The LawsonGuru Letter, brought to you by Decision Analytics  

February 2007


In this issue:
1. Why Software Sucks, Lawson-Style
2. Lawson Design Studio, Part 3: UI Designer
3. Worthwhile Reading
4. Lawson Tips & Tricks

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.

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  1. Why Software Sucks, Lawson-Style )  
Does Lawson’s software suck?

Well, I recently read the new book, Why Software Sucks by David Platt, recommended to me by Michael Wardinski from Watson Wyatt Worldwide. You can check it out at David’s website (see

I won’t spoil the book for you, except to tell you that, while the title and concept of the book is intriguing, there isn’t a whole lot of new ground covered. A lot of the material re-hashes (albeit with attribution) ideas from Alan Cooper’s ground-breaking About Face (see

I’m also a big fan of Joel Spolsky, a prolific writer about software-related topics (see Joel recently published a diatribe where he asks, “How many Microsofties does it take to implement the Off menu?”:

  I'm sure there's a whole team of UI designers, programmers, and testers who worked very hard on the OFF button in Windows Vista, but seriously, is this the best you could come up with?  
  Every time you want to leave your computer, you have to choose between nine, count them, nine options: two icons and seven menu items. The two icons, I think, are shortcuts to menu items. I'm guessing the lock icon does the same thing as the lock menu item, but I'm not sure which menu item the on/off icon corresponds to.  

 (You can read the rest for yourself at

At this point, I knew I was onto a theme—so allow me to bring some of my Lawson pet UI peeves to your attention.  Now, remember, I use Lawson’s software every day, and for the most part, I like Lawson—but sometimes its software does suck.

Let’s start with ProcessFlow

In particular, check out the brand-new ProcessFlow Integrator 9.0.  When you first maximize it on your desktop, it looks just a wee bit too low:

And, if you look really closely towards to bottom, you’ll see that it’s partially obscured by the task bar, making it difficult to click on the Activity Node category groups:

Who designed this dialog box?

The next example of “sucky software” is this dialog box--although I can use it, even I can't begin to explain it:

You mean I can’t re-route flows?

Consider this example. I want to change the ‘unknown file’ link to send an email. To do this, my logical expectation would that I could drag an Email node into the flow and right-click the flow connection (or “flow edge” in Lawson parlance) and select an option to “re-route flow”, choosing a new from/to connection. But, alas, no:


To accomplish this, I have to first copy the JavaScript Condition Expression to notepad:

Then I have to delete the flow connection, create a new connection and insert the Javascript:

Why can’t I re-order the priority of the branching logic?

The Branch activity node works by reading from the top down, and executing the first “true” condition:

What if you want to change/re-order the logic? You can’t. You have to delete and re-create each branch connect (hopefully remembering to copy the JavaScript expressions to notepad first since you’ll them when you delete the branch connection!):

I can't reference ProcessFlow variables when using the Email Activity Node?

Presumably, whoever designed this dialog box has never used ProcessFlow to generate an email. When composing the email’s content, there is no (easy) way to insert variables. Here, I’ve had to type in the <!_inputData> variable, relying on my memory and keyboarding skills:

You can see the variables if you click on the Attachments tab. You can click the “>>” button to add the variable as an attachment—how come there’s not an ‘insert variable into content’ button?

Adding a Bookmark to a Group in Portal

Alright, we’ve picked on ProcessFlow enough. Let’s move onto Portal. If I want to assign a Portal Bookmark to a group of users, why does it take so many steps across so many tools?

First, I have to create the Group in Resource Management Administrator:

Then I have to edit each Resource to add them to my new Group:

(Note to Lawson: When I right-click on the Group, why can’t I have an ‘Add People Resources to Group’ option? )

Then I have to go into Portal Bookmark Manager, and Add the Group’s access to the desired bookmark:

Finally, each user still has to go and “subscribe” to the content:

So, there’s some of my pet UI peeves about Lawson’s software. Do you have any other examples about how Lawson’s software “sucks”? Send them to me at, and I’ll try to publish them, assuming of course, that they really do suck!

  2. Lawson Design Studio, Part 3: The UI Designer )  
  In this installment of our series on Lawson Design Studio, we dig a little deeper into its components. Looking back to the introduction to this series (see, you’ll remember that Design Studio includes these components:
  • UI Designer for modifying the content as well as—to a limited degree—the functionality of Lawson application forms.
  • Portal Page Designer for creating custom Lawson Portal pages. These pages can be composites of other Lawson forms or queries, or even non-Lawson web content.
  • Wizard Designer for creating step-by-step versions of Lawson forms.
  • API Builder and Scripting Environment to build Lawson AGS and DME calls for inclusion in your customized forms and to include JavaScript code for “behind-the-scenes” manipulation of form objects.

Why use the UI Designer?

In this article we delve into the UI Designer component. I see UI Designer as a two-tier set of tools:
  • The UI Designer, by itself, let’s you make simple (and even some complex) changes to the “look-and-feel” of your Lawson application forms.
  • To create even more complex customizations, you combine the API Builder and JavaScript components of Design Studio with the UI Designer.

Our focus, in this article, is the former. The UI Designer alone allows you, the developer, to solve—fairly quickly and easily—some of these common user complaints:
  • The Lawson forms are too complicated; we only use half of these fields anyway.
  • We don’t call this field “Accounting Unit”—we call it “Department Number.”
  • Why do I have to enter the company number every single time when we only have one company?
  • I have to use the mouse too much, it slows me down.

UI Designer lets you create simplified versions of your heavily-used Lawson-delivered application forms, by:
  • Simplifying forms for easier entry
  • Setting default values for quicker processing
  • Consolidating Form Tabs
  • Rearrange Header and Line Fields
  • Re-arrange field order and Tab key order
  • Adding an image or logo to a form
  • Removing unused fields
  • Exposing hidden fields
  • Moving fields from “More” buttons to main form itself
  • Renaming field labels to match your terminology
  • Repurposing User Fields

This results in:
  • Increased Ease of Use
  • Improved Data Entry Time
  • More Visible Information
  • Greater User Acceptance

A Few Words of Caution

I want to repeat some advice I offered in the introduction to this series.

When you’re creating customizations using Design Studio, be judicious—and know where to draw the line. Once you start to use it, you’ll think of more and more ways in which to customize your forms. In fact, this creates a serious dilemma. Each time you customize a form using Design Studio, you may think that you’re streamlining the application, when in fact you are actually adding a level of complexity to the system--as well as to your support infrastructure--and Lawson's support as well.

What happens when Lawson changes the form on which your customized form is based? Your Design Studio form breaks. What’s even worse for Lawson? The ugly fact about Design Studio is that Lawson now potentially has a custom version for each and every form—for each and every client! Perhaps you used Design Studio so that every occurrence of “Process Level” is called “Operating Unit” in your organization. You have to decode that nomenclature each time you open a support case. And Lawson—by giving you the ability to customize your screens—now has to deal with that as a support issue.

Understand Lawson Design Studio for what it was intended—cosmetic changes to Lawson forms—in this first level of customization, via the UI Designer, you’re changing only the “look and feel” of the Lawson application forms. We’ll discuss business logic changes later in the series, when we get to more complex discussions that involve adding behind-the-scenes JavaScript to your forms.

Until Next Time...

In the next installment, we’ll look at some example form changes using the UI Designer.
  3. Worthwhile Reading )  
  SOA: Under construction


“To invent, you need a good
imagination and a pile of junk.”
-- Thomas Edison

Enterprises are finding building SOAs slow going because of the many technologies’ dependencies. Here's what's happening on the ground.
Infoworld, November 6, 2006

Business Intelligence: Exploring the Depths of Data
What do a gasoline engine maker, publishing company and football franchise have in common? Their use of business intelligence software.
Baseline Magazine, November 2006,1540,2055636,00.asp

Can SOA Finally Deliver on the Promise of Enterprise Integration?
Proponents of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) promise a lot, including lower development costs, increased agility, greater ability to reuse assets, and better alignment of development with business requirements. Haven’t we heard this all before?
Business Integration Journal, November/December 2006
  4. Lawson Tips & Tricks )  

Preventing Portal 9.0 Users from Changing the Product Line and Other User Options

One of the new features in Lawson Portal 9.0 is the ability to "lock down" certain User Options, which is particularly useful since it can reduce the support calls from your users who have inadvertently changed certain options, like the user who needs you to "fix" the data that they "thought" they entered into the "correct" product line.

The key to locking down the options is to create a Portal Role (not to be confused with a Lawson Security role), assign the user(s) to the Portal Role, and then set up the Portal Role's options.  Here's how to do it:

1. From Portal Administration's Role Manager, create a new Portal Role:

2. After the Role is added, highlight and click 'Select'.  You can then disable the desired User Options:

3. From Lawson Security or Resource Manager, assign the desired users to your newly-created Portal Role:

4. Perform an IOSCacheRefresh (yes folks, even with LSF9, you still need to do it when you change security):

5. When the users (who you assigned to your new Portal Role) access the User Options form, the disabled options will be grayed out:


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