June 2003

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 https://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: Using MS Access during HR implementations
2. Lawson Maintenance Tasks
3. Lawson's Quality Crisis?
4. Reader feedback
5. Survey: Ready for ezPatch?
6. Lawson Tips & Tricks

1. Guest Spot: Using MS Access during HR implementations
(by Phil Simon, Simon HRIS Consulting; contact Phil at mailto:psimon@simonhris.com)

I recently finished a six-month new HR 8.02 implementation at an organization with about 4,000 employees.  Lawson HR was replacing the old AS400 and Kronos was being implemented simultaneously.  What's more, Lawson Benefits went live on 1/1/03 and PR went live on 4/1/03.  This added an entirely new level of complexity, as Access had to supplant basic Lawson functionality (such as BN145--removing flex credits for employees who have no other time records).

This article highlights how MS Access 2000 was used to provide key audit reports, obviate the need to use vendors for custom reports and benefit election forms, and do a host of other things that were critical to successfully going live.

Comparison queries to map old data to new
This is pretty standard but absolutely critical to compare mainframe data to new Lawson data.  MS Access facilitated keeping track of AS400 data and Lawson data in multiple product lines. 

Comparison queries to spit out differences in data
Once created, basic Access queries identified discrepancies such as:

  • Employees who had rate of pay X in the old system and rate of pay Y in the new system
  • Employees in one system but not the other
  • ACH account and setup discrepancies
  • Strange position dates (HR users know full well the issues with PA13.2 and these record.  This issue does not disappear in version 8)
  • Employees with 'odd birthdates' (1 year old) or hire dates.
  • Employees missing critical values altogether, since HR10 had not been turned on yet to require fields
  • Employees missing flex

Access to data during system downtime
During the implementation, the migration to different servers and different system problems left many times in which access to data through normal Lawson channels was not possible.  Regularly importing data into Access allowed for an important backup.  The client had purchased MS Add-ins, which facilitated importing data from Lawson to Access.  ODBC was not enabled and access to tools such as dbdump and rngdbdump was not available.

Macros to automate emailing of audit reports as attached spreadsheets
Through some VBA and macro functionality, Access allowed these audit reports to be generated and automatically emailed to end-users. 

In addition, I inserted VBA code to 'burst' complicated payroll distribution and overtime reports to 180 people broken down by department.  Each department head now receives an email with an attached Word document containing the pay period, quarterly, and YTD information for only the employees in his/her department.  Lawson's eBroadcasting product was not available and no Lawson report produced the data in the format that the client wanted.

Reports to generate BN election statements
BN245 provides employee benefit choices in a very confusing format.  Again, this does not change in version 8.  To replicate the client's current form (and avoid paying another vendor to do the same), BN245 output was written to CSVs that Access imported through a macro.  The end result provided a much more coherent BN election form (virtually identical to the original, which the client liked very much).

Daily HR Needs
By providing unlimited ability to link tables, complicated HR reports could be easily created and distributed during the implementation.  HIPPA requirements, for example, could be addressed by a report that took a relatively short time to create.  Access' flexibility and power saved an enormous amount of time and HR users' needs could be met.

Combining Lawson standard reports and overcoming limitation of the Excel Add-ins
The client found Lawson's standard reports wanting in many respects.  While the Add-ins are fairly straightforward and powerful, crashes made reporting from them inconsistent.  What's more, Add-ins do not let you link every table.  The client wanted certain reports that combined seemingly disparate tables.  Access does not have the same limitation.

Generating SQL for potential conversion to Crystal
At the end of the project, the client began to consider recreating the reports in Crystal.  Access facilitates this by allowing you to see queries in SQL that can be literally pasted into the Crystal Reports SQL designer.

Pivot table reports for easy auditing
For those of you not familiar with Excel Pivot Tables, you are missing out.  Essentially cross tabs that allow you to slice and dice data, these were critical in identifying odd data: employees who "snuck through" Lawson benefit entry rules, specific payroll issues, and the like.  Access 2000 integrates pivot tables and 2002 takes it a step further.

Creating Lawson Conversion programs and superior reports
Very easily, old data was prepared for the conversion files.  What's more, Access was able to replicate the clients' old reports, obviating the need for expensive programmers. 

Summary and Conclusion
The project faced many challenges.  Without the Access-based application, these challenges would have been greater and more internal and/or external resources would have been needed to go live.  The client intends to use the application, at least in the interim, instead of Crystal for a whole host of reporting needs.  At a bare minimum, it allows for easily auditing data and provides non-HR-end-users with key business data through email bursting. 

2. Lawson Maintenance Tasks

If you're new to Lawson, or even if you've had your Lawson system for a while, here are some pointers on periodic maintenance. While obviously not exhaustive, they are a starting point of best practices for use in managing your Lawson system, and generally apply to v7.0 and higher of the Lawson Environment, running on Windows or Unix platforms. [Read More...]

3. Lawson's Quality Crisis?
Does Lawson have a problem with software quality? Of course--it's the nature of the business. Is it a crisis?  [Read More...]

"There's no business like show business, but there are several businesses like accounting."
- David Letterman

4. Reader feedback

Send your comments to mailto:letter-comments@lawsonguru.com.

In the last issue (https://www.danalytics.com/guru/letter/archive/2003-05.htm), I made the comment that "bigger clients get all the attention (money talks, of course); the smaller ones get the short shrift. I consider this a corporate deficiency; the employees of Lawson are a great bunch of people, and a pleasure to work with." I received a rather scathing reply:

- "I take serious issue with this statement. If it is true, then smaller clients must get absolutely no support at all. We are alleged to be one of Lawson's top 15 customers (in size at least). I consider the support we receive to be nothing short of abysmal, and it has deteriorated markedly in the last 6 - 12 months. I also take issue with the statement "the employees of Lawson are a great bunch of people, and a pleasure to work with." Some of them are wonderful hard working and sensitive individuals, however a significant number of persons we contact on a regular basis, are lazy, inept and go out of their way to make problem resolution difficult and frustrating. The support we receive, especially in the upgrade process is nothing short of appalling. The attention we receive from our 'Relationship Manager' provides no value whatsoever. In 35 years in this industry, I have rarely seen such consistently poor performance from a support perspective."

Some comments on CUE:
- "This was my 7th CUE and it was great this year! As always I learned a lot, met new interesting people and had a little fun. Most of the technical sessions were packed. I liked having the presentations available on the web before CUE. It made note taking and following the PowerPoint slides easier. I thought the networking opportunities at the User Group Event Monday evening was valuable and fun!"
- "What happened to band night? After KC and the Sunshine Band in 2002 we surely could have got some "B" band from the 60's...Hot Tuna? Country Joe and the Fish anyone? Okay, maybe dropping band night was a good idea. It certainly helped me with my networking."
- "I thought CUE was pretty good this year - but I did have one big beef - the fact that if you didn't arrive a half an hour early to a session precluded you from participating in that session. The rooms were way too small and it was infuriating to arrive at a session
that was only being offered in that timeslot only to find out that it was filled to capacity and you couldn't get in. We pay good money to attend CUE and it is maddening to find out that you can't get into something that you really had an interest in."
- "This was my second CUE. I thought there was a lot of repeat classes. Not a lot of new information. Some of the newer technical classes (portal) were so crowded that 1/2 the audience had to stand along the walls or sit on the floor. Very poor planning on someone's part."
- "I was glad to see less emphasis on upgrade, upgrade, upgrade..."
- "I attended a cash management focus group on Sunday afternoon.  There was 6 Lawson employees and 6 Lawson clients. It turned into a requirements gathering session and I was very encouraged. It will be great if they can deliver a fraction of what was discussed."
- "The welcome receptions were very nice as was the night at Universal Studio. Lawson does know how to throw a party."

Worthwhile Reading

A 12-Step Program for Aspiring CIOs
Mattress Giant's CIO suggests a path to the big chair.
CIO, April 15, 2003

CFO's Guide to 401(k) Providers
Before you decide on a full-service company, or on a provider of investment-only or recordkeeping-only services, consult this interactive guide.
CFO, April 2003

Five Steps to Driving Costs From Your Supply Chain
Microsoft Executive Circle, Spring 2003


Mission: Critical
Imagine 30% fewer deaths in intensive-care units and half the medication errors in hospitals. IT is poised to deliver improved patient care.
Information Week, May 19, 2003

Questions You Need to Be Able to Answer
Cap Gemini Ernst & Young auditors will ask CIOs the following questions in order to gauge their companies' compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Would you have the answers? 
CIO, May 15, 2003


5. Survey: Ready for ezPatch?
As mentioned earlier, Peoplesoft is developing an automated patch download and install process. If Lawson offered a similar tool, which "diagnosed" your system, and installed the appropriate patches, would you use it?

Send me your thoughts:mailto:letter-survey@lawsonguru.com

6. Lawson Tips & Tricks
Share your tips. Send them to mailto:letter-tips@lawsonguru.com.

(Thanks to Andy McNeil at TJX for this month's tip!)

Many of you probably already knew this one, but I have wished I knew the answer to this one as I was debugging programs for years. Have you ever spent an annoying amount of time trying to figure out how an error was occurring in a program...a.k.a. building a COBOL shell and seeing which values it was moving to CRT-ERROR-CAT and going into msgmnt for ALL of them? This can take a VERY long time. Lawson had always told me there was no other way. Well, I finally figured it out. Here is a nice easy way that will quickly give you the error category and number so you can then do a quick easy find in the .cbl.
$ rngdbdump -c gen crterrmap | grep "Your exact Error message" | lashow

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 https://www.danalytics.com. To subscribe, send an email to: mailto:letter-subscribe@lawsonguru.com To be removed from the subscription list, send to: mailto:letter-unsubscribe@lawsonguru.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 https://www.danalytics.com for more information.


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