Ramco Systems - Diversity Marshaled Through Flexibility Part 2: Market Impact

Ramco Systems - Diversity Marshaled Through Flexibility:

Part 2: Market Impact
P.J. Jakovljevic - December 17, 2001

Market Impact 

The market is bound to hear more about Ramco Systems in the future. Although India-based ERP solutions provider may be only slightly more than a decade old and not well known outside the Asian market, it might have found a winning market tackling strategy in delivering a new agile component-based development (CBD) framework that provides the much-needed flexibility in enterprise applications.

Ramco, one of the first India-based companies to design and develop an ERP product, has not been relying on reinventing the product time and again to play in the ever-changing mid-market ERP arena. Instead, Ramco's market expansion strategy is to grow through partnerships with external service providers and/or end-user companies worldwide. See Part One of this note for details.

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 rising 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.

This is Part Two of a three-part note on recent announcement by Ramco Systems. Part One contains the announcements. Part Three will discuss the challenges faced by Ramco Systems and makes User Recommendations.

In the fiscal year 2000-01, Ramco transformed from a predominantly core ERP provider to a complete solutions company with a broader portfolio of products (e.g., ERP, EAM, HRMS, etc.) and services (e.g., network solutions, network security, modeling and simulations, etc.). Today, Ramco Systems has more than 1000 customers worldwide, and with the company restructured into different strategic business units (SBUs), more aggressive investments in people & marketing, and strategic partners in place, the company will have successfully transformed into nearly a one-stop-shop solutions provider with a potentially prosperous future.

Ramco e.Applications 

Ramco's currently available flagship Ramco e.Applications (formerly Ramco Marshal) product suite goes well beyond the conventional ERP modules and provides gateways that help enterprises to leverage on the Internet, e-commerce and electronic data interchange (EDI). Also noteworthy is the Ramco Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) product, which addresses the specific needs of asset-intensive organizations. Out of the box integration for complementary solutions such as project management tools like Primavera and MS Project, automated data collection devices (e.g., bar coding, radio frequency (RF) units, etc.), real-time control and automation systems in process industries, EDI, and material data safety sheets (MSDS), have often been cited as a reason for opting for the product.

Ramco e.Applications has been developed with an attempt to grasp the forces of change in the business world, and the consequent requirement for rapid development, deployment and customization. The product caters for many companies' needs to operate from multiple locations and with multiple currencies and/or languages. Further, it answers to the organizational growth and diversity needs that require a broad range of applications and features and continual business process change. To that end, Ramco distributes the processing load between the client and the server - the application logic that does not require any external data and the graphical user interface (GUI) are placed on the client, whereas the application logic that requires access to external data resides on the server. By controlling the computing load on the server, one should be able to control the desired network traffic. The system also allows the application modules to be distributed over multiple servers, which may balance the processing load even more effectively. At the same time, it provides transparent access across this distributed area, making all the databases appear to be a single, integrated database.

Furthermore, Ramco e.Applications consists of 35 core business applications in the following functional areas: Process Production, Discrete Production, Logistics, Sales, Treasury, Financials, Human Resources (HR), Logistics, Plant Maintenance, and Statistical Process and Quality Control (SPC/SQC), Web Products, Advanced Planning, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Enterprise Intelligence. The suite also includes security features and various productivity tools such as Ramco Process Architect (RPA) (a process mapping tool), an Application Configurator, Dcube (a data drill-down tool), the Workflow Engine and the Report Writer.

Each of Ramco's application modules is capable of working standalone or with other Ramco module or third-party applications in many configurations, in order to meet specific business needs. The system is fairly scalable too, allowing the addition or subtraction of users, functions, applications, servers, or locations with a reasonably low effort. Moreover, the suite was devised using solely industry-wide popular Microsoft standard tools (Visual C++ for Microsoft Windows NT and SQL Server) to simplify future additions to or modification of the source code.

Ramco's tools and utilities facilitate customization on almost every level from the entire screen to individual data fields - for a single user, an entire organization, or any number in between. In addition to its intuitive GUI (with nice-to-have features like, e.g., information list boxes and defaults that reduce code memorization and redundant data entry), the system also offers compelling security features. Namely, security authorizations may be defined and customized for application modules, roles, users, and/or transactions, based upon organizational structure and/or company policy. The system also generates an audit trail for specific transactions to track changes to the data.

Structured Implementations 

Ramco also provides implementation services through a proprietary structured implementation program called RSPRINT (Ramco Strategic PRogram for ImplementatioN and Training), which may entail the following phases: implementation scoping and management, training, application consulting, business engineering, modeling, extension development and roll out services. The methodology has been adopted based on gained experiences through previous implementations, and a typical all-encompassing RSPRINT implementation plan spreads over 26 weeks for a deployment of the Ramco e.Applications suite. However, the implementation strategy for every customer can be tailored in tune with the organization's preparedness, knowledge and skills levels for adopting a new IT solution. Therefore, Ramco's implementation team does not necessarily have to carry out all the above-mentioned phases, which can make the implementation time significantly shorter.

Ramco VirtualWorks 

The key element that contributes to the uniqueness of Ramco's offering, however, is Ramco VirtualWorks, a virtual enterprise platform for designing, developing and deploying enterprise applications. In other words, it is a model-driven code generator that generates complete component-based applications from specified business requirements. Ramco VirtualWorks incorporates all the stages of software development life cycle (SDLC) including Requirements Modeling (done by functionality specialists/consultants), Design Specification (done by a design engineer/software architect), Construction (done by a developer), Testing (done by a quality engineer), and Deployment & Administration (done by business analyst/system administrator).

External service providers/system integrators and Ramco partners can use the business process modeling or object-oriented analysis and design tools to define the business requirements specifications. These are afterwards sent back to Ramco and converted into terms understood by the VirtualWorks Requirements Workbench, with the idea to possibly later reuse the produced components. The other VirtualWorks Workbenches generate the database schemas, user interfaces, and process flow control software. Finally, the resulted software components are sent back to the partner for onsite testing and implementation.

Ramco VirtualWorks runtime architecture is based on layered software approach (see table bellow) to match the functional layers in on-line transaction processing (OLTP) systems. The layers are invariant to the computing technologies to be employed in system implementation, and can be implemented in a single hardware resource or in a highly distributed infrastructure.

Software Layer Technologies Supported
Presentation Layer GUI VB, ActiveX, DHTML, CE specific, Active Server Pages (ASPs)
Presentation Layer Web IE 5.0 and later versions, Netscape 6.0 and later versions, ASPs on Internet Information Server (IIS)
Transport & Gateway Layer IP Sockets, DCOM, HTTP, MSMQ, XML
Transaction Processing Layer Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS), Windows NT/2000
Business Rule Layer COM (ActiveX DLLs)
Database Systems SQL Server 6.5, 7.0

This concludes Part Two of a three-part note on Ramco Systems. Part One detailed recent announcements. Part Three discusses the challenges faced by Ramco Systems and makes User Recommendations.

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