Since 1995, I’ve worked extensively with Lawson software. Until this month, that is, as my last Lawson client is moving into Dynamics NAV.
I’ve learned a lot about NAV over the last few years. And while I do miss Lawson at times, Lawson’s time has passed for my core clients (who aren’t in health care or government).
Why My Clients Have Moved From Lawson
Before I explain, note that my observations about Lawson are largely based on my for-profit clients in the greater NY area. Generally, these clients fall into two large categories:
Companies that grew into the multi-billion dollar category
As these clients grew, they saw no real added functionality in Lawson and have therefore moved to SAP and Oracle mostly. This move was often driven by the desire to consolidate on a single ERP—and they didn’t feel Lawson had the functionality they wanted or a strong interest in meeting their needs.
Mid-market companies for whom Lawson got too expensive
Many of these companies bought Lawson in the mid-90s/early 2000s to run on Unix and/or AS400 systems. At the time, Windows/SQL server solutions didn’t have the power to run $100 million dollar companies (or if they did, they needed an awful lot of support).
But over the years, Lawson’s maintenance grew and grew—to the point where I’ve seen companies cut maintenance costs by over 80-percent by moving to different packages. The crazy thing is that Lawson will cut deals with new customers or re-licenses, but they won’t do the same for clients on maintenance. Then again, even if existing clients could get a deal, the costs in the Lawson ecosystem would probably still be higher than in the Dynamics world.
As a Dynamics NAV Consultant, I can say that Dynamics NAV is not a good fit for companies in the first category. (I do know some former Lawson consultants have moved clients to Dynamics AX, but I don’t know enough about AX to comment.)
I will say that, in recent years, Lawson made some changes to make it a little more user friendly. (My experience with Lawson runs from version 6.0 to version 9.0.1—or thereabouts.)
Where Dynamics NAV Beats Lawson
Easier data entry
I base this statement on the experience of a client who recently moved from Lawson to NAV. Fundamentally, Lawson is based on a batch process developed over 30 years ago. And consequently, many processes require multiple screens and steps. If you’ve been using Lawson for a long time, you may not even notice some of these steps (e.g. Bl121, Bl122 and Bl123 to post an invoice).
But when these steps go away—and all you have to do is push “post”—life is good and the time savings are real.
More flexible account string and better online analysis
Lawson has been promising a more flexible account string since 1998. (I recall hearing it for the first time at a sales conference presentation.) Other than Lawson’s stillborn strategic ledger, nothing much happened. Of course, you can get creative with attributes, activities and account categories in Lawson, but it’s challenging. And you have to build lots of custom reports to get the data out.
NAV Dimensions, in contrast, is much more flexible. And NAV has many more built-in tools for analysis that really work.
Jet Reports for financial report writing
Lawson’s RW100 Report Writer seemed like a great tool once. But that was over 20 years ago. While there are many levels to Jet Reports, even with the basics you can build your financial report in Excel. Yay!
(For my thoughts on the best uses of Jet Reports vs. SSRS, see this post.)
Manufacturing and warehouse functionality
Most of my Lawson clients only needed financials and procurement. And Lawson was fine for that. But even though these clients weren’t full manufacturers, they could have sometimes used more advanced warehouse or manufacturing pieces. These pieces are included with NAV but were never part of the Lawson package.
Simpler administration and installation
Over the years, folks in the Lawson world came to expect ever more complex installs. Between WebSphere and Tivoli, a basic install took days (and sometimes even a week) per server. And a lot of this was for stuff that really only benefitted big users.
A Dynamics NAV install is basically a day’s work. Not coincidentally, the skills you need to keep the back end going are also easier to train or outsource.
Built in workflow
Standard Lawson had some basic ways to control workflow. With security, for example, you could allow some folks to enter data and others to post batches. But that’s not real workflow.
NAV comes with workflow. And as more companies try to get away from paper, NAV provides a solid starting point out of the box.
A larger third-party ecosystem, at less cost
No ERP software gives you everything you want. But because NAV is so widely installed, it has a large variety of third-party ISVs to fill the gap. In addition, where $25K-$50K was the typical starting point in the Lawson world, many NAV solutions are a fraction of that.
Where Lawson Beats Dynamics NAV
But all is not sweetness and light. There will be days when you miss Lawson. This isn’t a matter of having to “just get used to something new.” Rather, some things in NAV don’t work as well:
Lawson Add Ins for MS Office
Lawson Add Ins, and its backing technologies, are the best Excel integration tools I’ve seen. And I say that based on my experience with Lawson, Oracle EBS, Dynamics GP and Dynamics NAV. Yes, third-party options are available. But Add-Ins is just a wonderful tool.
The ability to maintain multiple balance sheets in one company
NAV is based on a separate data sets for each company—which is fine if you’re a mid-sized company that doesn’t have many entities. But if you’re used to paying bills for multiple entities out of one company, you’ll need to seriously look at your process or consider third-party products that build on NAV capabilities.
Are you on Lawson and considering your next steps? Or have you made a decision to move and are in the process?