January 2004

The LawsonGuru Letter is a free periodic newsletter containing provocative commentary about 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: My Plan to Put the College Back in College Sports
2. Why I Can't Go to CUE
3. Lawson Thoughts for the New Year
4. Worthwhile Reading
5. Reader Feedback
6. Lawson Tips & Tricks

We're at the peak of the annual college sports frenzy, with football bowl games wrapping up, and NCAA basketball getting underway. So, this month I'm turning over the Guest Spot to Gordon Gee, Chancellor at Vanderbilt University, which recently announced plans to eliminate its athletics department and reorganize its sports programs to bring them back into line with other campus activities.

What does this topic have to do with Lawson? Well, some things are bigger than Lawson. Those of you who know me personally know that I'm an ardent believer in higher education. And, yes, I like sports too. I just think that the current state of college sports is a mess, and needs to be fixed. Chancellor Gee has a plan which he kindly agreed that I could publish (this opinion piece previously appeared in the September 21, 2003 Washington Post).

1. Guest Spot: My Plan to Put the College Back in College Sports
By Gordon Gee, Chancellor, Vanderbilt University

I like to win. I also like to sleep at night. But after 23 years leading universities, I find it increasingly hard to do both.

This has been the most ignominious year in recent memory for college sports. We've seen coaches behaving badly, academic fraud, graft, possibly even murder. Clearly, the system is broken, and fixing it will require more than sideline cheering.

That's why we at Vanderbilt announced that we would replace our traditional athletic department with a new body that is more connected to the mission of the university and more accountable to the institution's academic leadership. We'll no longer need an athletic director. We're not eliminating varsity sports, mind you, or relinquishing our membership in the highly competitive Southeastern Conference. Rather, we're making a clear statement that the "student-athlete" -- a term invented decades ago when college sports was faced with another seemingly endless parade of scandals -- belongs back in the university.

Many athletic departments exist as separate, almost semi-autonomous fiefdoms within universities and there is the feeling that the name on the football jersey is little more than a "franchise" for sports fans. As Bill Bowen and Sarah Levin point out in their new book, "Reclaiming the Game: College Sports and Educational Values," student-athletes are increasingly isolated, even at the best schools in the country. They do not participate in the extracurricular activities that are so important for personal growth. They miss out on opportunities to study abroad or have internships. They spend too much time in special athletic facilities that are off-limits to the rest of the student body. And their world can too often be defined by coaches' insatiable demands for practice and workout sessions.

True, this is the cost of staying competitive in college sports, where tens of millions of dollars are at stake. But should it be? Over the years I have gotten to know thousands of student-athletes. They are as different as any group of individuals could be. What they have in common, though, is a sense that they missed out on an important part of the college experience by focusing only on sports. They also lose out by being stripped of their responsibilities as citizens of the university when we say that "all will be forgiven" as long as their performance on the field is up to snuff.

This must change. At Vanderbilt, that means ensuring that every student, every athlete, is part of a vibrant academic and social community.

Shifting Vanderbilt's athletics program to our division of student life and university affairs is merely a step -- perhaps bold, perhaps quixotic -- in the much-needed reform of intercollegiate athletics. We took this step mindful that Vanderbilt is in an unusual position. It is a highly selective private university with an athletics program untarnished by scandal; our student-athletes graduate at rates that are among the best in the country; and we have loyal, generous supporters who have blessed us with excellent facilities. We can do things here that other universities can't or won't.

I will say this: After our announcement, I received many phone calls from college presidents who said, "You go, Gordon. Walk off the cliff, and if you succeed, we will be right behind."

In recent years, there have been a number of well-meaning and forceful efforts to reform college athletics, but they have not gone far enough. It is time for all those who are concerned about the future of our enterprise to get serious about addressing the crisis of credibility we now face. College presidents, working together, should commit themselves to the following reforms:

First, all students who participate in intercollegiate sports should be required to meet the requirements of a core curriculum. The "permanent jockocracy" has for too long made a mockery of academic standards when it comes to athletes. We need to end sham courses, manufactured majors, degree programs that would embarrass a mail-order diploma mill, and the relentless pressure on faculty members to ease student-athletes through their classes.

Second, colleges should make a binding four-year commitment to students on athletic scholarships. One of the dirty secrets of intercollegiate athletics is that such scholarships are renewed year-to-year. A bad season? Injury? Poor relationship with a coach? Your scholarship can be yanked with very little notice. Rather than cynically offering the promise of academic enrichment, colleges should back up the promise so long as a student remains in good academic standing.

Third, the number of athletic scholarships a school can award should be tied to the graduation rates of its athletes in legitimate academic programs. If a school falls below a threshold graduation rate, it should be penalized by having to relinquish a certain number of scholarships for the next year's entering class. A version of this proposal is part of a reform package now snaking its way through the NCAA.

Fourth, graduation rates should be tied to television and conference revenues. If money is the mother's milk of college athletics, then access to it should be contingent on fulfilling the most basic mission of a university -- educating students.

Finally, college presidents and others need to take a good look at the system we have created for ourselves, in which the professional sports leagues have enjoyed a free feeder system that exploits young people and corrupts otherwise noble institutions. We have maintained the fantasy for far too long that a big-time athletics program is for the students, the alumni and, at public universities, even for the legislators. It is time for us to call it what it is has sadly become: a prep league for the pros, who have taken far more than they have given back. We should demand nothing less than a system in which student-athletes are an integral part of the academic institutions whose names and colors they so proudly wear on game day.

2. Why I Can't Go to CUE

Many of you are probably making your plans to join Lawson at their annual CUE user conference. Unfortunately, I won't be there. Seems I'm not invited. [Read More...]

"How a journey through leukemia led to software that changed the way people work."

That's the tagline for a new book, The Cancer Code, by Mike and Bettina Jetter. This past summer, we lost the mother of one of our son's closest friends to leukemia. In addition, my Grandfather died of leukemia when I was young, which made this book particularly intriguing. If you've ever known anyone who's fought back against a life-threatening disease, you'll be riveted by Mike and Bettina's story. Find out more at http://www.cancercode.com/.

Worthwhile Reading
Targeting Perfection
Six Sigma Comes to IT
CIO Magazine, December 1, 2003

See It Now
New budgeting-and-planning software offers increasingly sophisticated visual aids: dashboards and scorecards.
CFO Magazine, December 2003

Slippery Slope
A meltdown of the ski-resort operator's payroll system
could not have come at a worse time.
Baseline Magazine, December 1, 2003

Continuing Our Lessons from Isabel
It turns out I wasn't the only one who was a bit under prepared for Hurricane Isabel (see https://www.danalytics.com/guru/letter/archive/2003-10.htm). Seems hat the Commonwealth of Virginia didn't get ready either. According to a recent article in The Washington Post, "a computer designed to track requests for help from local governments failed repeatedly during Hurricane Isabel, delaying the distribution of ice, water, generators and other assistance."

The cause? "Michael Cline, the director of the state's Department of Emergency Management, told lawmakers at a hearing that the state's 'Action Tracking' computer system did not have a battery backup."

3. Lawson Thoughts for the New Year
Some Thoughts as we move into 2004.  [Read More...] 

"Success isn't permanent, and failure isn't fatal."
- Mike Ditka

4. Reader feedback

I received some great responses on the last issue.  In particular, the feature on the need for improvement in quality and responsiveness of Lawson's support process hit a nerve with some customers:

  • "Nice job on the J.D. Edwards/Lawson quality section.  I hope Lawson does take your message to heart, but I don't believe they will.  A PO30 issue we had just got fixed after 2 months of bantering ... although Lawson did create a clean-up job to catch all the orphaned records associated with this bug, it took too long and created too much frustration in our organization, ultimately reaching the desk of the CEO."
  • "I have been surveyed a number of times and so have the people in my company.  EVERYTIME I am surveyed, it is in reference to a call that has been answered on the phone very quickly on the first call.  They never survey me on calls that have dragged on for months.  Each time they go through their series of question I tell them - yes, I got good response on this call, but I want to tell you about the dozen other calls that are still hanging that no one seems to care about. I suspect (okay - I am positive) that all that goes into the survey results is the case number that they were calling on.  So their survey results, in my opinion, are due to very careful selection on which cases they choose to include in the survey."
  • "You are right on the mark concerning Lawson.  Lawson does not want to hear anything negative (which is impossible in the software business).  I unfortunately feel that Lawson will never get the message.  The minute they went public was the last time they thought of the axiom 'A Customer for life'."
  • "I also agree that Lawson is quickly becoming customer unfriendly.  In the last couple of projects, the word lawsuit has been heard more often than normal.  A lot of this has to due with 8.0 being released way to soon.  The technical WEB bolt-ons were just not ready.  Lawson is still having problems with RMI and Portal."

Continue to send your comments to mailto:comments@lawsonguru.com

Collaboration Means Profits
A new Deloitte Consulting survey of 300 executives indicates that companies that link partners and suppliers to their internal business processes report 70% greater profitability than companies that haven't integrated.
Information Week, December 2, 2002

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

  I read the "In-Depth Look at Lawson's Microsoft Add-Ins" (see https://www.danalytics.com/guru/letter/archive/2003-12.htm), and on page 14 of the accompanying presentation, there is a screen shot of the Field numbers at the bottom of the screen. I know how to have them in LID but not in portal. What are the steps to have the Field Numbers show at the bottom of the screen in Lawson portal?

The answer is: Ctrl-Shift-O (letter O, not a zero).
  Regarding the decision to upgrade to 8.0 or 8.1 (see https://www.danalytics.com/guru/letter/archive/2003-12.htm), this question is a quandary for my clients as there is little information Lawson is willing to share, as far as what is really in the 8.1 release. We have heard that they have updated their encumbrance accounting in 8.1 and just recently we have learned that 8.2 will impact the encumbrance accounting even more.

My client is a school system and encumbrance accounting, as you can imagine, is a very big deal and the lack of solid information is disconcerting, especially with Lawson's history.

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

This one haunts me periodically; in fact it did just a couple of days ago.

Using the Print Manager, you "send to user" a report and they can't view it. They can see it listed in their print manager, but they can't view the report.My first instinct is always that there's a system-level file permission problem, when in fact it's a matter of the user not having access to the report form/token used to create the report!

This often happens when you're sending a report to a user with lesser security access than yourself. It also happens (as in my case) when you've created a new program, and haven't yet granted security access to it.

Lesson learned: Don't assume that because you can see the report in the user's print manager, that they themselves can actually view the content!

The LawsonGuru Letter is a free periodic newsletter containing provocative commentary about 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 (including BCI/Mercator).  Please visit https://www.danalytics.com for more information.

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