Even though I didn’t attend Lawson CUE this year in San Diego, I did receive my usual eyewitness reports. I also viewed the video feeds of keynotes and listened in on the executive/analyst briefings. And, naturally, I do have my opinions.
First though, let’s take a moment to digest this news item (see http://biz.yahoo.com/e/070306/lwsn8-k.html):
Form 8-K for LAWSON SOFTWARE, INC.
Costs Associated with Exit or Disposal Activities
Item 2.05 Costs Associated with Exit or Disposal Activities
(a) On February 28, 2007, the Company's management completed a roadmap for aggressively optimizing our productivity by enhancing our global sourcing capabilities and resources. We currently anticipate that over the six quarters ending May 31, 2008, we will be rebalancing our resources between various locations primarily in the United States, Europe and our global support center in the Philippines. This rebalancing will result in a reduction of between 325 and 375 employees primarily in our US and European operations, as we continue to build our staff and facilities in the Philippines. All areas of our organization will be affected, predominantly in consulting and research and development. In accordance with Statement of Financial Accounting Standard (SFAS) No. 112, Employers' Accounting for Postemployment Benefits, we will be recognizing a charge of between $11 million and $13.5 million for severance and related benefits in the third quarter ended February 28, 2007. All terminations are expected to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2008, with substantially all related payments to be completed by the end of the second quarter ending November 30, 2008. As management concludes on the details of the actions to be taken in pursuing these goals, additional charges related to this roadmap which are not in the scope of SFAS No. 112 may be recorded in future periods, but the timing and extent of these charges are not currently determinable.
Wow. I do find it interesting that they released this on the big SeaWorld "event night" at CUE. Perhaps Lawson figured that could temper the blow?
Lawson is hyper-focused on offshoring what I would term the "repeatable part of consulting". In my mind this isn't consulting--it's commodity services. Call it remote installation, training and billable support (always a contentious subject). I would contend that in order to do heavy-lifting and innovative organization changing, etc. requires a client presence and can't be done offshore.
Therefore, I see the “Lawson services ecosystem” evolving into two camps: 1) repeatable services, with Lawson becoming the primary provider by offering these services remotely, and 2) process-reengineering and software tailoring organizations who offer higher-end consulting, customized training, and process-oriented services wrapped around Lawson's products.
Now, on to my thoughts on this year's CUE:
- Harry Debes’ “keynote” spoofed David Letterman’s Late Show, complete with “The Lawson Orchestra”, led by Henning Schulze-Lauen (who runs Lawson Support) playing the part of Paul Schaffer. Harry was impressive as a Letterman-like host (even wore his sneakers!) as he interviewed his “guests”--both Lawson employees and clients. Several clients told me they thought it was just too corny and went on too long. Honestly, can you imagine anyone bad-mouthing Lawson in response to Harry's repeated question: “So, would you say that Lawson is doing a better job?” Maybe next year, they'll do an American Idol spoof and let me play the role of Simon!
- Was it just me or did others think that perhaps Harry’s penguin segment was going to be a lead-in to announcing Lawson running on Linux platforms?
- Did anyone else notice that Joanne Byrd [Lawson's head of sales] was introduced with the band playing Red Hot Chili Pepper's "Give It Away"??
- I’m not sure if the entire band was composed of all Lawson employees, but I thought they were excellent and wished they had returned for the second day’s keynote; I hope that Lawson uses them in coming years. Bravo, Henning!
- Guest keynote speaker Tim Sanders definitely stole Monday’s show, imploring those in the audience to turn off their cell phones, BlackBerries, stamp out ‘Reply To All’, and to put it simply, just shut up and listen to your fellow employees.
- Dean Hager’s talk on Tuesday was less “demo-focused” this year, and relied more on having five of Lawson’s own customers tell their own stories. Dean of course had his own stories to tell, including video from his recent sky-diving adventure, and ending with his own “high-wire” exit from the stage.
Here are my CUE take-aways:
- Stabilization and letting the clients get caught up. Lawson recognizes that they've released a heck of a lot of product in both the S3 and M3 product spaces as well as the LSF9 and LBI products, etc. And it's taking a long time for the client base to absorb it and understand it.
- Lawson will be slowing down the release cycle (perhaps this may be tied to their downsizing of R&D?). There is a big push to get clients onto LSF9 and 9.0 Apps, which will be the platform for future Landmark-based products, etc. The idea behind Landmark apps is that they will be slipstreamed into LSF9 and run alongside 9.0 apps.
- Speaking of Landmark, they didn't talk about it as much as I expected. I was surprised because I really expected them to show off the newly-rewritten HR product; perhaps this means its not nearly as close to release quality as I had previously heard.
- S3 and M3 product convergence is starting to happen. For example, by using Design Studio, LBI, and ProcessFlow you can marry up IC, RQ/PO in conjunction with M3's Enterprise Asset Management. That was the idea behind the merger, and it's starting to show value.
- The more stuff Lawson can piggyback on IBM the better. Remember: Lawson should be an apps company, not a technology company. The benefits of moving more of the stack to IBM: it works better, it scales better and it's got a heck of a lot more R&D and features behind it.
- An interesting product that didn't get much press was the new "smart client" for M3. Expect it to make its debut with S3 sometime in 2008.
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.