A few times a month I am asked by a different real estate association client for information on whether RAMCO is a viable alternative to their current association management system (AMS). In 2012-2013 RAMCO had some issues, and it was hard for me to recommend it without reservations. More recently, it seems like RAMCO has been turning the corner toward viability. So, I called RAMCO and asked some of the types of questions my association clients should be asking, especially if they were hearing about some of the problems last year.
Following is a conversation between me and Liz Sturrock (Director of Operations for RAMCO).
Matt: How many associations have now implemented RAMCO? How many implemented in 2013? What’s the implementation plan for 2014?
Liz: There are 73 associations live on RAMCO. In 2014, we made 4 new associations live and we have 7 more scheduled through July. Those are just ones I have dates for. There are 25 additional associations also in the process of converting this year so far. It’s a self-paced process – some move at the speed of light and some can take up to a year. We tell people to plan for 12-14 weeks.
Matt: I heard RAMCO was overwhelmed with new customers in 2012 and had stopped implementing for new accounts. What’s the current implementation plan?
Liz: We took 54 associations live in 2012 – that’s a lot. Obviously we’re now implementing new customers. In November of 2012 we put a pause on things to fix bugs in system. We did five software releases in 2013 that improved things for existing customers. Then in Q2 of 2013 we started onboarding associations again.
Matt: I heard that the RAMCO system itself was slow in 2012. How has that been addressed? How is performance guaranteed contractually?
Liz: There were limitations in our old hosting – we were underpowered. We moved hosting in Q3 of 2012 to Cobalt, which handles development, support and hosting for us. There are service levels in our contract and benchmarks. We no longer have those issues. Once we moved hosting and virtualized the servers during January of 2013, page load time was improved dramatically:
Since then, we’ve optimized the Education Page to load in less than 2 seconds, like the other pages. See, for example: https://abrportal.ramcoams.net/EventCalendar.aspx?selmenid=men2
Matt: I had another client say they couldn’t move to RAMCO because you did not yet support their popular accounting package, MAS 90. What packages do you now support?
Liz: So far we support General Ledger level exports to Peachtree, AccPack, Quickbooks, and Great Plains.
Matt: Can you take all the historical data from other common AMSs? Which ones have you transitioned associations from and what have been the limitations on moving data?
Liz: About half of our customers never had an AMS or didn’t want the data from their AMS. Those customers just did a NRDS refresh to us, which is a very easy and cost effective way to get started. Others were mostly Rapattoni, and also six LAMPS conversions and a few MMSI conversions. When the AMS was locally hosted we were able to get data from their database servers, no problem. If hosted elsewhere, we’ve been able to request the list of tables we need and we’ve gotten them from the old vendors.
Matt: I know that RAMCO is one of the few AMS options that is PCI DSS (payment card industry data security standards) compliant. Can you describe why being compliant is important? Why MUST associations require this of their AMS provider?
Liz: You can’t store credit card numbers and data without being held to the highest PCI data security standards. We don’t store credit card data at all – we store a token from NAR e-commerce. The PCI compliance burden is on NAR e-commerce and they maintain that. We are also working to support alternative e-commerce companies.
Matt: Some associations have said that it is difficult to learn a new system after being on an outmoded system for so long. How have you addressed that?
Liz: Associations that have been successful with RAMCO have strong executive leadership that guide their staff into the vision of the future that RAMCO can offer and that their legacy system was limited in.
Matt: What’s so different about RAMCO?
Liz: Rather than building our system from scratch using all proprietary methods we chose to build on top of the industry-standard Dynamics CRM platform from Microsoft. This not only allows us to leverage the technology and development investments from Microsoft, but also leverage the familiarity that many staff already have with Microsoft products. Since Microsoft is one of the largest players in the CRM space there are also hundreds of 3rd-party products that work with Dynamics CRM to extend the functionality. RAMCO customers can take advantage of many of those products without additional development costs.
Beyond that, all of the data in the system is accessible via reporting and our custom API. Customers can make changes to reports on the fly without making requests of developer while the API allows programmers to push and pull raw data from RAMCO for use with external applications. Associations have used our open API to build great tools for their members like text messaging tools and community platforms.
One thing we’ve learned in this process is that none of NAR’s 1,400 member associations do everything the same way, nor offer exactly the same programs and benefits. We believe we have built a system with the flexibility and adaptability to accommodate just about any association’s range of programs and services – including the one that offers its members 24 different dues payment plans! We believe that inherent flexibility is what lets our system handle associations from 150 to 30,000+ members and is why 54% of our associations selected RAMCO as their first-ever system.
Matt: Who should anyone evaluating a new AMS call from your recent implementations to get a new customer perspective?
Director of IT
|REALTORS Association of the Palm BeachesCarol Van Gorp|
Matt: And a website for those wishing more information?
Are you an association executive with questions for RAMCO & Liz? Please comment below!
Share this post: