ROI Systems MANAGE-s Well Past 2000 Part 1: Recent Developments




Event Summary

On March 13, ROI Systems, Inc. (www.roisystems.com), a privately held provider of extended ERP software systems, with its headquarters in Minneapolis, MN, announced that Indiana-based Core Business Software Solutions (CBSS) would serve as a business partner in its Midwest region. CBSS, a technology consulting firm, will distribute and implement ROI Systems' MANAGE 2000 extended ERP system. CBSS's decision to distribute ROI's MANAGE 2000 was reportedly based mostly on the system's demonstrated ability to address the needs of midrange manufacturers. According to Terry Coonan, co-founder of CBSS, MANAGE 2000's strong out-of-the-box functionality and tailoring ease, ROI Systems' stable presence in the ERP market for over two decades, and its high percentage of pleased clients convinced the group that this was a partnership that promised success for CBSS and their future clients.

Recognizing that there are opportunities to increase its market share with a well-developed reseller network, ROI Systems has set its sights on expanding its business partner program. By creating strategic relationships between Business Partners and ROI Systems' Sales branches, the company is bolstering its ability to offer MANAGE 2000 to manufacturers throughout the world. The program, which has no upfront cost, offers a quick ramp-up for new partners by utilizing existing ROI Systems' resources to fill critical roles as partners learn the capabilities of the application.

These expansion aspirations came hand in hand with an impressive financial performance given the current economic milieu. On February 25, ROI Systems reported profitability for the year 2001. Results of ROI's fiscal year ending December 31, 2001 reportedly show "a dramatic increase in profitability over fiscal year 2000". The statements could not be supported with concrete figures owing to the company's private ownership. Also, ROI's very strong cash position at the end of 2000 was further improved in 2001, according to Paul Merlo, ROI Systems' CEO. The company also reportedly achieved a new software license sales record in December 2001. Its strong fourth quarter sales netted the company its second best sales quarter in its history. ROI Systems ascribes these achievements to the ability of its industry-experienced associates to deliver the specific products and services that each manufacturer needs to realize return on investment (ROI).

This is Part 1 of a two-part news analysis.
 
Part 2 will continue the discussion of the Market Impact and make User Recommendations.

Research & Development Commitment

The company also reports that its commitment to invest in research and development remains a high priority as it continues to evolve its MANAGE 2000 ERP software product to be fully Web-based. In 2001, a number of Web-based applications were introduced, best-of-breed supply chain applications were integrated, and the product was migrated to an n-tier architecture employing XML, HTML, and other leading-edge component technologies. Numerous portals were developed in the latter part of the year to be included in the product being delivered early in 2002.

To that end, on March 26, ROI Systems announced that enterprise knowledge portals, which provide links to the system's data, reports, and news events, are now also available to ROI clients. Because these portals are accessed via the Web, they might entice even infrequent users of the MANAGE 2000 system to begin using the system's real-time information in the normal course of their work.

ROI's enterprise knowledge portals provide pre-assembled links to information from many different data sources throughout MANAGE 2000, such as pre-built customer, supplier, engineering, call center, inventory and work order portals. For example, the customer's portal provides hyperlinks to order, service call, accounts receivable (AR), material return (RMA), contract and other customer-related information. These portals may be tailored to the reader's specific information needs and/or roles. In addition to aggregating information and supplying links to related functions and capabilities, the system automatically populates the news section of the portal's homepage to alert readers to changing conditions. For example, the customers' portal posts up-to-date news about incoming orders, customer payments and other items of interest about the selected customer.

Client Service Goals Met

Earlier, on February 6, ROI Systems, Inc., proudly reported its success in meeting its proverbial stringent goals for client service. Customer satisfaction surveys, follow-up calls and feedback from a core group of ROI's clients validated the achievement of service level goals. Led by Al Hermansen, ROI Systems' national client support manager, the company's client support organization has set goals for themselves and the company that were above and beyond what many call centers are willing to undertake. Slashing response times, boosting technician productivity, providing self-service to customers, opening new avenues for rapid customer feedback, delivering individualized "as you need it" education for customers, and engaging all ROI Systems' associates in improved client service were high-level goals.

As one department alone could not accomplish these aims, the entire company became customer-focused in pursuing the following aspirations:

  • ROI Systems decided first to invest in service training for the entire company, recognizing that each and every company associate interacts with clients directly or indirectly. Under this large undertaking, each ROI associate became Signature Service certified, and participates in reinforcement sessions.

  • The client-focused initiative spawned many new processes at ROI Systems. In-process and upcoming client activities now are entered into a master schedule that is closely monitored by representatives from all departments. One-on-one service is delivered over the Internet. Web-based education enables attendance by individuals from their workplace via the Internet.

  • ROI Systems uses their own MANAGE 2000 software to run all aspects of its business, including the service centers. The workflow capabilities in ROI's enterprise software system are harnessed to generate automatic messages to clients as their service requests are being processed. Automatic messages also are distributed to technicians and consultants at escalation points. In addition, the software enables clients to check the status of their "cases" at any time over the Internet.

  • Numerous feedback mechanisms are in place to collect up-to-date client input. ROI initiates follow-up calls, surveys are sent, and comments are encouraged. In addition, a Standing Board comprised of client representatives from each regional user group meets regularly with ROI to provide responses from across the MANAGE 2000 user base.

Based on follow-up surveys and direct client feedback in 2001, ROI Systems' service efforts have paid off. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the ultimate, ROI's clients rated overall service at 4.2 and Preferred Service at 4.3. Response times have been cut in half or more across the various types of requests coming into the service center. Requests of critical importance have been cut by 72%.

Market Impact

'Honesty and perseverance' have long been the key tenets of ROI Systems' corporate strategy, with positive results. Although ROI Systems is sometimes considered to be risk averse and not overly visionary, its deliberate decision making style for the past 24 years of its operation have kept it profitable, debt-free, and without any restructuring and disruptions. That is in a sharp contrast with the IT industry trends where short-lived 'killer' applications and hype have been the name of the game.

For more than two decades, ROI Systems has stuck to its core competencies rather than impetuously venturing into uncharted territory. The company has never abandoned its ERP roots even during the Internet frenzy days of the late 90s when anything associated with ERP was considered heretic and archaic. This does not imply that the company has not enhanced its product in the meantime - therefore earning the 'extended ERP' connotation. By adhering to an incremental, performance proven approach, ROI Systems has managed to deliver strong discrete manufacturing functionality for certain industries (e.g., electronics, industrial machinery, fabricated metals, medical products, transportation product suppliers, durable consumer goods, etc.) and excellent customer support.

This approach has been at the expense of slower-than-market growth until recently. As a result of incremental new technology enhancements, its sole product, called MANAGE 2000, today provides applications for e-business, production, planning, engineering, finance, sales, service, collaboration and business intelligence (BI), which is well beyond the traditional realm of ERP. It runs on Microsoft Windows 2000 and Unix platforms and integrates more than 40 applications for the above-mentioned functional areas. 

MANAGE 2000 also offers the IBM UniData nested relational database management system (RDBMS), fax, e-mail & EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), workflow management based on event/condition/ action (ECA) architecture, automated data input (ADI) and shop floor data collection. The architecture is being transformed to be compliant with the Microsoft .NET strategy, uses XML, HTML Microsoft's COM+, IIS and active server pages (ASP) technologies and is ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) compliant, which provides for integration with applications such as Microsoft Office, CAD, import/export, and MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) software products. The n-tier product architecture has also been adopted recently, which keeps the product abreast of contemporary technical requirements for web-enablement and interconnectivity.

This concludes Part 1 of a two-part news analysis.
 
Part 2 will continue the discussion of the Market Impact and make User Recommendations.

 
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