Lawson Software is now in the midst of the "Manifesto for Change" initiative it unveiled in May at its user conference in Atlanta. The plan involves a 1000-day turnaround effort at the company which so far has included a restructuring that relies more on a centralised sales and service hierarchy rather than vertical lines such as healthcare and government. Dean Hager, the chief product officer who reports directly to Lawson chief executive Jay Coughlan, spoke with Computerworld US about how the effort is going.
Tell us about the latest initiatives at Lawson. The software industry has the lowest bar of any industry in terms of meeting clients' expectations. We were talking with clients, and they've been saying things like, "The implementation went terrific, but we're not getting the full value out of what we purchased, and we'd like to without a reorganisation or a lot pain." (Lawson) started an initiative and came up with a number of things to transform the company over 1000 days in the areas of clients, products, people and brand. But (the industry has) spent a lot of years creating this culture of underperforming for clients, and it won't change overnight.
Can you point to any milestones during the first 100 days of the initiative? The first is a consulting transformation. With (newly appointed executive vice president of services) Brad Callahan, we've brought in someone with consulting expertise to help transform Lawson. There is also a continuity of care initiative, an idea we borrowed from the healthcare field. If you're a patient, you don't want disruption of care because one physician handed you off to another. The same thing applies in software: You have a sales team first, and then you are transitioned to the implementation team — and time and (the client's) goals get lost. We've created a process to deliver continuous care. One example: When we put together the implementation team, someone who was there at the beginning (of the sale) has to be on it.
Can you elabourate on the care initiative? We kicked off an initiative for more interactive (online) support, and now we have 54 % of all clients online versus using the telephone, and the satisfaction rate is 97%. The next step, in beta, is that when an e-ticket is being submitted, Lawson can grab the (relevant system) information right off the client's system. We can get more information than if the client entered it in themselves.
Some of the care is proactive. We are assigning client managers based on the complexity of a client's implementation. The size can be irrelevant; a small client can have a complex implementation.
In terms of technology, what's coming? Lawson has 2,000 clients paying (for) maintenance and most are in service industries such as government, healthcare, retail and financial services. Lawson still offers vertical expertise. They have been sold primarily finance, human resources and procurement applications. In the 1990s, the clients purchased software to fix broken processes, and now they are purchasing them for more information. In the last two years, we acquired business intelligence companies and have integrated their products into our core enterprise performance management offering.
Being in the enterprise performance management space, people think we are offering a stand-alone product to compete with Hyperion. That's not our strategy. We believe for information to be useful, it has to be in the context of a business process. We are able to let customers use enterprise performance management (software) combined with (executing) transactions, budget and planning and process automation and business intelligence.
How is the company's overall health? We've got sound financials, virtually no debt and we're profitable.
How is the Oracle/PeopleSoft situation affecting you? It's an opportunity for us. We know a number of PeopleSoft customers bought the software because they didn't want Oracle.