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Lawson Calls On Dunivan For Encore

October 19, 2007
Related Topics: Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS/HRIS), Workforce Planning, Featured Article
For Larry Dunivan, Lawson's forthcoming HR software amounts to a repeat performance.

    Dunivan is vice president for global human capital management at software firm Lawson. As such, he's leading the St. Paul, Minnesota-based company's quest to define the cutting edge in HR software. Lawson is on the verge of releasing a set of applications covering matters including global HR, compensation management, talent acquisition, succession planning and performance management. The products are the result of roughly two years of development, and represent Lawson's single largest investment during this period.

    Dunivan, 46, was on a similar mission before. He came to Lawson as director of development for HR products in 1995. During the next several years he spearheaded an effort to build Web-based applications. Lawson became one of the first major business software vendors to let customers access manager self-service tools via the Internet.

    But Dunivan left the company in 2001. Lawson's leadership at the time put its emphasis on specific industries, such as retail and health care, he says.

    Fast-forward to the summer of 2005. Dunivan was working as vice president of technology at a consulting firm. An old Lawson colleague contacted Dunivan, telling him the firm's new president, Harry Debes, wanted to talk to him about an HR software project.

    Over lunch, Debes made the case that Lawson was different now and that the HR software market was fertile, largely because of Oracle's recent acquisition of People Soft. By October, Dunivan had rejoined Lawson. And he set out to build new HR software.

    A big man with a buzz cut and raspy voice, Dunivan has a high-energy leadership style, says Amy Ihlen, human capital management product manager at Lawson. "He wears his heart on his sleeve,'' she says. "He's enthusiastic. He'll cheer. He'll clap.''

"He wears his heart on his sleeve. He's enthusiastic. He'll cheer. He'll clap."
--Amy Ihlen, HCM product manager, Lawson Software

    Dunivan has been clapping for—and occasionally criticizing—a team of about 75 people who have worked on the new software. For months Dunivan's team acted as a Lawson version of Lockheed Martin's storied Skunk Works, quietly going about their work. The lack of news led some Lawson employees to lose confidence in the project, Dunivan recalls. "People assumed it was a disaster waiting to happen,'' he says.

    But last December, Dunivan started showing test versions of the HR software within Lawson. And it turned heads.

    The Lawson board was won over by a demonstration, Debes says. "They said, 'Wow! Can you go to market faster?' ''

    Lawson plans to launch the new applications in the coming months. Dunivan says the software suite will stand out from other "talent management'' products for its tight integration—for example, components use the same library of"competencies'' to allow for better hiring and grooming of employees.

    But Dunivan and crew face tough competitors, including industry giants Oracle and SAP."I know that only my very best work will help us win,'' Dunivan says.

    Despite the pressure, he doesn't regret returning to Lawson and taking another stab at HR-software greatness. "You don't get many chances in your life to do it all over again.''

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