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Sage Summit Analysis: Shooting for the Moon

Aug 1st 2016
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Last Monday, business management software company Sage took a significant public risk when executive Nick Goode (Executive VP, Global Product Management) made some big commitments to accountants and the businesses who use their products.

The announcements at the company’s Sage Summit mega-conference in Chicago included ambitious upgrades to Sage One Accounting, a new Integration Platform, and a chatbot named Pegg. The conference also which featured keynotes by business and media superstars like Ashton Kutcher, Gwynneth Paltrow, Sir Richard Branson, and stars of the business reality show “Shark Tank,” as well as hundreds of educational sessions for Sage Partners, bookkeepers and accountants, and the end users of its software solutions. One could say, they’re shooting for the moon.

In fact, it was exactly 47 years ago that Apollo 11 astronauts first walked on the moon, the result of America’s 1960’s national quest to develop the technology needed to put humans on the surface of another celestial body and return them home safely. America was only able to do this by leaders like the late John Kennedy publically stating that they were going to do what others had called was “impossible” and working tirelessly to meet this goal in a very short period (less than 10 years).

This move required a massive group of new and existing people to be reorganized around this new, ambitious, public goal, and at its outset it was anything but certain – but the public commitment served as a catalyst for organizing people to make what was previously thought to be impossible happen in a short period of time.

As for Sage, they have big plans for its cloud Sage One accounting product for startup businesses, but the new cloud product has not been as popular as its legacy desktop Sage 50 product line with accountants and users across the globe.  Sage’s EVP for Product Management Nick Goode announced that by the end of calendar year 2016, Sage One will achieve feature parity with QuickBooks Online and will integrate Sage One with many national versions of Sage 50, including the US version (formerly known as Peachtree Accounting).

Although Sage 50 still controls the UK desktop software market, cloud accounting startup Xero claims to have leapfrogged Sage One in the Sage’s home market of the UK, and both Sage and Xero have struggled against QuickBooks Online (QBO) in the Intuit’s home market of the US.

While QBO has a significant first mover advantage in the US, it has struggled to compete outside the US, where Sage and cloud accounting company Xero are the dominant players.

Goode also reported that the company will create the Sage Integration Platform, which will provide a secure application integration platform which will eventually allow users to write integrations into most, if not all, of Sage’s product line. While the hard task of executing against this goal is still ahead, the Sage team has clearly told the rest of the cloud accounting world that “It’s on.”

As if to prove to the world that Sage is serious about doing innovative things, Goode unveiled a “chatbot” named “Pegg,” which allows users to enter data and get information from their accounting software. Users can send chat messages with receipts, transaction amounts, and income and expense account classifications from within apps like Facebook Messenger and Slack. The chatbot can also be controlled through integrated voice command utilities like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana.

Pegg is in a private beta test with Sage One now, and will be integrated with some versions of the company’s Sage One product by the end of September. Sage Director of Product Management for Mobile Products Kriti Sharma indicated that Pegg will be integrated with other Sage products based on their product roadmap and customer demand. A standalone version of Pegg which readers can try is available at www.hellopegg.io.

Pegg chatbot

Sir Richard Branson spoke with Sage CEO Stephen Kelly at Sage Summit on Tuesday about his Virgin Galactic effort to create space tourism, and discussed some of the many challenges associated with this difficult path. Branson stated that he had to combine risk taking with ambitious public goals to create the experience that he wanted, and noted that success is never certain.

Like Branson, Sage announced a very aggressive set of goals last week. And while Goode’s goals for accounting software are not as sexy as NASA’s Apollo moon landings or Branson’s efforts to make space tourism possible, they are very important to the future of small businesses around the world. I think we should all look forward to seeing the progress toward these two modern-day moonshots in the coming months.