At the end of February, during the National Manufacturing Week (NMW) in Chicago, IL, Ramco Systems Limited ( www.ramco.com ), a provider of enterprise business applications and accompanied services, with a global HQ in India, announced the delivery of a series of enterprise application suites that it claims will "change the economics of application software". Instead of releasing one application suite that is intended to meet the needs of multiple industries, Ramco is providing distinct suites that are tailored to meet the specific vertical industry requirements for process manufacturing (Ramco Enterprise: Process), discrete manufacturing (Ramco Enterprise: Discrete) and asset-intensive industries (Ramco Enterprise Asset Management). In addition, the company delivered horizontal solutions in human resources (HR) management (Ramco Human Resource Management System) and business intelligence (BI) (Ramco Business Decisions); as well as back-office solutions for finance and distribution (Ramco Corporate Solutions), tailored to retail and service industries.
Ramco Enterprise Series Release 4.0 applications have been built on what the vendor claims to be groundbreaking, model-based application development and delivery platform called Ramco VirtualWorks. The platform includes a model-based architecture based on a comprehensive model of granular business processes, representing 70 different industries, a web-enabled set of workbenches for the application development lifecycle, as well as methodologies for all stages of development and implementation.
This is Part Two of a two-part note.
Part One detailed the Ramco announcement and discussed the Market Impact.
Existing Ramco customers should continue to follow Ramco's product path. They should evaluate the new products and technology with an eye towards moving forward with Ramco.
Companies that see themselves as early adopters of technology should evaluate Ramco to validate the potential breakthrough benefits. We suggest a pilot project with Ramco may prove to be a very good investment.
Companies who are looking for new or replacement systems should not ignore Ramco, which has proven its products, technology and services, and should challenge the other competing vendors to match Ramco's value proposition. Companies with both Process and Discrete manufacturing segments to their business should particularly place Ramco on their short list. Multi-site and multi-national corporations and/or their divisions should consider the Ramco's value proposition, being cognizant of competitive offerings. The verticals that would benefit the most likely from evaluating Ramco are:
- Batch Process Industries Food & Beverage, Cement, Specialty Chemicals, Plastics, Textiles, and
- EAM Intensive Industries Aviation, Utilities
Companies who are working to "fill-in" their application portfolio and perhaps bridge the gaps in existing applications should evaluate Ramco's modules/components and technology. A strong point of the offering appears to be the combination of application function, technology and offshore development.
Companies who believe they need to deploy custom developed systems should evaluate Ramco's approach to near term development and its long-term consequences.
While Ramco covers most of the world its regional capabilities and industry focus may vary. Therefore, potential clients should conduct a thorough preliminary research on local industry expertise and reference sites when Ramco is included in the selection process.
Lower tier system integrators/consulting companies that lack the expertise and resources to quickly and effectively deliver component applications and, consequently, to make themselves competitive against the likes of Big 4's should consider partnering with Ramco. Very detailed information about Ramco Enterprise Series 4.0 is contained in the ERP Evaluation Center at http://erp.technologyevaluation.com/ and in the CMMS/EAM Evaluation Center at http://eam.technologyevaluation.com/.
When compared to leading vendors, Ramco suffers from size, funding, and market awareness comparisons. However, it appears to be at least equal in functionality (if not even stronger in certain industries of focus), superior in technology and leading in vision. Of course, more than functional capabilities, technology, and vision are needed to succeed in today's marketplace.
While we are impressed with Ramco's announcements, Ramco is not without challenges. Ramco is a strong player in some parts of the world but needs to build up its US presence and overcome a dark horse' or Ramco who?' notion. Although throughout its short history the company has built its business through the size and strength of its India-based development organization, it has long lacked the sales and marketing skills to leverage its strengths. While a broad and deep product functionality and technology bundled with a reasonable price tag and short time-to-market should create a powerful value proposition, poor marketing and sales execution may significantly undermine it. Not leveraging experienced local sales representatives and/or resellers that are well attuned to the voice of the target market may often result with a cultural and communications gap with sales prospects.
Further, selling into crowded marketplaces, Ramco's name is often not known to potential buyers. Its market awareness outside Asia is limited. Even when Ramco is included in the long list, its advantages may never come to light in most evaluations due to being outgunned in glitzy sales and marketing show by better-known savvy competitors.
Ramco should also be careful not to confuse the market with its different offerings, since Ramco VirtualWorks enables the company's two core offerings: Ramco Enterprise Series, a packaged application suites; and Ramco Enterprise Custom Solutions, a custom development services which are aimed at meeting individual customer's exact requirements. In addition, VirtualWorks is used to form "composite" applications integrating a customer's existing third-party applications with VirtualWorks business components to create seamless business processes. In addition, companies can integrate other applications from vendors such as SAP and Siebel or legacy systems and "fill the gaps" in their existing applications portfolio with Ramco's solutions.
The Ramco custom services would include "Business Transformation" solutions a range of application development and integration capabilities, as well as "Collaborative Development Centers" Ramco's tack at next-generation development outsourcing using web services.
Ramco's Business Transformation solutions are delivered from a perspective of enabling seamless business processes for applications development and integration, which include custom-built enterprise solutions for companies with specific or unique needs in the areas of new application development, business process integration, composite and collaborative applications, business-to-business (B2B) & mobile collaboration, co-product development and legacy application migration.
Ramco Systems has delivered enterprise product and custom solutions to over 70 industry segments worldwide in sectors such as Services Industry (Financial Services, Government & Education, Healthcare, Logistics & Distribution), Asset intensive Organizations (Aviation & Fleet Management, Utilities) and Manufacturing (both Process & Discrete). This business domain knowledge is available as a rich repository of business components that can be combined dynamically to reflect a company's unique business requirements. Using Ramco's model-based approach, a customer's business processes are mapped against existing applications and/or Ramco's existing repository; subsequently, a new application overlay layer is created and then seamlessly integrated, while customers can then modify, extend or create new processes over time with flexibility and control, rather than patch them together temporarily.
To develop custom solutions for any company's unique requirements, Ramco Custom Solutions offering uses VirtualWorks to often generate ~80% of the new application code automatically from the model and route the additional ~20% of the coding to development personnel. Because the architecture is entirely web-based, the coding requirements can easily be routed to Ramco's offshore development site.
To that end, Ramco Systems' Collaborative Development Centers is a next generation solution to development outsourcing. Ramco, one of the first India-based companies to design and develop an ERP product, has apparently not been relying on reinventing the product time and again to play in the ever-changing enterprise applications arena. Instead, Ramco's market expansion strategy is to grow through partnerships with external service providers and/or end-user companies worldwide.
Leveraging offshore development capabilities has increasingly been an effective strategy for major vendors seeking high-quality software development skills. Both vendors and system integrators are under increasing pressure to reduce costs in an ever-tougher and cost conscious market. For these, offshore programming may improve their ability to compete effectively not only with each other, but also with the major offshore players including Ramco. Ramco Systems' profile has been raising as a consequence of increasingly cost-conscious IT decision makers. India remains the most fertile ground for offshore programming because it offers the best combination of both technical and business acumen, along with the English-language skills.
However, current offshore development capabilities have so far shown certain limits in delivery capability in terms of time, cost, quality and flexibility, particularly when:
- Specifications are difficult to freeze
- Complexity is very high
- Interaction and control mechanisms are not effectively defined
- Delivery schedules are aggressive
- Support is needed through the life cycle of usage
Ramco, to that end, claims to offer order-of-magnitude improvements because of the inherent advantage of its VirtualWorks platform. Using offshore expert resources and web services for collaboration, user acceptance process is improved and solutions are delivered faster, typically with lower cost and higher quality.
Thus, Ramco should not let its successful custom solutions business confuse buyers into thinking that even the packaged enterprise applications series are not competitive without customization.
Ramco should also leverage the high level of satisfaction in its customer base. From what we have seen, Ramco appears to have very loyal and satisfied customers (see Ramco Systems' Users - Winning Big And Speaking Out In Las Vegas ).Companies including Bemis, Columbia Helicopter, Essex Crane Rental, MJB Woods, Savage Arms, and Silver Spring Gardens cite customer focus, flexibility and commitment to technology as key to their software implementation successes. With over 140 installations in the US nowadays, Ramco Systems is apparently gaining market traction by exceeding customer expectations to ensure satisfaction. Thus, Ramco should be even more forthcoming in sharing their early customer success stories.
Ramco has proven itself as a high caliber software engineering company. Now it must prove itself as a high caliber sales and marketing company.
We are very impressed with Ramco's vision and the fact that the vendor appears to be delivering on that vision. Our summary of "too good to be true" summarizes our initial reaction. However, further investigation reveals evidence that is very good and, we suspect, true. Ramco has invested considerable intellectual power and development resources to provide avant-guard technology and products, in tune with recently outlined challenges that the future applications should try to solve. Namely, in TEC's recent series of articles, named "What's Wrong With Application Software?" discussed have been the realities of business versus the ability of application software to cope with those realities. Those realities included:
Clearly, many in the enterprise applications vendor community recognize these realities and some are attempting to offer solutions that will deal with them. Many of these vendors are logically evolving their existing application framework, while others are starting over. Ramco is one of the rare vendors that have decided to attempt using a new approach to software to solve our issues by using an internally developed Model Based Architecture to build a series of application products plus do customized development.
The company must now prove that those investments will deliver the promise of "changing the economics of software". Early returns are promising, end-users should follow Ramco's efforts and vendors should take note.