Ramco to Its Customers - Let's Get Personal!

Event Summary

Approximately one year ago in Las Vegas, Ramco Systems Limited (www.ramco.com), a global provider of enterprise solutions with headquarters in India, unveiled a new vision for enterprise applications at its annual user group conference. Its vision of delivering applications built on flexible, adaptable, and expandable business process models was intended to address the "three realities of business," namely that businesses have 1) unique needs, 2) those needs change over time, and 3) that they operate with a diverse array of applications. At that time, the vendor introduced a new enterprise application framework and released a series of vertically tailored enterprise applications built on the framework. Ramco also began to make some significant claims about changing the way enterprise applications are developed, sold, implemented, and used by businesses.

This year, returning to Las Vegas for the 2003 Ramco Systems User Group Meeting, Ramco came to show its customers continued commitment to its joint success, delivery on last year's promises, and strong North American leadership. The customers at the user group appeared to be very receptive to Ramco's vision for the future of enterprise applications and enthusiastic about the progress that Ramco has made in the past year towards that vision. We reviewed last year's conference (see Ramco System's Users Winning Big And Speaking Out In Las Vegas), and attended this year to witness a progress update.

This is Part One of a two-part note. Part Two will discuss Ramco's commitment to the North American market and make user and vendor recommendations.

Progress Update

Ramco made two major commitments to its users at the 2002 event:

  • It introduced a new application development and delivery platform, known as Ramco VirtualWorks, and promised that this platform would "change the economics of software."

  • Ramco restated its sincerity and interest in the North American market

One year later, Ramco was prepared to show the progress to its customers. Ramco's vision has evolved to a concept now known as "personalized, assembled applications." Unlike the majority of vendors today, Ramco intends for its customers to tailor, or personalize their applications to their business. Ramco claims that its underlying technology, a model-based architecture known as Ramco VirtualWorks, provides the ability to rapidly assemble and personalize applications, in a cost effective way, and without the traditional unintended consequences of highly customized applications (see What's Wrong With Applications A Possible Solution? What Is It, Why And How Does It Fit Into Your Future). So one year later, how do Ramco's users feel about the progress?

Changing the Economics of Software?

Ramco has made some significant claims about its plans to change some fundamental rules that drive total cost of ownership (TCO) and return on investment (ROI) for its customers. The ability to "change the economics of software," as Ramco described it, was based on a combination of an advanced application architecture utilizing model-based principles, a philosophy that software should be able to adapt to ever-changing business needs and the reduced cost structure available from leveraging offshore resources in India. The only proof that Ramco was able to provide to its customers as of last year was that Ramco had, itself, used the tools to develop a series of enterprise application suites designed for the specific needs of its targeted vertical markets (see Ramco Announces And Ships Technology And Application Products. Is This The Future Of Enterprise Applications?). While the customers were excited about the potential of the technology, they were admittedly somewhat skeptical. After all, software vendors have been making claims like this for a long time without delivering.

This year's user conference did offer more proof of the capabilities that Ramco claims to have developed. Ramco and Ramco users detailed a number of recent projects that highlight the value and effectiveness of the VirtualWorks approach.

One customer, a $2.5 billion global manufacturer of flexible packaging and pressure sensitive materials, was an early adopter of the solution. The company is a long-time Ramco customer, and has been standardizing on Ramco's previous generation ERP application. It decided to use the new technology platform to build an extension to its current applications that would help it track the life cycles of its anilox rolls as a part of its Six Sigma initiative.

The present Director of IT for the company, presented the results of the project, and he highlighted the business results of the project, which included an improvement in yield and quality of products using the rolls. He also pointed out that the solution was very well accepted by the users, because it was built based on the business processes they defined through their own quality initiative and worked behind the scenes as a web service delivered to the radio frequency (RF) and scanner-enabled devices.

Finally, the project from start to finish took only eight weeks, and was delivered by Ramco on time and at a fixed-cost with the users and IT reporting no problems with the system. The company commented that they were impressed with the ability to reuse existing components, such as the "rotable" functionality primarily built for the aviation industry, in combination with custom components as a basis for its solution. The manufacturer currently plans to extend the solution to track the life cycle of print cylinders to further improve quality and yield.

One of the most encouraging stories at the conference is about a major financial institution, although Ramco is not allowed to share the name of the company in print. This institution was very interested in the assembled solutions and model-based approach because its business not only changes rapidly, it is delivered almost entirely through its systems. This puts a high level of value on the ability to change quickly based on business demands, because market opportunities can only be addressed when the systems are ready to transact them. This Fortune 100 company started with a small pilot project to enable a new business initiative. This project has been followed on by three additional projects with similar characteristics the company needed a solution quickly that met its needs exactly. Conversations with the company indicate that the users are very satisfied with the results and plan to continue to work with Ramco on future projects. This is the kind of success that Ramco will require if it wishes to remain relevant in the crowded and consolidating market for enterprise applications.

While there is still more work to be done in validating the VirtualWorks approach and solution, early results are promising. Ramco quoted a study conducted by the University of Michigan that confirmed significant increases in software development productivity, as measured in function points per month, using VirtualWorks. In addition, the study identified significant advantages in software defect counts per function point.

Particularly interesting in the study was the counterintuitive result that the productivity and quality gains are more dramatic as projects become larger and more complex. The graph presented showed industry average productivity dropping on larger projects, as expected, but actually increasing for VirtualWorks projects. This appears to indicate that the tools are not just applicable to smaller, point applications as most model-based programs are targeted, but towards larger scale enterprise applications. But these results are not the same as having a larger number of life cycle results highlighting TCO and ROI from individual clients that have used the approach and tools to develop and evolve applications over a long period of time.

This concludes Part One of a two-part note.

Part Two will discuss Ramco's commitment to the North American market and make user and vendor recommendations.

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