In RER’s July issue, we interviewed software providers about how the cloud computing concept continues to penetrate the rental industry, and we will be reprinting them in the coming weeks in RER Reports. In this interview, Richard Hercus, director of sales, Enterprise Solutions Group – Americas, for Ramco Systems, talks to RER managing editor Brandey Smith about the growing awareness of cloud computing and the saving potential it offers in terms of data storage costs and IT personnel.
RER: The cloud computing concept has steadily grown as its benefits become more apparent to businesses and individuals alike. Do you think the popular release of Apple’s iCloud will further enhance awareness of the cloud computing concept and make offsite storage of data more comfortable for rental business owners?
Hercus: All of the major providers recognize the future of the cloud and are doing what they can to gain market share. The release of Apple’s iCloud will increase the awareness and help rental owners understand the cloud computing concept. While everyone is talking about the cloud, I am still amazed by the various understandings people have with cloud computing. Historically, companies have relied on magnetic tape or disk backups of their data. Often, while the backups were performed, the actual restore of the data was not tested until a critical necessity only to find the tape or disk could not be read. The other option was the expense of a remote copy of the data. With cloud computing, business executives pay a monthly fee for their computing and do not have to worry about their data and where it is stored. The cloud storage will be more secure and accessible than what they have had in the past. I am not sure rental executives will feel more comfortable with Apple’s iCloud offsite storage for photo’s and music, but the increased awareness will be beneficial to their understanding of their potential for savings.
Does Apple’s iCloud offering mean that smaller rental businesses with fewer locations will soon be best served by utilizing a similar cloud model for their software implementation and data storage? In other words, since iCloud is designed for individual users, do you expect similar cloud offerings to follow that offer affordable cloud benefits to small businesses?
Smaller rental businesses can benefit today from selecting a cloud solution. Our Ramco OnDemand ERP (RODE) solution provides companies the ability to focus on their business challenges without the worries of data storage and implementation issues. The cloud can offer substantial savings for smaller and large companies alike.
Explain how all the outside data management that the cloud provides will affect a rental business’ IT costs. How much of an annual savings do you think a small- to medium-sized rental business might expect to achieve when it no longer requires onsite IT personnel?
The savings will vary from company to company, but companies should look not only at the cost of the onsite IT professional. Consider the tasks of an IT professional. One task is when it is time to purchase a new computer. Typically, the server, data storage, and backup devices are oversized for expansion consideration, which increases costs. With Cloud computing all of the expansion concerns are eliminated, which saves money. There are savings throughout the companies’ infrastructure in most cases.
Many rental management solutions providers tout their superior customer support capabilities. How important is customer support to consider when selecting a new software provider? Give me an example of a situation when support was invaluable.
Selecting a solutions partner is one of the biggest decisions a company can make and one that they will live with for a long time to come. Customer support should always be an important factor when selecting a new provider. I would advise all companies looking at a new solutions provider to speak with existing customers for a reference. Customer support provides more than how-to’s for an application or how to fix an error. Ramco Systems prides itself with having proactive support and has a team who is familiar with each customer’s business. An example of proactive support could be informing the customer of an enhancement that they could benefit from or suggesting a more efficient business process. Superior support comes from having a true business partnership and an in-depth knowledge of their business.
Describe the very latest technologies that rental businesses are benefiting from both in terms of hardware equipment/devices and software features. What do you see coming?
I see real-time information across the company with business analytics and alerts. For example: Instead of the accounts receivable department reviewing daily orders for companies who are on credit hold and then emailing or calling for approval, proactive alerts could be sent directly to the management team. Proactive solutions can be deployed across all departments instead of the reactive approach that most companies utilize today. The alerts can notify executives using mobile devices such as the Blackberry. Proactive solutions increase employee motivation and reduce costs.
Explain how software is developed so that it not only meets a rental company’s current business needs, but is equipped to grow as the business continues to grow.
Each and every business is unique in its operations, differentiating themselves from competition. However, the underlying business processes and goals remain the same. As always, the only thing that is constant in business is change. Companies are aware of this reality in today’s world.
While making enhancements to the software, we always look at the long-term underlying goal for any company and design the software accordingly. Our development approach is completely process based. The change requested in the software is first orchestrated in the process flows, which are then carried over to the design and then to the engineering phase. Not every company has the ability of making the process flows drive the application design.
At Ramco, our underlying development platform – Ramco VirtualWorks, is a web-enabled, end-to-end, business-process-based platform that uses the process flows as inputs for application design. Among many other advantages, Ramco VirtualWorks helps in rapid software development, implementation, support and maintenance, providing us a distinct advantage over our competition in being an agile software provider.
What advice would you give to rental businesses that are still using relatively out-of-date legacy software systems that don’t offer the latest integrations and efficiencies?
If you are using a relatively out-of-date software solution then you are not benefiting from the technology that your competitors may be benefiting from. Typically, you will benefit from having more accurate information on a timely basis as well as the ability to increase your business without having to hire an army of people to keep up. The ability to capture real-time profitability on a piece of equipment or to reduce inventory levels without risking a shortage is invaluable to a company. If you are using a relatively out-of-date software system you are working harder not necessarily smarter. For you to make those important business decisions, you will require a newer solution which embraces the latest technologies.