I’m finishing up a project where I’m helping a customer convert from Lawson to Oracle. This is the second time I’ve helped a company make the move. Those making the switch are generally large for-profit companies who’ve decided to get all their systems on one platform. Unfortunately, Lawson doesn’t have the functionality or the reputation (which is equally important in the market) to support a one-platform setup.
But while Oracle is certainly a bigger package, it isn’t always a better package. Oracle attempts to solve a larger scope of business functionality than Lawson; but what Lawson solves, it solves more completely. So for my users – who are mostly finance folks– moving to Oracle often means taking a step backwards. Which is truly unfortunate.
To help others avoid taking this step back, I’ve listed below the top things your users will care about when you switch from Lawson to Oracle. This isn’t to say that there aren’t benefits both for finance and for the organization as a whole. Rather, it’s a case of “forewarned is forearmed.”
The Oracle Interface Isn’t Consistent
While Lawson’s line function codes may drive you crazy, the rest of the interface is quite consistent. You search for information, add information and change information the same way on every screen.
This is not true in Oracle. Oracle has two basic interfaces: the traditional Oracle form and the newer web interface. It’s not like Lawson where you can choose whether you want to use a web browser or LID. In Oracle, different functions are gradually migrating to the web. So you’ll choose an option and change interfaces. To make matters worse, even the traditional GUI forms don’t operate consistently.
The key, of course, is practice, practice, practice. You’ll need more training time.
Oracle Has Limited Drill Down
While in Oracle you can drill down from financial data, it doesn’t have the all-encompassing drill down capabilities of Lawson. So, if you’re in an invoice and want more vendor information, you need to switch forms. Lawson’s drill functionality doesn’t exist.
Add-ins Don’t Exist
Add-ins are the best tool Lawson ever built. As Lawson users know, with Add-ins you can upload data from Excel to almost every Lawson screen. While Oracle has basic upload functions through Web ADI, it doesn’t work nearly as well as Lawson’s Add-Ins.
There are third-party companies (like www.more4apps.com) that provide this kind of functionality. But because of the way Oracle is built, even these companies have to build functionality form by form and not in the global way Lawson’s architecture allows. (There are free, inexpensive tools like www.dataload.com that allow you to mimic keystrokes. But they only work with well-cleansed data and don’t provide the error capture strength of Add-ins.)
In my almost 20 years of working with ERP systems, I’ve never met anyone who liked the standard reports these systems produce. But Oracle’s reports sometimes lack even basic things like totals and sorting. Know what reports you run in Lawson (including things like edit listings) and make sure Oracle can handle them. What’s worse, Oracle reports don’t export to Excel as nicely as Lawson’s do.
Financial Reporting Won’t Be Improved
For those of you who love to hate Lawson’s RW100, you might hope that Oracle has a better solution. Sorry to say, but Oracle’s financial statement generator is no better (and in some ways worse). It will get the job done, but not in a way that will make you happy. (Its Excel export ability is even less.)
While I don’t have a crystal ball, I’m fairly certain this isn’t going to change. Oracle would really like customers to buy one of their Hyperion financial products, which are certainly solid applications but may be overkill. You might consider intermediate solutions like GL Wand www.excel4apps.com, which allow you to write and burst reports from Excel.
Setup Changes Are Harder to Make
Lawson is somewhat forgiving in terms of setup. If you don’t like the default account you chose, you can change it later. This isn’t true in Oracle. Often, once setup is done, that’s the value you’re going to have until you retire.
Basic Setup May Require Technical Help
Almost all your accounting setup in Lawson can be done without technical help. In Oracle, some accounts are determined by the Oracle Workflow account generator. This is especially the case with Projects but also applies elsewhere. This tool requires technical help, which leads to another point:
Oracle Tools Are for Developers, Not Super Users
Add-ins aren’t the only reason why Lawson users can get a lot done without technical support. Lawson’s database, while complex, is simpler than Oracle’s. This means that while super users may be able to write their own reports in Lawson, it’s pretty much impossible for them to write their own reports in Oracle. Generally, while Oracle has some very cool tools, they need strong IT support every step of the way.
None of this is to say there isn’t value in moving to Oracle. If your company is global or wants one comprehensive ERP solution, and not just a great financial package, Oracle offers more. But if you want to avoid taking a step back, it’s important to know what to expect and what you can do to make the transition as painless as possible.
Have you switched from Lawson to Oracle? What was your experience? Are you happier now?