Ultimo Software Solutions supports over 1,500 customer organizations in supporting processes: Maintenance, Fleet, Infra Asset, IT Service, and Facility Management. As from 2014, Ultimo co-operates with NetRom Software in re-developing its software product of the same name. Research & Development manager Erik Huisman discusses the experiences and results.
"Our modular software product Ultimo helps clients achieve their objectives by optimizing supporting processes. To give you an idea: 75% of the Dutch hospitals are using Ultimo for the maintenance and management of medical equipment. In the process industry, we have the lead in maintenance and compliance and in a variety of industries, we support supporting processes from Property Management and Facility Management to Fleet Management and IT Service Management. In each of these organisations, Ultimo provides efficiency and an overview. As a result, the users can focus on quality improvement in a precise and well-conceived way.
Our organization was founded in 1988. Currently, we have a total of 140 employees working in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. We have a product development team of 36 people, 18 of whom are actually programming. Since 2008, we are rebuilding our Windows products for the web. A few years ago we felt the need for more high quality software development capacity, as well as for flexibility. Because both are hard to find in the Netherlands, the option of nearshore software development presented itself quickly. NetRom Software had been in touch before, and we decided to enter into discussions with two companies.
Boosted by a conversation with reference Fleet Complete about their positive experiences, NetRom Software turned out to be the intended partner with whom we would like to do a start project. Aiming for a lasting distinctive position of Ultimo as the most flexible system of its kind, we decided to provide the web version of Ultimo with the power and the ease of some functionality in Windows. Scaling up our development capacity via NetRom Software would enable us to achieve this goal at the pace required.
Our software development process is agile and based on continuous integration, which means that we continuously integrate newly built versions in the shared mainline. Our first step was to go to Craiova with three team members. The people of NetRom Software and we got to know each other personally and we spent a day or two going over functional and technical issues. After tuning a series of sub-processes and opening our environment for the people in Craiova, we could start with the first sprints in October 2014.
The importance of clarity
Of course we had to get used to each other. I like to work a lot with sketches and mockups. If you sit next to a programmer in a room, it’s easy to restore a small error quickly. But if you have three functional and technical sessions per week, like we do in our project, it’s very important that your specifications are clear and concrete: any errors and inconsistencies become immediately manifest in the code.
Our team in Craiova consists of two programmers, one tester and a part-time project manager. What I find very positive is that they want to take responsibility. They are eager to learn a lot and they won’t let us take their hand. They co-operate in a critical and most involved way, both technically and functionally. Being Dutch, I really appreciate that they are both willing and able to judge an idea on its merits, exchanging arguments and not hesitating to propose a better alternative if they see one. This cultural fit is extremely valuable. We recognize the commitment of NetRom Software in our project because we have the same commitment to our clients.
Automated software testing
Regarding our organization, I dare to say that the maturity of our business processes is well-developed. For instance, new functionality is developed only if we can test it immediately and in a fully automated way. This makes the sub-processes more complex, but of course the software development process as a whole gets better and more efficiently. NetRom Software stands out by adjusting their own sub-processes to those of the client while maintaining their own quality standards. They did it very convincingly in this project.
After this first phase, and since a second visit in December, the team in Craiova manages successfully to indicate which items will be dissolved in the next sprint. The so-called predictable velocity meets our expectations. Added to the direct and clear communication and the precise and unambiguous reporting of conference calls, this is an excellent basis for further co-operation. At this time we are discussing a range of wonderful new features. I expect that we will soon ask NetRom Software to expand our development capacity in Craiova."