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Editor's Corner: Sage Summit Wrapped Up

Jul 31st 2015
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After listening to speeches and meeting with executives, partners, and a few accountants at Sage Summit, I plan to explore what I was able to decipher that came out of their recent confab.

For those unaware, this past week Sage had its annual Sage Summit conference in New Orleans. For the second time ever, it created a combined, international user and partner event (the first was last year in Las Vegas) rather than the segmented partner and user events, which were mostly geared toward Sage North America.

Overall, the event made sense and, as I had mentioned in my previous column, probably should have been done several years back after Sage acquired the North American businesses it did. Sage has long been a global player, active in the UK, Europe, Asia, and Australia, as well, so bringing it all together under one roof – especially now that it is dedicated to communicating that it is truly a global company with global products – just made sense.

My main goal in attending was to discover the direction of this company that has had many connections with the accounting community for years, possibly more so in other countries but not for lack of effort or commitment.

In general, with the new global CEO Stephen Kelly in place, we're seeing a kinder, gentler Sage: One that wants customers for life, one that is starting to innovate, and one that does not want to push anyone in any direction they aren't comfortable going. So, rather than taking a hard stance on change, moving to the cloud, new product lines, sunsetting legacy systems, or really on anything in particular, this one Sage under Kelly proposes to be all things to all users and partners.

Probably the most pointed quote from Sage's new leader came when he said, “Sage loves on-premises. Sage loves hybrid. Sage loves the cloud. We are happy to have you run your business with your own data in your own office, as well as on the go or completely in the cloud.”

He also noted that “you will not hear the words ‘end of life' from us.” A pretty bold statement, as many software publishers are moving away from supporting or developing much for their legacy systems in favor of more cloud and mobile offerings.

One thing Sage is getting rid of – the term “ERP” will no longer apply to any of their products as Kelly indicated the term is “over 25 years old” and does not have a place in Sage's current product line.

So, any firm recommending or has clients using Sage 100, 300 or X3 ERP will no longer see those initials. Instead, you may well see a small ‘c' after 100 and 300 in particular to let you know that they will be connected to the Web (while remaining on your desktop or sever). Sage X3 will also be available in the cloud later this year.

In terms of products, what we are seeing with accountants in mind as of now are Sage One, Sage Live (to a degree), Sage Impact and Sage 50 Accounting. Accountants may be involved in aspects of the remaining Sage product lines, but these stood out most.

Without getting in to a specific product strategy for each one – though I did offer insights into general marketing plans for Live and Impact – Sage is still delivering a message that it is committed to accountants and bookkeepers and sees them as an integral part of their long-term plans. Kelly himself even pointed out “we want to support the golden triangle of accounting, payroll and payments in everything we deliver.”

Then there's the Sage Accountants Network (SAN). For several years this group has existed and is currently searching for a new leader of the program, since its initial leader Jennifer Warawa was promoted to global VP marketing, accounting products. In speaking with her though, she indicated Sage was "very close to making a decision on that leader and instrumental on taking SAN and these products to next level.”

Outside of positive feelings all around, there was not much more that Kelly offered in the way of concerns about new client acquisition or even the financial position of the company. When asked pointed questions about these matters in a room full of press and analysts, he deflected or did not completely address the matters.

Another interesting note, of sorts, was while Sage North America does have a president – albeit an interim president – in returning Sage veteran Jodi Uecker, she opted to remain silent during the press and analyst discussions, yielding the floor to Kelly. Possibly, this was further indication of seeing Sage as one, global entity and one clear leader.

In closing, I think it's safe to say there are still a lot of questions about how this edition of Sage will fare in the SMB market and among accountants – all of which have more choices than ever for accounting-related products. Could Sage truly be a leader in North America in any of their product areas, become a staple, seen as an innovator, or end up in another company's hands as an answer to a problem?

Your thoughts and opinions are welcome. Let's keep the conversation going!

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