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Lawson Software Review

 

Infor/Lawson Company Viability Review

To a large degree, the viability or stability of Lawson as a vendor depends on that of the parent company Infor. The basic numbers portray a massively stable organization. As the 3rd-largest software vendor in the ERP arena (and the 10th-largest software company of any type on a global scale), Infor provides services and business software applications to 70K+ customers across more than 164 countries. Revenue is in the region of $3B annually (with 17% annual licensing growth). Staffing is at the 8,000 level spread across 120 offices worldwide. Finally, Infor’s strategic partner portfolio holds 1,100 names. Based on the figures, it's clear that Infor (and by extension, Lawson) has the solid footing (and deep pockets) to compete at the highest levels.

However, like many other enterprise-level legacy vendors, Infor’s ‘product list’ – running the gamut from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to Supply Chain Management (SCM), and Financials – is geared towards gaining a solid lock on the on-premises (and therefore license/maintenance revenue) market. Nevertheless, Infor and its peers have in recent years experienced a high degree of disruption to their long-standing revenue model caused by the fundamental swing in the software industry towards the "cloud".

Additionally, much of Infor’s revenue growth (similar to Oracle) has come about via the acquisition route over the last ten or so years, including:

  • Agilisys (2002);
  • Brain AG (2002);
  • Future Three (2003);
  • Infor Business Solutions (2004);
  • Daly.commerce (2004);
  • Varial Software (2004);
  • NxTrend Technology (2004);
  • Aperum (2004);
  • IncoDev Software (2004);
  • Lilly Software Associates (2004);
  • Mercia Software (2005);
  • MAPICS (2005);
  • Paragon (2005);
  • Intuita Holdings (2005);
  • Alpine Systems (2005);
  • Formation Systems, Inc. (2005);
  • Datastream (2006);
  • GEAC ERP (2006);
  • Extensity (2006);
  • Systems Union (2006);
  • SSA Global (2006);
  • Profuse (2007);
  • Workbrain (2007);
  • Hansen (2007);
  • Corpsoft (2007);
  • SLA Management Services (2008);
  • SoftBrands (2009);
  • Bridgelogix (2010);
  • Qurius (2010);
  • Lawson Software (2011);
  • ENXSUITE (2011).

The downside of such an assertive acquisition strategy is that while revenue grows, so does the consequent ‘technical debt’ and Infor’s reputation has become (in the words of the IDG News Service) that of, "a holding company for its many acquisitions than a cohesive software vendor with a focused vision." Many industry analysts and commentators have long viewed Infor as a ‘patchwork quilt’ entity lacking a clear direction (hence the concerns over Lawson’s future in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 acquisition). However, the current Infor executive team seems more than willing to dispel this negative image.

The first step was the presentation of a new middleware solution, ION, designed to bring some much-needed harmony to the company's own disparate application base and address the technical integration issues with third party solutions. As Ventana Research's Robert Kugel put it, "ION is designed to be easier and more economical…to get multiple applications to work together to execute end-to-end processes, whether the software is on-premises, in the cloud or in a mixed environment." The company's Infor10 suite ION, alongside other new additions – common business rules, localization, and reporting features – provides a much-needed variable deployment option for the company.

The second strategy strand is a focus on strengthening the company's existing emphasis on industry-specific solutions. Indeed, the depth of vertical differentiation is such that few vendors can compete and for clients within the supported verticals, significant savings in terms of implementation and maintenance can be achieved. The ongoing Infor strategy is to use this array of specific (virtually bespoke) offerings to increase market share in the Global 1000 – a niche that Infor believes will grow its value proposition and competitiveness.

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