BACKGROUND: Westaff is a staffing company based in Walnut Creek, California. The 51-year-old firm, which has a presence in six countries, tallied $599.7 million in sales in 1998, with income from continuing operations of $13.7 million. It specializes in supplying office, light industrial and light technical personnel to a wide range of companies and industries. Westaff employs approximately 270,000 people worldwide.

PLATFORMS: Westaff uses an HP 9000T running UNIX, Oracle8.0 and Lawson 7.0.8 (7.1.3 on the HRMS). Clients consist of Windows 95 PCs and WINFrame terminals.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Westaff needed to resolve Y2K issues, improve reporting and analysis, streamline processes and facilitate data exchange. It was critical for employees in the finance group to conduct their own business analysis and create their own reports. Lawson INSIGHT II Financial Process Suite allowed us to quickly develop data mart functionality so that needed information was available at the push of a button or two using online analytical processing (OLAP). Westaff went live with the Lawson solution in February 1999.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: At present, about a dozen employees use Lawson's OLAP capabilities to analyze key statistics and performance indicators. Westaff is now spending more time making business decisions than generating reports. Ultimately, we plan to take advantage of existing Lawson features that let us establish specific views for each field manager, so that it's no longer necessary to mail cumbersome hard-copy reports. Field managers go to the corporate intranet and open their portal page, where they view up-to-date financial information that's customized to their needs. Eventually, we want to provide selected employee and customer data through Lawson's Web-based applications.

STRENGTHS: The Lawson solution, which consists of INSIGHT II Financial Process Suite (General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Asset Management), Procurement Suite, Human Resources Suite and Analytic Suite, was easy to install and didn't sacrifice any functionality. Altogether, the implementation took about six months to complete with minimal need for outside consulting. The data conversion process was extremely smooth ­ no small feat considering we have about 80,000 general ledger accounts. Lawson's software is also intuitive and didn't require any significant training. Finally, Lawson's seamless integration to Hyperion Essbase (a third-party OLAP database) provided a vehicle that allowed a relatively simple method to populate the data mart. Once the data was transformed into the OLAP environment, we were then able to cube the data so that users could analyze and drill through data within Excel spreadsheets using the Analytic Suite's tools.

WEAKNESSES: Lawson tends to migrate the business processes into a company-centric view which is acceptable from a legal standpoint, but Westaff doesn't necessarily look at data by company. We're interested also in regional and geographic data. We have created this capability relatively easily using the Essbase tools.

SELECTION CRITERIA: A major issue in selection was Lawson's Web-based and OLAP capabilities. We were interested in Lawson's Self-Evident Applications and the firm's overall information architecture. OLAP was an important feature. We needed a suite of applications that could provide a high level of functionality ­ with powerful, easy-to-use analytical and reporting tools. We also wanted to partner with a vendor that is committed to the professional services industry. Originally, we had planned to go with another vendor; however, after evaluating the capabilities of Lawson's INSIGHT II and Lawson's strategic direction, we knew Lawson was the best choice.

DELIVERABLES: Using Lawson's INSIGHT II, we are able to break down the barriers to accessing and analyzing information. Ultimately, that helps us drive improvement in business processes and cut costs.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Westaff required minimal outside consulting to complete the implementation, and Lawson's internal support was outstanding. Lawson made a lot of promises going in ­ and frankly we weren't sure they could live up to them. But they have exceeded our expectations.

DOCUMENTATION: Lawson's documentation, including online help, is extensive and has never presented any major problems. Most employees are able to pick up the product and use it with little or no significant training.

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