By Gail Perry, Editor-in-Chief
A year ago, Sage North America CEO Pascal Houillon surprised the Sage community of partners and customers with the announcement that the company was going to embrace the Sage brand and emphasize the name Sage in all of its products, phasing out familiar names like Peachtree, Timberline, Accpac, MAS, Simply Accounting, and ACT!.
A year later, at the annual Sage Summit customer and partner conference, Sage North America CEO Pascal Houillon and CTO Himanshu Palsule shared the opening keynote address and unveiled details of the company’s strategy to help small and midsized businesses (SMBs) in North America take advantage of mobile devices and the Cloud to better manage their business processes. Sage is a leading global provider of accounting, ERP and other business management applications, and services for small and midsized businesses, with more than three million customers in North America and more than six million customers worldwide.
“Mobile and Cloud computing have become driving forces for efficiency among small and midsized businesses,” said Houillon. “A recent [American Cities Business Journals] survey of SMB owners showed that 36 percent of them now use tablets or Cloud computing, up from just 14 percent a year ago. A third of them use both. These early adopters stay connected longer to their business and in more ways. They are also more successful and faster growing. Sage is delivering for the Cloud and mobile computing today, and we are committed to helping SMBs be successful in this new world.”
In the keynote, Houillon described the company’s global three-pronged approach to the Cloud – each aimed at a specific segment of the SMB market, and each supporting mobile access.
First: Sage One, a multi-tenant SaaS solution for small businesses with up to nine employees that is built on the open-source web application framework Ruby on Rails. Sage One was launched in the United States in May, and the company announced upcoming features that will be deployed to customers as they are completed, including banking integration, mobile capabilities, and online invoice payment.
Second: A new generation of hybrid Cloud technology in which Sage will work closely with Microsoft, using its Azure platform. Sage Construction Anywhere, built on Azure, is already in the market, having launched in North America as of May. Development on Azure is under way for the company’s ERP products, notably Sage 300 ERP (formerly Sage ERP Accpac). The company also announced that Sage 300 ERP 2012 will ship this quarter and will include enhanced usability features, such as Sage Advisor and Visual Processes, as well as connected services for mobile access to the ERP system.
Third: The next generation of Sage ERP X3 is a fully web-enabled ERP platform for the mid-market that promises to deliver new levels of simplicity in user interface, data processing, and data storage models for mid-market ERP. The Sage ERP X3 platform, code-named Syracuse, will be delivered in North America in 2013. The company also announced the release of the newest edition of Sage ERP X3, version 6.5, which offers integration with Sage SalesLogix and various connected services, to begin shipping in October, including the availability for the first time of subscription pricing.
Sage CTO Himanshu Palsule described the company’s strategy to make additional investments in Cloud and mobile services that will expand the company’s growing portfolio. That portfolio already includes services like Sage One for managing team collaboration, projects and billing; Sage Source for managing employee communications; and Sage Mobile Payments, which has been used by organizations like the Girl Scouts to take credit card transactions on mobile phones with direct integration to Sage back-office accounting and ERP systems.
Palsule demonstrated two new mobile apps designed to let SMBs take product orders, invoice services, and accept payments on their tablets and smartphones with all the vital ERP information at their fingertips. These role-based mobile apps turn smartphones and tablets into powerful selling tools for its SMB customers.
Houillon concluded his address to the Sage business partner community, acknowledging the opportunity of changes ahead driven by a clear focus on SMB needs:
“Without a doubt, we are in a world of rapid change. But each of us should remember: Our customers are what fuel our world. By using our core strengths to tend to our customer needs, and by being willing to make bold moves in response, we are all part of the growth ahead.”
A strong focus on providing value to customers moving away from the model of using installation and implementation as the main revenue generators might leave some Sage retailers with questions about their potential for future success. "A lot of things they do are low value for customers. I think they have to refocus on the real value they bring to customers", said Houillon. "The whole upgrade/install business, in an online world, that starts to diminish. What do you do after the installation is done? That's where they have to focus – you're billing at a premium because you're solving real problems."