymore. Deloitte's study surveyed 27 of the largest global corporations, and found that 75% of these corporations plan to move back office tasks offshore in the next 24 months. The Accenture study analyzed responses from over 250 corporate and industry leaders and found nearly the same results - 71% of corporate executives see demand for outsourcing accounting tasks to increase over the next 3 years.
There are four important factors to evaluate when considering outsourcing:
Analyze your costs over three years, comparing all expenses in-house expenses vs. outsourcing.
Determine your expected benefits from an outsourcing arrangement (i.e. lowered headcount, faster cycle times, higher system availability, etc.). vs. keeping the operations in-house (higher equipment and software maintenance, etc.)
Analyze the benefits you expect from outsourcing. These options are now available to you by entering into an outsourcing deal. By sticking to your core competencies (and not, for example, providing your own HR service), can you reach other untapped markets? By keeping an operation in-house, are you increasing your opportunity costs?
This can be the hardest part of your analysis. Try to assign a value to the uncertainty of your other estimates. Key risk factors include your outsourcer going out of business - a certainty for some in the ASP business.
Who's Doing It?
It's not just a trend. Today's outsourcing firms are differentiating themselves by filling market niches rather than simply grabbing market share. There are a variety of value propositions available that make the concept more attractive. Some vendors focus on minimizing the cost while others focus on service and industry expertise. There is now an outsourcing solution specifically for Lawson clients. http://www.lawsonoffice.com touts data entry services for as little as 99 cents for each AP invoice. Their web site has a calculator for analyzing your potential savings.
It's not just the Fortune 500 anymore. Technology is enabling more and more data entry tasks be accomplished remotely with relative ease so firms looking to outsource can do so very quickly and inexpensively. The cost, speed and security are the same for 1 invoice as it is for 1,000,000. Outsourcing firms are tailoring solutions for small firms that can add big bucks to the bottom line. It's a matter of competitive advantage on any level, but for small to mid range companies, it can make a serious impact.
Where the Money Goes
In a Gartner survey of 500 clients, here's how Enterprises' operational
IT budgets break down:
2. Power Tools
This month I rented a hydraulic log splitter in order to tackle the overabundance of potential firewood that we've been accumulating over the past couple of years. You see, my version of a "log splitter" has always been me-the antithesis of an outdoorsman-wielding an ax, a sledgehammer and some wedges. This time, I just wasn't up to the challenge.
After listening to the rental agent's requisite warnings about potential loss of body parts, I started chopping away. If you've never seen a log splitter in action, you're missing out on a beautiful sight. I was able to accomplish in an afternoon what would have taken me several weekends-not to mention the countless sore muscles, bruised thumbs, headaches and the like.
Naturally, this got me thinking about how we tackle some of our routine tasks (yes, I admit it-I do have a one-track mind!). Why do we typically continue using our current tools without thinking "isn't there a better way"? And, even if there is a better way, why do we always just assume that it's too cost-prohibitive?
Over the past ten years, I've remodeled my basement and built two sheds. Upon undertaking each project, I remind myself that if I ever get frustrated with a task, or something isn't working out right, it's probably because I'm not using the right tool, or perhaps need to take a different approach.
The same holds true for what we do in our daily business lives as well. We need to constantly evaluate our tools, and our approaches, to the routine tasks that we undertake. Yes, some of the tool selection may be out of our control, or they may be truly cost-prohibitive. But, that's not always the case.
Think about some of the routine tasks that you and your staff perform. Are you using all of the labor-saving devices that are available? Consider the Microsoft Add-Ins from Lawson as a perfect example. I know that I'm now using them on an almost daily basis these days with clients, in ways that I had never even considered. If you and your staff can save an hour or two a week by using them, doesn't that easily justify their cost?
Now, think about some of the techniques you use. The approach I take in my consulting is to provide my clients with the ability to re-think an approach that isn't working and help them devise a better solution. I'm continually amazed after I work through the problem with them, and show them some different alternatives, when they often realize a better result, sometimes even after just a few minutes.
In this continuing fragile economy, with layoffs by the thousands, the way to create better value is to continue to improve, through innovation and creativity. If you still look at alternative tools and techniques as just an added cost, you need change your thinking. Think of them as an investment in working smarter. Become the value driver for your organization.
- QUOTE OF THE ISSUE -
"Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance."
- Samuel Johnson
3. Yes, Architecture is Important
Last month (http://www.danalytics.com/guru/letter/archive/2003-09.htm), I included a Guest Spot by Luke Hohmann on "Why Software Architecture Matters". I received a number of interesting responses, some of which refuted Luke's points, and some that plainly wanted to know, "just what does this have to do with Lawson"?
Frankly, this was an attempt on my part to broaden our horizons, and use the article as a way to explain some reasons for why Lawson makes some of their design decisions. It's often hard for those who are newer to the Lawson community to understand that the current Lawson architecture rests upon a true legacy code base.
Many of you are new to the Lawson community, haven't seen a couple of the generations of Lawson's software, and/or are unaware of its origins. In particular, two of Hohmann's architectural attributes are overwhelming demonstrated when placed in a Lawson context:
- Longevity drives a number of architectural decisions. The guts of Lawson-in particular the Universe Environment on which everything rests and which is essentially "the architecture" for Lawson-was written over 20 years ago. But, it was well-designed enough that it continues to support their applications, and evolves to support additional platforms, databases, and the like. Sure, some design decisions were made early on that still haunt Lawson, but like it or not-the Environment was designed with longevity in mind.
- Profitability was an obvious motivation for many of the design decisions made in porting Lawson to the Windows and AS/400 platforms. If you're on the Windows platform, you realize that Lawson wasn't written to be a native Windows application. By choosing to run the Environment under the MKS UNIX subsystem, Lawson made an obvious architectural decision. Was it the right decision? From a pure technology standpoint, of course not. All architectural decisions involve trade offs, and this one is no exception. But, by making the decision to layer the architecture, Lawson made their products available sooner to an additional market, thereby increasing their market share, and presumably their profits.
4. Reader Feedback
Send your comments to mailto:email@example.com.
Some random comments on last month's issue
- On the decision by Lawson to use offshore outsourcing:
- "I don't suppose we can stop the migration, but I have first-hand experience working with an army of Indian programmers - while they were nice guys and at least reasonably proficient, the effort required to communicate effectively was extreme. I'm VERY disappointed that Lawson has chosen this route as I feel their product needs MORE effective modification/communication, not less."
- On Luke Hohmann's Architecture article:
- "I did not understand his Microsoft example in the Profitability section. First he says that an architecture is profitable if it can be maintained with an acceptable cost structure, but then he says that Windows succeeded because of Microsoft's
overwhelming market share. To me those two statements contradict each other."
- On the transition from LID to Portal:
- "Truly enjoyed the quote from the LID user. We are deploying our first Lawson implementation on 11/01. Only "power users" (Purchasing, AP) will use LID, all others will use the new portal... It's been a long road to get our consultants and Lawson to encourage this...even Lawson didn't speak well of portal initially and
continued to teach LID during build team training.
An interesting change for all Lawson users!"
- And my favorite (a classic!):
- "My neighbor ran out to Home Depot and bought one of the remaining generators on Saturday morning. It took him about three hours to get all set up and plugged in.
I watched the whole time from a window (it was a blackout, so it was my version of non-electric TV -- sort of Wilson over the fence). By early afternoon he was chugging along and had his fridge and freezer running and a long power cord going up his deck and into the kitchen and down the basement. He was really proud of it. Two hours later, PEPCO reconnected the neighborhood to the grid.
And my neighbor boxed up the generator in the original carton and returned it to Home Depot for a full refund. I love America."
5. Worthwhile Reading
Are You Ready for Some Football Clichés?
Sure, too many coaches write books that try to apply the lessons of football to the world of business. But there really are some management lessons that can be learned on the gridiron.
Inc. Magazine, October 2003
It Ain't Over...
Until you do the post-implementation audit.
CIO Magazine, October 1, 2003
Microsoft Is Keen On Green
Little-known project has hundreds of developers writing a new set of business apps from scratch.
Information Week, October 6, 2003
Leaping, Then Looking
You want to lower costs. You will be managing projects globally. But the move of programming and other top jobs abroad has implications for national security. And you just might be creating your next rival.
Baseline Magazine, September 2003
Is Fully Integrated Really the Best Thing?
Would the world be better if all business software solutions were 'fully integrated?' Conventional wisdom may call for everything to be wired together, but is that really the best choice?
Business Integration Journal, September, 2003
6. Lawson Tips & Tricks
Share your tips. Send them to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
This problem actually dates back over a year. Specifically, the issue is this:
After battling with Lawson over this for a few months, and having them pass the buck and claim that they couldn't duplicate the problem, I finally "solved" it by writing a script that runs on a scheduled basis to "fix" the job descriptions:
# Script to fix RQ111 job descriptions created by SEA eReqs
# (Needs to be run by 'root' in cron every xx minutes to
# fix bad character created in job description by SEA,
# which causes XML Jobs & Reports to fail)
if [ "$LOGNAME" != "root" ]
echo "Must be root"
for username in `rngdbdump -tn gen user -f UserName`
for jobname in `rngdbdump -tn gen jobstep -f JobName -v UserName=$username Token=RQ111`
jobdesc=`rngdbdump -tn gen job -f Description -v UserName=$username JobName=$jobname
if [ "`echo $jobdesc | cut -c 1-5`" != "Print" ]
echo "User:" $username " Job:" $jobname $jobdesc
echo "UserName","JobName","Description" > job.csv.$
echo ""$username"",""$jobname"","Print Requisitions" >> job.csv.$
importdb -fu gen job job.csv.$
The LawsonGuru Letter is a free periodic newsletter providing provocative commentary on issues important to the Lawson Software community. The LawsonGuru Letter is published by--and is solely the opinion of--John Henley of Decision Analytics. Visit Decision Analytics at http://www.danalytics.com.
To subscribe, send an email to: mailto:email@example.com
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Decision Analytics is an independent consultancy, focusing on Lawson technical projects, and specializing in customization/modification, data conversion, and integration/interfaces. Please visit http://www.danalytics.com for more information.
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