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Ramco Systems' Users - Winning Big And Speaking Out In Las Vegas

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: January 24 2003

Event Summary

Meeting users at the Ramco Systems Users Group in Las Vegas gave us an impression of a satisfied group of customers. In informal discussions, the attendees told us that they are pleased with their Ramco decision, have gotten outstanding service and achieved the results they were seeking.

Recently, Ramco Systems (www.ramco.com), an India-based provider of enterprise business applications and accompanied services, held its 2002 User Group Meeting in Las Vegas. Ramco has a relatively small presence in the US but it is a significant player in other parts of the world, for example in parts of the EU and most of Asia with over 1,600 employees and 1,000 installation sites worldwide. In the US, Ramco has been slowly gaining a critical mass' foothold with over 130 installation sites from over 60 corporate users.

The mostly mid-market attendees at the Users Group meeting have deployed a variety of Ramco's products especially Process ERP, Discrete ERP and Enterprise Asset Management (EAM). Ramco's recently renamed flagship Ramco Enterprise Series (formerly Ramco e.Applications and Ramco Marshal) product suite goes well beyond the conventional ERP modules, as it consists of 35 core business applications in the following functional areas: Process Manufacturing, Discrete Manufacturing, Logistics, Treasury Management, 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.

Why Ramco?

We asked the attendees, "Why Ramco?", and we heard many variations on the themes of the product and the company. Marty Kroll, SVP & CFO, Essex Crane Rental stated, "We chose Ramco because it was the best business solution for us given the metrics and what we were trying to accomplish. We found the product technology, flexibility, and its user defined screens, the ability to modify the product, without really modifying the core, to fit our business key advantages for Ramco. We felt the organization would be most committed to us in terms of a successful implementation."

Scott McClure of Columbia Helicopter spoke of the company, "Ramco worked very hard to get to know us, and to understand our business needs; much more so than any of the other players. So while I was impressed with the technology and the fit, our users were very impressed with their people and how interested they were in us."

We also had an interesting discussion with Eric Berg VP, Operations, MOC Products. Eric stated, "We chose Ramco because we found that it was one of the few providers that could supply the process manufacturing needs that we had, along with the discrete manufacturing needs." MOC produces both chemicals and the machines to apply them. These are two different manufacturing businesses under one roof and only a few ERP products have done a good job of thoroughly addressing both. Ramco appears to be one of those companies.

Customer Experiences and Results

Ramco appears to be doing a good job of working with its customers and making them successful. It 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 many previous implementations, and a typical all-encompassing RSPRINT implementation plan spreads over 26 weeks for a deployment of the Ramco Enterprise 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.

Dan Kelm, CFO of Silver Spring Gardens was pleased with their implementation experience, "and Ramco's drive to make sure that the customer was pleased with the end results. They took every single step possible to make sure that we would be pleased as a customer, that we got the information, that we got everything that we needed, to get our job done, because we couldn't stop our business at the same time. We needed to keep going. During this implementation and then after the implementation and Ramco was there with us every step of the way."

In a user presentation, Amy King, CIO, MJB Wood Group, spoke of their success; "Ramco has helped us to continually innovate by working with us on critical business issues that we've found after doing the ERP platform, particularly in the supply chain management field. Extending that to our business partners, and helping us really leverage that IT strategy."

The Present and the Future

Ramco management stated that the company is poised to increase its US headcount leading to a greater market presence. The global market is thus also bound to hear more about Ramco in the future. Although the India-based enterprise applications provider may be only slightly more than a decade old and not well known outside the home Asian market, it might have found a winning market tackling strategy in delivering a new agile component-based development (CBD) framework that provides the increasingly needed flexibility in enterprise applications.

Ramco has not been relying on reinventing the product time and again to play in the ever-changing mid-market enterprise applications arena. Instead, Ramco's market expansion strategy is to grow through partnerships with external service providers and/or end-user companies worldwide. A few years ago, 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 300 corporate customers and over 70,000 users worldwide, and with 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.

The company hinted of new and, as it claims, breakthrough technology and products. The vendor felt that its upcoming technology release will "change the economics of application software."

For now, the product strategy is in tune with Mr P.R. Venketrama Raja's, the Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of Ramco Systems, statements in our recent conversation, "Unlike many competitors, we at Ramco Systems have been following a discriminating philosophy in the use of standard software ever since the company was founded in 1989. The customer's corporate strategy has always been the centre of focus for us. The processes serve the purpose of implementation, and the software is only the means to an end. "Software follows process follows strategy" - is the guarantee we give our customers. The question that matters to us is not the degree to which the standard software fulfils requirements but how well the individual components fit together within the overall system. This is precisely the need of the customers."

Also, "Our current enterprise suite, release 3.x., the one we are selling on the market, is based on a Microsoft platform but the next 4.x. generation of our solutions will run on multiple platforms. The reason for this is our Ramco VirtualWorks development framework, a technology that is compatible with every available platform. This means that we can support all the major databases such as the Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, and of course IBM DB2. The infrastructure platform will run on Microsoft .NET, or Java EGB from IBM or Sun Microsystems, and so on. Also, we can support all the modern data platforms for the Internet."

Customers felt confident in Ramco's ability to deliver what it promised. Scott McClure of Columbia Helicopter liked what he heard and stated, "It's clear that Ramco has a strong commitment to the best technology available; they've gotten the best people and a lot of them."

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. 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.

Ramco's Challenges

While Ramco's customers are a satisfied group, Ramco is not without challenges either. Ramco is a strong player in some parts of the world but needs to build up its US presence and overcome a dark horse' 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 and references to leverage its strengths, especially in the highly contested and fastidious North American marketplace. 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, since it is selling into crowded marketplaces, Ramco's name is often not known to potential buyers. Its market awareness outside Asia is limited, and possibly aggravated by only a handful of offices outside Asia. Even when Ramco is included in the long selection 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.

While promising major announcements, Ramco must now deliver on these promises, prove them in the marketplace and make itself heard. The magnitude of the above ambitious undertaking, which is needed in order to boost the product scalability and the market opportunities, would give a pause even to much bigger and wealthier competitors. While its future product's built-in flexibility may level with a paradigm shift of application development, Ramco's job of creating a need/awareness thereof in the market will be almost as equal as the effort to deliver it.

Recommendations

Existing Ramco customers should continue to follow Ramco's product path. When the promised announcements take place, they should evaluate them with the eye towards moving forward with Ramco.

Companies considering new investments 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 in the up to $500 million-a-year revenue range should consider the Ramco's value proposition, being cognizant of competitive offerings.

While Ramco covers over 15 industries in six areas (i.e., Aviation Solutions, Corporate Solutions, Discrete Manufacturing, EAM Solutions, Process Manufacturing, and HRMS), 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.

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

Ramco needs to invest in sales and marketing in an attempt to become a more common name in the North American marketplace. The company has proven its engineering ability and it is time for it to become a sales and marketing company if it wishes to succeed in the North American market. The ongoing sales partnership agreement with reputed global reference clients such as Boeing, may prove to be vital steps in Ramco's strategy to improve market penetration and eventually become a market leader in selected vertical segments.

Ramco should also pursue similar partnership efforts and identify global corporate clients and leading consulting organizations with specific expertise in selected industry segments including manufacturing (chemicals, metals, foods), human resources and continuous process industries (utilities, cement, refineries) to become a vital player in the relevant market space. The company will have to balance the rapid growth of partnerships with a reasonable commitment of resources though.

Also, 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.

 
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