May 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  For subscription information, see the bottom of this message.
The LawsonGuru Letter is not affiliated with Lawson Software.

In this issue:
1. Guest Spot: CUE 2004: It Was Time
2. Reporting, Part 2: Characteristics of a Reporting Solution
3. Worthwhile Reading
4. Reader Feedback
5. Survey: Can Lawson Deliver on its 1000-Day Plan?
6. Lawson Tips & Tricks

This month, Keri White joins us again (two months in a row!) in the the Guest Spot, to tell us what she thought about CUE.  If you want to spout your own opinion, send me an email at

1. Guest Spot: CUE 2004: It Was Time
(by Keri White)

This past week I attended my first Lawson CUE, which was held in Atlanta, GA. After working with Lawson's software for 3+ years, I figured it was about time that I attend the annual conference. I was very impressed with the event and how well everything was planned and executed. Since I had nothing to compare this conference to, I can't tell you how it measured up. However, I repeatedly heard the same sentiment expressed by previous CUE attendees: "Last year's conference was so much better."

I doubt in any previous conference there was a re-branding launch quite like the one that occurred this past week. In fact, during the Opening Session on Monday morning, Lawson came out with its new brand: "It's Time".  Jay Coughlan's and Dean Hager's speeches were very promising and enthusiastic. They both basically admitted that Lawson Software has been slack in living up to its promises, demos, and support response. This time, though, they intend to make improvements. Lawson plans to capitalize on the software industry's reputation for empty promises by creating a new brand and a new mission statement. Lawson believes that "it's time" that someone steps up to the plate and delivers what they promise to deliver-I couldn't agree more. I sincerely hope that Lawson is successful with this new campaign.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Jerry Leninger, was an astronaut and perhaps because of his occupation I expected to be thrilled and chilled by fascinating stories about outer space. I was not. Instead, I left the opening session wanting to run home to my family and tell them all how much I love them! He spoke of several events that happened to him during his 5 month stay on the Russian Space Station and how these events changed his life. The end result was that he felt he'd left nothing behind for his son and that he had failed his wife. Upon his return to earth, he set about changing the way he lived his life. He suggested that we all frequently tell our families, whether written or verbally, how much we love them. He ended by saying, if we can build rockets to go into outer space and send men to live there for 5 months, then we can certainly improve ERP software. Again, I couldn't agree more.

We all walked out of the Opening Session to a whole new world. Lawson's new brand was splashed all over the Georgia World Congress Center! They left interesting little anecdotes about how much time we spend doing various activities. With this, we all headed off to our first sessions. I attended primarily technology sessions, all of which I found very interesting and beneficial. I attend one functional session about Accounts Receivable. I was very impressed with the amount of information provided. The presenter went into great detail about the tables in the AR module and how data moves through the tables-depending on the action taken. I encourage you all to go to Lawson's Support Site to download and read through the presentations given at CUE. Some of them even had supplemental hand-outs, which were really the key portion of the session.

I didn't leave Atlanta empty handed. Not only were all conference attendees easily identifiable by the trendy satchel we all received upon check-in, but we all got loads of branded items from the various vendors. I must admit I was surprised by how few booths were in the exhibit hall. I wasn't the big winner of the 42" plasma screen TV, but I did win the Bose home theater system that was given away by the Emerging Markets group! I also got to meet Sugar Ray Leonard while at dinner Monday night. Aside from all of the prizes, fun events and famous people, I found CUE a very worthwhile trip. I returned to my office with a renewed faith in Lawson and renewed enthusiasm for the product. I'm looking forward to a successful year with Lawson, a successful upgrade, and to going to San Diego in 2005!





"Drive thy business or it will drive thee."
- Benjamin Franklin


2. Reporting, Part 2: Characteristics of a Reporting Solution
This month, we'll continue our multi-part series on reporting by exploring the various characteristics of a successful reporting solution. Remember from last month (see that the underlying goal of this series is to help you understand the various options that are available for generating reports from your Lawson database.

What are the Characteristics of a Reporting Solution?

To implement a full-featured reporting solution, you'll need to cover a lot of bases. When I visualize all of the services that are important in delivering a successful reporting solution it looks something like this:

Accessing and Aggregating Data from Disparate Data Sources

Leading the charge is the requirement that you want to be able to pull in data from a variety of sources. Sure, this series is all about reporting on your Lawson data, but if you're like most organizations, you also want to include data from other sources. Also, depending on the complexity of your reports, you might need to employ various techniques to read the data. Using many of the reporting products available, I can probably find several different ways just to get your data out of Lawson. I can use OLEDB or ODBC and connect directly to the database. I hook up via Lawson's OLEDB provider. I can report directly against the database tables, or create snapshot views in the database.

Abstracted views to support appropriate business constructs

You can use database views to hide some of the complexity of the underlying table structures (and associated table joins) when creating your reports. This helps you in the long run because, in addition to creating reports based on simpler structures, you don't have to worry about creating the proper joins in each and every report. One of the most frequent errors (and yes, I do it sometimes, too!) in design reports is choosing the wrong joins.

Creating views is really a database function; you create "logical" views of the physical data. For instance, if you're frequently creating reports that "join" the EMPLOYEE and PAEMPLOYEE tables, you'd probably want to create a view that joins them, and extracts data from both tables into a common view called vwEmployeeData:

And, the SQL syntax would look something like this:

create view "vwEmployeeData" 
from "lawson"."EMPLOYEE" c1, "lawson"."PAEMPLOYEE" c2  where
c1."EMPLOYEE" = c2."EMPLOYEE" and
c1."COMPANY" = c2."COMPANY";

Once you create the views in the backend database, they are visible to any (authorized) user who connects to the database, and can be used by many of the reporting packages.

Note: that if you are using Microsoft Access Queries, you are technically not using views; they don't compile on the server and create execution plans, etc. Access just pulls all the data from the server and simulates the view. The effect is roughly the same, but the IT impact (i.e. server resources, network) can be severe.

If you want to take advantage of views, I recommend working with a DBA or consultant knowledgeable in the Lawson data structures to design the views and store them in the backend database.


Any reporting solution needs to adequately support your security requirements. In a nutshell, you need to control who can have access (authentication), as well as what data can be accessed (authorization). This is the toughest part to implement for any reporting strategy, particularly the authorization part. Your level of success (or failure) can vary greatly depending on the solution, as well as your security requirements (and of course, your flexibility in adhering to them).

Report Authoring

The heart of any reporting solution is its authoring capability. If you can't create useful reports, what's the point? You'll want a tool that contains all the right features, like summary/total fields, formatting, subreports, etc. This topic is very important, so we'll cover it in greater detail in the coming months.


When you deliver your reports, you want them to not only look good, but to make sure that they're useful. You might want to create traditional page-oriented reports as well as highly-interactive reports with drill-down, and have them show up correctly in HTML, Adobe PDF, Excel, and XML.


You might also find it desirable to deliver targeted, concise, information to your users. If you've seen Lawson's Smart Notification (now also included in the Lawson Reporting Suite) or SQL Server Notification Services, you know the benefits of providing timely delivery of targeted information.


Being able to run reports on an as-needed basis is a minimum requirement for any reporting system. Where you really start to recoup your investment is when you can generate targeted reports, on pre-defined schedules with up-to-date information, which can be delivered to, or viewed by, your users.

Report Delivery

Information delivery can be characterized as "push" vs. "pull". When you run a PR260 payroll report and then review it up in the Lawson print manager, you are "pulling" a report. On the other hand, a notification of upcoming annual employee reviews that arrives in your email inbox is the "pushing" of information. The key is to provide a reporting infrastructure that supports both on-demand (pull) and event-based (push) delivery of reports.

"Bursting" is another useful feature, where, based on the user's organizational affiliation, you apply appropriate selection criteria to that group, so that the user sees only the relevant portion of their data, in effect "bursting" the whole report into sections. The techniques vary greatly depending on the solution. For example, in Crystal Enterprise, you might set up the same report in separate folders, with different selection criteria for each department/group. In Access, you could do roughly the same thing with a VBA module to split the report by looping through a department list, running a query for each department, and generating the report for the department.

Reports can be delivered to a portal, e-mailed or accessed via a Web-based application; they may be traditional page-oriented reports as well as highly-interactive reports with drill-down. Reports also need to be exportable to all the usual standards, including HTML, Adobe PDF, XLS/CSV, and XML.

Report Management

Reports seem to be the bane of any organization's existence, and you'll no doubt have to manage a lot of reports. You'll need a comprehensive tool that handles the scheduling, performance, security aspects of reporting.

What are the issues I should be concerned about?

Licensing/User Costs
You need to compare costs between server-based and client-installed products as well as their end-user license requirements and costs, if any. If you have to select a product that requires individual user licenses in order to implement security, that cost can add up quickly. If you have to invest in report designer/developer licenses, how many do you need?

Compare the installation effort and expense between server-based vs. client-based products. Installing a web-based reporting system with a "zero-footprint' deployment may be difficult, but may actually end up being cheaper than rolling out a product that must be installed on each user's desktop.

How well does the solution support your expected user base, and allow for significant potential growth?

Does the reporting solution support exports to your desired formats, such as HTML, Adobe PDF, XLS/CSV, and XML? Does the solution adhere to any applicable and desired standards, such as the forthcoming ".RDL" XML-based report definition file, which Microsoft is working on with other reporting software vendors, such as Crystal, Cognos, and Brio?. This will allow each vendor's products to interoperate across your various reports.


It's a pretty robust set of features, and you may not need all of them. But, keep in mind as you read this series on reporting that it's based on my ideal for what is important in a reporting solution. It combines a lot of the best ideas and features that are available in the major products. No one product can "do it all" at a price you're willing to pay. You need to decide what characteristics are most valuable to your organization.

3. Worthwhile Reading

ERP Integration Struggles To Connect
Getting applications to work with each other remains a big challenge for many companies.
Information Week, March 29, 2004

The Joy of Leadership
Don't let the work kill the wonder.
CIO Magazine, March 15, 2003

Leveraging IT to Enhance Financial Control - And Save Money
Intelligent Enterprise, April 3, 2004

Ramping up for RFID
Like it or not, those tiny ID chips are here. Supply-chain management, business intelligence, and logistics will never be the same.
Infoworld, April 12, 2004 .html

From Paper To Process
Many business procedures are closely linked to paper documents; improving a process often requires getting control of the documents.
Information Week, March 29, 2004

4. Reader Feedback

Send your comments to
Some comments on the April 2004 issue (see
I asked what you expected to see at Lawson CUE 2004:
"Two things will happen for sure at CUE this year (again):

* Lawson will announce that improving the Knowledge Base will be a priority. This is Lawson Support's Achilles Heel and will continue to be so. The KB content is terrible!

* Most sessions will be grossly over-crowded and many of us will end up sitting on the floor.

Thanks for providing the LawsonGuru Letter. I find it a quite valuable resource."
"portal, portal, portal......."

5. Survey: Can Lawson Deliver on its 1000-Day Plan?
You heard about it at the Lawson Conference and User Exchange (CUE). Lawson CEO Jay Coughlan announced: ", Lawson's initiative puts the interests of our clients' unmistakably first."

Specifically, Coughlan committed to measurable progress in reshaping all aspects of how Lawson delivers value to its clients in a series of steps over the next 1,000 days and promised to update Lawson's clients and others in the industry every 100 days on the progress the company is making towards setting industry-wide change in motion. ( Read Lawson's Press Release).
So, what do you think?

Is this just lip service, or can Lawson deliver on this promise?

Send me your thoughts:

6. Lawson Tips & Tricks
Share your tips. Send them to

(This month's tip comes from Bob Beverley, Independent Lawson Consultant)

Getting Alt Key characters into Lawson Applications

If you have a need to get characters like the Euro (€), ¼, ©, TM, etc. into Lawson, you can! If you're using portal it's as easy as using the 'alt key' function. This is an international standard of characters entered by pressing (and holding) the alt key while you key a 4 digit code on you keyboard number pad. For a complete list of characters go to

If you're using LID, you can still enter the desired character, but you need to make one change to your Font setting. On any Lawson form, click Options|Font - the default is WinPTFnt - change it to WinPTInt. Now the alt keys will work! Be sure to save your setting when you close LID.

Now your foreign language customers can see their invoices with all the à agraves, ã tildes, and any other characters they love (and deserve)! Another great use for these characters is places like the Item Master (IC11). You often want to enter fractions like ¼ and ¾ but without the alt key it takes up 3 spaces 1/4 - not anymore. Check out all the other characters that you might find useful.

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

For subscription information, see the bottom of this message.


© Copyright 2004, Decision Analytics. All rights reserved.   Please share The LawsonGuru Letter in whole or in part as long as copyright and attribution are always included.

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