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BW Businessworld

‘Bots Are Critical For ERP Adoption In The Market’

In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Virender Aggarwal, CEO, Ramco Systems, talks about the company's new initiatives in the world of bots and its success in the enterprise space

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Ramco Systems is a listed IT company headquartered in Chennai, part of the $1 billion diversified conglomerate Ramco group of companies. It is a fast growing enterprise software player disrupting the market with its multi-tenanted cloud and mobile-based enterprise software. In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Virender Aggarwal, CEO, Ramco Systems, talks about the company's new initiatives in the world of bots and its success in the enterprise space. Edited excerpts:

Ramco is a cloud enterprise software company. Why are you suddenly talking about bots? Are you shifting your entire focus here?
Traditionally, ERPs have seen limited usage within enterprises as they come with complex screens and require extensive training. With the advent of Siri, Alexa, and Google Allo, conversations are gaining a whole new meaning. By bringing the technology to the enterprise system, we believe adoption of ERPs will not just be restricted to a few pockets, but will get universally used across the organisation. Transacting on an ERP will become as simple as chatting with a friend!

Also, from a business context, enterprise applications is a highly cluttered market with limited room for differentiation. We don't want to be just another ERP player in the market. It is our thirst to deliver customer value that drives us to bet on new technology and bring innovative features to the market. While traditional ERP goliaths are playing the catch-up game, we pride in being amongst the pioneers in bringing bots to enterprises. Bot is our sling that is getting the 'digital' and 'user experience' savvy ERP buyer to us. We are a cloud enterprise software company with a key focus in delivering continuous value to customers…

What according to you will decide success of bots in the enterprise space? Please give one example of how it has been used in the enterprise.
Bots fall under the overall umbrella of user experience which is critical for ERP adoption in the market. Just as we forgot to write when computers were born, we will forget to type as bots become more prevalent. We are entering the era of conversational UI and bots are all set to transform the way organisations are currently interacting with their applications. Bots will help increase productivity, improve efficiency of the employees and save them valuable resources and time. With bots doing all the routine tasks, humans can utilise their energy on more critical tasks and get a lot more done in a shorter time. We are currently test marketing the offering with a select few customers and have also received interest from multiple organisations, both in India and across the globe.

To give a quick example of how bots can improve productivity, here's a use case from aviation. In a non-bot environment, a mechanic at the hangar working on an aircraft, would have required to travel to his work station to login and raise a request for a part. With mobility and a chatbot in place, the part buyer just enters his email address and password and then begins a perfectly natural conversation about securing a replacement part from different potential sources. The buyer can approve, reject, ask for a better price or delay a decision, all in natural language. Special-purpose Ramco bots, like an AOG bot, developed for the aviation industry, would help a mechanic easily get necessary information from maintenance documents and vendors.

What has been some of your initial challenges in taking bots to the enterprise?
While bots can considerably minimise human intervention in monotonous tasks, it was important for us to know which pressure points needed to be addressed. Extensive research went to identifying these pain points. From a typical email, mobile and messaging user interface - which often requires shifting through many screens, bots helped us offer a one-time validation, self-service "zero-UI" system: something that users can manage with a simple exchange of texts. With Microsoft partnering with us in proliferating Ramco chatbots on Microsoft platform, the power of conversation as a platform has been gaining wide acceptance.

How many bots have Ramco developed so far? Are you focusing on specific sectors? Which industries do you see rapid adoption from?
In the past few months, Ramco has developed multiple bots that can carry out transactions for the HR, aviation, and logistics industry. The bots developed for aviation cover the entire gamut of functions such as part availability, handling AOG (aircraft on ground) situations, customer relationships, stock status and more. All a mechanic needs to do is communicate with bot to procure all of the data he needs for maintenance. Using the features we have developed, the mechanic can seek and the bot responds with the appropriate information, be it through text, photos or videos. On the other hand, HR bots cover employee self-service requirements. Our bots are equipped to handle common functional requirements which include leave/time off, expenses, scheduling, payroll, travel planning, etc. It is also integrated with Microsoft Outlook calendar to enable the user block/ cancel meetings.

Data in the enterprise is always of utmost concern. In that context, how do you ensure highest levels of security in your bots?
We adopt the following measures in securing all our chatbot transactions. First, is a two-factor authentication provided via SMS token / emails based on the customer's IT landscape. Second, these authentication tokens are revoked after a certain time and the users need to follow the same 2FA for gaining access to perform the transactions. While end-to-end encryption are already available on all messaging platforms which restricts transaction to be performed only between two parties, encryption of chatbot transactions are still underway.

A section of the industry is concerned about job losses due to AI-based technologies such as bots. What do you have to say?
There is no denying that bots bring transformation with them. This transformation affirms that there will be changes in existing jobs. Over time, technology will replace jobs that require low skills, shifting focus to jobs that require strategic thinking and decision making. Intuitive enterprise software can lower company budgets and help skilled employees pay attention to critical higher-level work. This will in turn add value to the employees' and organisations' growth and momentum.

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Virender Aggarwal ramco systems AOG bot