Lawson Adds Data Mart to AS/400, Opens Portal

Besieged by requests from its customers, Lawson Software (Minneapolis) has responded by announcing the availability of its Financial Analysis data mart on the AS/400 platform. The Financial Analysis data mart -- a packaged, online analytical processing (OLAP) and data warehousing solution -- is designed to deliver business information to the desktop, via a standard Web browser.

Previously, Financial Analysis data mart was available on the AS/400 only as part of Lawson’s Insight package. The latest version of Insight Package, 7.0, was released on March 31 of this year and contains a variety of products that run on the AS/400, Unix and NT.

A few months ago, some of Lawson’s customers began calling to see if they could purchase the Financial Analysis data mart individually, according to David Freedman, VP of research and development for Lawson's AS/400 business unit. "Customers were requesting Financial Analysis data mart on the AS/400 without having to upgrade all their products," he says. "Some of the customers can’t get the Insight package until later in the year, but they still wanted to get the latest version of the data mart because it’s such a valuable tool."

Taking its customers' needs into consideration, Lawson decided to make Financial Analysis data mart available separate from the Insight package. Additionally, Lawson enabled the data mart to be backward compatible, so companies have the capability to purchase it without having to upgrade the rest of their products.

To create the Financial Analysis data mart, Lawson collaborated with Global Alliance Integrated Network (GAIN) partner ShowCase Corp.(Rochester, Minn.). The Showcase STRATEGY products, which IBM recently adopted as its strategic technology for AS/400 business intelligence, facilitate the transformation of enterprise data into business intelligence within the Lawson Financial Analysis system. "ShowCase helped us define and write the extraction routine from Lawson database," Freedman says.

Lawson’s Financial Analysis data mart creates Web-accessible, role-based solutions for decision support and performance on the AS/400 platform. The data mart works by retrieving enterprise data from Lawson and non-Lawson systems, translating and organizing this data, then storing the data in data marts.

On the AS/400, the Financial Analysis data mart is a valuable tool because it manages the analytical data model, data storage calculations and data security on the database server. The analytical database groups the information into subject-specific data, where the OLAP engine performs the analysis and returns answers to questions. "It takes data and turns it into working information," Freedman says. "It gives information users easy-to-use, easy-to-access information on how their company is being run and managed. A CFO can ask questions like 'what's my revenue budget right now, what will a balanced sheet look like if this trend continues?' -- things like that, and the Financial Analysis data mart provides the answer."

In other Lawson news, the company has also announced the commercial availability of Insight II SEAport, an enterprise portal solution. With the release of this solution in June, Lawson provides the enterprise computing market with the capability to create an integrated, role-based enterprise information portal.

Two years ago, Lawson introduced Self-Evident Applications (SEA), according Richard Lawson, president and COO of Lawson. "We don't believe the Internet is just another way to deploy a client/server offering," he says. Instead, applications that come across the Internet should be self-evident, requiring "zero training."

Simply put, the large volume of users accessing applications over the Internet cannot be trained, particularly when one considers the variety of backgrounds and experience these users bring with them, Lawson points out. SEAport is Lawson's manifestation of SEA technology, software that enables the creation of Internet portals that users access for information.

Insight II SEAport is the application side of portal technology, enabling the creation of a browser-based, customized information access environment. "In its simplest form, [a portal] is in fact a new corporate desktop inside the corporation," says Marty Gruhn, VP and services director of Summit Strategies Inc. (Boston). "This browser-based desktop allows the individual to have access to all of the kinds of information and resources they need to get their job done."

Integration with all Lawson Insight II business management system applications is expected to allow users to make Insight II SEAport their primary workspace. Further, SEAport integration with Lawson Insight II Collaborative Commerce Suite is expected to facilitate tracking of collaborative work processes and prevent processing delays caused by incompatibilities between software systems.