Sometime between the .Com crash and Second Life, RomSoft was being founded by two ambitious software engineers in Iasi, Romania. The ITC wave was in its forming days and year after year new businesses, from the most diverse areas, found a way to benefit from this (r)evolution.
We started in a period of uncertainty. In 2001 many companies were closing their activities due to the dot-com crisis. Many developers were deciding to relocate to areas where they found more opportunities like Timisoara, Bucharest, or even abroad.
Since 2004 – 2005, opportunities started to appear again, as many international companies were opening subsidiaries in Iasi.
Our first project
In this context, we were more than happy to start the work on our first project, K-Expert – a work area manager for medical laboratories. The customer was Sysmex Europe, part of a Japanese-German corporation, and a top player in the laboratory diagnostics field.
K-Expert was a Win-32 desktop application programmed in C++ that performed numerical and graphical data acquisition, managed patients, orders and tests, processed results, and performed industry specific quality control validations.
I guess it was pure luck that Sysmex Europe was our first customer. Back then, I and my colleagues were making frequent trips to the customer sites, where we had the opportunity to collect direct feedback, learn about what our customer needed and how they pictured our product could help them.
I remember the feeling going to the labs, connecting to the first analyzer, the emotional rollercoaster waiting for data to arrive. That’s when I understood that this product was more than some lines of code put together. A medical laboratory meant complex dependencies, hierarchies and workflows.
Understanding our mission
I personally understood for the first time the deeper meaning of our work. We were developing a product that could touch many lives in a positive way. And we wanted to keep on doing that.
That’s how our company mission came about. Making lives a bit better. These five little words express just how honored and humbled we are to bring our small contribution to this great purpose: better, affordable healthcare.
On the other hand, working in the healthcare industry is not something that you take lightly. It comes with great responsibility. That’s why it’s a highly regulated space.
We soon realized that our business model had to be built around quality standards and procedures if we wanted a long-term collaboration with this customer. The next step was to understand as well as we could our customer’s business needs.
Finding a sweet spot
The objective was to deliver a service that was so good that we would become indispensable to our customer.
At that time, Sysmex was focusing on selling analyzers and reagents. They needed know-how on the software development front. We understood this need and decided to fulfill it.
We realized very fast that good software was not enough. We needed to deliver top-quality solutions. We nailed down our priorities:
(1) One of them was to have topnotch requirements engineering
(2) Another one was a rigorous documentation process
(3) And third, we needed a complete testing approach in order to control quality and eliminate bugs before the products being released
The development process we built in those days was later implemented and further developed by Sysmex within their own technical department.
The turning point
A turning point in our business relationship with Sysmex was a meeting held in Hamburg, in 2005, called by them “The Regional Initiative”. At that time Sysmex was having two R&D centers. One of them was a company from Tallinn, Estonia, called Systek. The other one was RomSoft.
In that meeting, the two centers presented their work strategy and business philosophy in front of the Sysmex management.
Our strategy was based on the following key-points:
We understood that a structured and methodical development process was best suited for our client’s needs. Sysmex was catering to medical analysis laboratories all over Europe. These labs were starting a complex automatization process of their functional workflows – so their information systems would revolve around heavy data processing and a highly structured lab hierarchy.
With these prerequisites in mind, we thought that a waterfall development process would be preferable to agile methodologies, with strong emphasis on source code documentation and requirements engineering.
Emphasis on quality
Having an ISO 9001 certified quality management system by Moody International and a TGA-DAR accreditation obtained in Germany were competitive edges that we wanted to use to our advantage.
We needed to layout a solid base that would sustain an organic development for us as a company, and for the growing software development needs on the client side (both in size and complexity) in the future years.
Sysmex Europe itself was going through some profound transformations. They understood that they couldn’t limit to just being a distributer of analyzers and reagents. On those analyzers, they had to incorporate a highly performing software to manage all flows of data in a diagnostics laboratory.
The software that was available on their analyzers at that time was made in Japan, and was less suited for the European market, from the user experience point of view. The user interface was unattractive, heavily packed, less design oriented. In Europe, users wanted an interface with fewer elements, and better suited for their specific workflows.
We realized that Sysmex was going to need software development services long-term, and our goal was to become a trusted partner.
We also recognized that one key feature of Sysmex products was quality. This transpired all over their communication strategy. So we thought that if we were to develop applications for Sysmex analyzers, these applications needed to be very stable, with no bugs, so we started doing complete testing and automated testing. We cared about deadlines, but quality came first.
The beginning of a great partnership
At that moment I believed we were in a competition with the Estonian company, and that we were starting from the least favorable position. Tallinn (the alma-mater of the Skype software, among other things) was an important hub for software development in those years, and was definitely seen to have more potential than Iasi.
The Systek team was inclining towards more lightweight development methods such as the Agile methodology. Eventually, the business relationship between Sysmex and Systek was short lived, and ended a couple of years later.
As for RomSoft, I think they appreciated our commitment to a long-term vision and the fact that we understood their needs. This paved the way for our long term collaboration which led us to become their main external R&D center.
In the following years, we developed many more interesting projects together with the Sysmex Europe team. It would take a lot of pages to speak about every product we build together. What I can do instead, is to use another software we are proud to develop – Office Timeline, to showcase how (almost) 20 years of great partnership look like: