Just a few weeks after finalizing its purchase of Lawson Software, Infor this week announced several planned upgrades to its newly acquired M3 enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. For Lawson customers, it's reassurance that Infor will invest in the application.
On the agenda for M3 are interface upgrades, implementation of Infor's ION architecture of application integration, and specific ties to Infor plug-in apps for production planning, product lifecycle management, distribution and warehousing, and corporate performance management. That's welcome news for those invested in M3, an ERP system designed for companies that manufacture, distribute, and maintain products or equipment.
The key to the new integration options is Infor's ION interoperability architecture, which is essentially an enterprise service bus and supporting repository that enables applications to exchange transactional information in the form of standards-defined documents formats for purchase orders, customer orders, price lists, item descriptions, and so on.
"It's an unbreakable connection because you can publish any changes and ION will ensure that you can consume those documents in the correct way," said Henrik Billgren, VP of Lawson product management, in an interview with InformationWeek.
Once M3 is "IONized," as Billgren put it, integration options will open up to Infor applications as well as third-party and custom-built apps.
Infor's production planning system will help manufacturers better plan batch and process production runs. Product lifecycle management will help food manufacturers, for instance, manage and track the formulas and nutritional-value information that goes into their recipes. Infor distribution and warehouse-management software will help customers in manufacturing and distribution efficiently manage goods and operations.
Lawson has lacked corporate performance management applications, so Infor's in-depth capabilities for financial planning, budgeting, consolidation, and strategy score-carding will provide an option for CFOs and departments of finance using Lawson ERP.
The Lawson M3 Smart Office interface and Infor Workspace interface will be integrated to support single-sign-on and a unified user experience across applications. Lawson search and mashup capabilities will also be blended into the combined interface, which may be a boon to Infor customers.
Infor previously announced its intentions for Lawson's S3 ERP system when it finalized the acquisition of Lawson. Infor's FMS SunSystems Enterprise app will give S3 a low-cost financial management system option for subsidiaries and satellite facilities. Infor's Enterprise Asset Management system will enable S3 to better manage operations, tracking, and maintenance of capital equipment. And Infor's Workforce Management application combined with Lawson's Human Capital Management system will create a single system for managing all employee-related functions, including core HR, talent management, eLearning, time and attendance, and payroll.
Infor has not been very aggressive about product development in recent years, but in March the company announced it would hire 400 additional engineers to step up software improvements. But Infor's biggest push is in .Net development, whereas Lawson's back-end apps are all in Java. Billgren pointed out that both companies use .Net user interfaces and added that he doesn't foresee any obstacles to developing S3 and M3 over the long term.
"I wouldn't speculate about whether Infor is supporting Java because they have their own [Java-based] LN ERP product line," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind that Infor is committed to investing in the Lawson products."
Infor hasn't specified release dates or product roadmaps, but it said many of these product enhancements will roll out this year.
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