IBM Extends ERP-in-a-Box to Lawson

IBM has always sold the AS/400 as a ready-to-run system, with pertinent software already installed and integrated. In recent years, the company has amplified this type of offering with "custom servers" preconfigured with ERP packages--still a rarity among other platforms in the complex ERP arena. Recently, Lawson Software (Minneapolis) has joined IBM's effort with a preconfigured offering of its own. The package, an AS/400e Custom Server with Lawson Software, integrates AS/400 hardware, Lotus Domino software and the Lawson Insight business management system.

"IBM AS/400e Custom Server lets organizations jump-start their e-business initiatives with an end-to-end solution that includes the platform, middleware, front office, back office, infrastructure, financing and complementary resources," says Dean Hager, VP of Lawson's IBM Business Practice. "It allows companies to integrate messaging and workflow throughout the enterprise."

IBM launched the custom server program in 1997 to give new ERP customers a fully integrated, pre-configured solution. Because it is designed to attract new AS/400e customers, the entire package--hardware and software--must be purchased together. The package is typically offered on AS/400e 700 Series servers. Since its inception, the program has grown to include about 15 partners, including J.D. Edwards, Infinium, SSA, JBA International, SAP, Acacia Technologies and Baan Co. "We have sold approximately 1,500 custom servers since the program started," according to Kevin Kennedy, global ERP mid-market alliance manager with IBM.

There were a number of reasons why IBM teamed up with Lawson Software to expand the program's offerings. "Lawson is very strong in the middle market and that's where we see the ERP market going," says Kennedy. Perhaps the biggest factor, however, is Lawson's e-business and Lotus Domino focus. "They're really aggressive in their e-business approach, which was a big plus because that's something that we're putting a big emphasis on," says Kennedy. "The fact that Lawson sees the benefit of Lotus/Domino in e-business was also a definite plus. Those two things combined made them very attractive."

Lawson is equally enthusiastic about Domino. "Domino has been a great thing for us, it has the ability to take front-end transactions and connect them with the back-end," says Shawn Olson, a technology consultant with Lawson. "We have the architecture to make the Domino strategy work."

IBM will preload the AS/400e based on customer's request. The customer can choose any of the Lawson Insight packages--financial, HR, procurement and/or supply-chain process suites. Customers also have the option to choose the AS/400e server that fits their needs, including the Dedicated Domino Server. The Custom Server is available through IBM, Lawson's direct sales force and Lawson's STAR (Strategic Territory Affiliate Relationship) partners. Financing options are available through IBM Global Financing.

"The focus is on mid-market companies that want to jump start e-business initiatives," says Olson. "The AS/400 with Lawson helps get e-business operations up and running. It saves companies a lot of time and money by having it preconfigured."

As with the ERP market in general, sales have slumped in the AS/400 ERP due to the Y2K lockdown. However, Kennedy is optimistic about the prospects for both the ERP market and IBM's custom server program. "We're real positive about the ERP market," says Kennedy. "The fourth quarter of 1999 and first quarter of 2000 are expected to be slow. After that, we are anticipating a big rebound in the ERP market."