After the "shot heard around the world" - Lawson CEO, Harry Debes' interview in Asia mocking SaaS - Lawson arranged a call for a handful of Enterprise Irregulars with Dean Hager, who runs their product strategy to clarify.
He made two major points:
a) Lawson does have a SaaS offering - narrowly focused on Strategic HRM. They
have not "seen demand" in other areas. As they vertically focus on 6
industries they are less and less inclined to just sell horizontals
apps like CRM - their CRM components are verticalized - and they do not
see SaaS demand at that level
b) They offer along with IBM and other partners an "off premise" model - the "Total Care" package - where IBM (and other services partners) runs the infrastructure and post-live apps management. It is a middle ground between on-premise and SaaS - close to what I have previously defined as Software as a Customized Service - SaCS. It is somewhat like an ASP model (which his CEO had also questioned in the interview so Dean did some back pedaling on that). Dean says that's what "hundreds" of Lawson customers want and have signed up for.
Some of our push back was on the lines of:
a) Lawson verticalization is not that deep. In healthcare, one of its 6 strategic focus industries, Lawson is not a player at all in a number of clinical applications as are Cerner, Epic or Mckesson. They are essentially an accounting, HR and materials management player - horizontal areas where SaaS is definitely making in-roads. To which Dean's comment was SaaS vendors like NetSuite are aimed at a much smaller customer base. Surprising a vendor which made its mark in the System 38 and AS/400 market considers itself focused on "larger" customers.
b) When Lawson announced its Total Care offering last year I called it "SaCS Baby steps". I had a number of questions about economics, terms etc. that Dean did not have answers to. From my own calculations, the off-premise solution. while better than an on-premise solution, still prices out at 4 to 7X more expensive per user than SaaS pricing benchmarks in the market. And I believe it requires a multi-year contract with IBM so it would not be as flexible as emerging SaaS contracts. We have requested a follow up call to understand the details.
Overall, the call provided a much more nuanced Lawson view on SaaS - not the dismissive view Harry had expressed in his interview. Not being an industry leader in the area though, their attempts to re-define what "SaaS means" or to fight its economics are not going to be easy.