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Innovation

Lawson success but no saas here

It didn't escape my Irregular colleagues' attention that Harry Debes, Lawson CEO went on a tear about the viability of the saas model.Anshu Sharma chose not to comment in public but I leave it to astute observers to detect the steam coming out of his ears.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor on

It didn't escape my Irregular colleagues' attention that Harry Debes, Lawson CEO went on a tear about the viability of the saas model.

Anshu Sharma chose not to comment in public but I leave it to astute observers to detect the steam coming out of his ears.  Meanwhile Vinnie Mirchandani pushes back, suggesting:

Investors may not be thrilled with the SaaS business model. But more customers are liking it, and that's who Harry - and Larry [Ellison] - should be listening to.

Vinnie knows Harry's history better than most. Bob Warfield agrees with Vinnie, noting:

Well what do the analysts think?  Looks like they’re predicting annual growth of 30% for Lawson and about 43% for Salesforce.

Well maybe this is all just a Salesforce aberration and other SaaS companies can’t match the numbers.  What about my other favorite, Conquer?  Back to Yahoo, and it looks like they’re selling $194M and their EBITDA is $42.72M.  Wow!  They make half as much EBITDA as Lawson on 1/4 the revenue?  Who is the profitable one now?

But then Anshu and Bob are saasy people while Vinnie is in it for the buyer value stakes. As am I but then I recognize all software companies need to make a turn or they fail. And I recall when Lawson was truly on a roll back in the late 1990's, developing cool technology before it hiccuped badly in overseas markets and ended up retrenching.

In the meantime, I receive a steady stream of case material from Lawson's PR company. It has some delighted customers like Cheryl Crates, CFO at Carpentersville Unified School District. She oversees a large Lawson implementation that includes financials, HR, e-learning and procurement. Cheryl has many years ICT experience but as CFO she has to count the pennies. Cheryl says that economic constraints require that she keeps administration costs pegged back. That translates into the need for continued innovation and cost reduction. She attributes some $200,000 in procurement savings to the Lawson reverse auction system and surrounding business process automation. However, achieving those savings isn't a given: "Lawson is complex and robust and therefore the install is a long and arduous process but now we're enjoying the functionality on the back end."

If that sounds familiar then let's not be surprised. On premise software that has been in development many years is far more mature than many of the saas offerings in the market. But then nothing is that clear cut. As Phil Wainewright says:

My own take is that many applications work better when they can take advantage of the compute resources of powerful clients, and that cloud-serviced client platforms such as Adobe’s AIR, Microsoft Silverlight and Google Gears are the way of the future (albeit with some caveats, which I’ll come back to later). I say ‘cloud-serviced’ because it’s important that the software for these client platforms should be managed from the cloud. I’m not advocating a return to the bad old days of leaving users struggling with shrinkwrapped software installs.

But I do think that there are many occasions when users want to be delighted and supported by a client experience that the browser alone simply can’t deliver (and sometimes they want or need to work offline, too).

This debate won't end anytime soon.

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