Lawson's CEO spells out '1,000-day' plan

Jay Coughlan, the CEO of ERP vendor Lawson Software Inc., Monday spoke at Conference and User Exchange (CUE) 2004 in Atlanta about the company's plans to better attract and keep customers. He expounded on those plans, as well as about the current state of the market, in an interview today with Computerworld's Marc Songini.

Can you elaborate on your message at CUE 2004? We're framing the vision of breaking away. The research we have done shows a great amount of dissatisfaction in the (ERP) user community. People want to know they're getting value out of their systems.

We're using time and saving people time as an additional theme. It's (software success) not just about return on investment, or purely based on head count reduction or inventory turns. We're breaking away (from the other ERP vendors) using this concept. As this market matures, we need to provide more time to customers to do whatever they need to be more efficient and more competitive.

It's a journey over the next 1,000 days and we'll create metrics on how customers use our software better to save time.

Can you give us concrete examples of what's coming? Out of the chute we had a quality product in Lawson 8.1. Going forward, we need better quality. We need to change the way customers do patches. We'll start with the fact that they should not have to do patches. Patches are no-value-added work. We're not going to do that tomorrow. Our goal is to eliminate that in less than 1,000 days.

In terms of a product road map, what can we expect? Some stuff that's in research and development we'll probably announce over the next 100 days. In the June time frame, we'll have a better product road map with an expansion of enterprise performance management. The real issue with (EPM) is what people do with their information. Most customers stop at the first round of information. There will be deeper vertical functionality we'll build or acquire, specifically in the health and public sector.

How do you stand in the market against giants like Oracle or SAP? Big doesn't necessarily mean better, or our research would have said something different. There is no incentive for Oracle or SAP to change the game. They are the game; they have good earnings per share and revenue growth. What incentive do they have to raise their standards? I think the consolidation that is happening is also an opportunity for us.

Has the Oracle/PeopleSoft fight affected you at all? It's not helping us, and it's not hurting us. It's a little bit of a distraction. I'd love to have the Department of Justice decision put this behind us one way or the other. If they don't merge, we can compete with them as we do today -- life doesn't change. If they do merge, big is not necessarily better.

Will you survive as an independent company? We've gotten asked about consolidation, and it's not our goal to be bought. We're financially strong. I used to be adamant about not getting bought. But I don't think PeopleSoft wanted to get bought either. Microsoft or Oracle have a lot of cash, and we're a public company.

There are only four or five vendors in the realm of purchasing us, unless someone comes out of left field, like General Electric.

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