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Sage Summit Day 1: The Big Reveal

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Jul 25th 2016
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“Sage is on a journey to be one of the greatest technology companies on the planet,” pronounced chief executive Stephen Kelly at the company’s Sage Summit in Chicago on Monday.

Day 1 of the Summit was primarily geared toward "partners", which for Sage includes resellers, ISVs and accountants. With thousands of business people, accountants and software partners due to visit the event during the next few days, Sage pulled the wraps off a battery of new product roadmaps, marketing initiatives and ecosystem announcements.

One of the larger reveals came in a later session on the Future of the Professions session kickoff, offering a renewed snapshot of the newest Sage portfolio, which included Sage Live for Accountants. This will essentially be CRM, a general ledger, and time and billing all in one app. A more formal anmouncement on the product and scheduled roll-out is coming later in the show.

Earlier this morning, in talking to a couple of thousand partners, Sage's strategic partnerships vice president Alan Laing explained that Sage tailored the event and its wider marketing strategy to address some of their gripes by:

  • Revealing product roadmaps they can rely on.
  • Becoming easier to do business with.
  • Simplifying its messages.
  • More demand- and lead-generation.
  • Building awareness of the Sage brand, particularly in north America.

The company lived up to its promise, revealing detailed roadmaps for its six main accounting engines - Sage One, Sage Live, Sage 50c, Sage 100c, Sage 300 and  X3 - and wooing the partners with new global marketing programs and support for developers and partners. Of all its current and new products, Sage did not as yet reveal plans or details on how Sage Impact was progressing. The company unveiled the cloud-based product, which is essentially a central platform for all other cloud applications to exist, over a year ago.

For now, with so many balls to juggle, Sage has a big job on its hands to advance on all those fronts simultaneously. But global product marketing vice president Jennifer Warawa tried to pull the different strands together.

 “We’ve done a shift in how we talk about the market. We used to talk about small and medium businesses (SMBs), mid-market and enterprise. Now we talk about start-ups, scale-ups and enterprise. This is what really resonates with the market and helps them identify with the solutions we have,” she said.

Many Sage partners specialize in on-premises applications including Sage 50 and Sage 200, but Warawa explained why it was important and how the full Sage product set help them prosper in the next few years. “The company that becomes the business technology provider in its early days has the opportunity to provide the technology for the entire life of their business,” she said. “You can build a pool of customers you can migrate to larger solutions.”

Given that Sage Live is one of the newest offerings geared towards accountants (thanks in no small part with a partnership with Salesforce), here below is the product roadmap for the next year:

Sage Live Roadmap

Looking to the future, Sage executives said that the company was already researching new technologies like data science, artificial intelligence and blockchain that would help it leapfrog its competitors.

Accountants at the event also got a session of their own looking at the future, where British author Daniel Susskind shared the findings of his book, ‘The Future of the Professions’ and debated the implications with some of the profession’s leading commentators: Doug Sleeter, Ron Baker, Joe Woodard, William Nahum, Garry Carter, Ed Kless, Gary Boomer and Susskind himself.

Prior to the arrival of the "thought leaders" panel, Susskind set the stage, sharing highlights from his book which has already begun to send shockwaves through the profession.

Through careful research, interviews and case studies of multiple professions (accounting included), the book paints a picture of the future of professional services that many who have instituted little change in their practices, processes and thinking will not find welcoming. Specifically, Susskind's book details two futures for professionals: one that is a more effficient version  (thanks to technology) of what they do now, while the other is not just about technology streamlining the work accounting and other professionals do, but displaces the work altogether.

"For now and in the midterm we believe the two futures will develop in parallel. But in the long term, the second future will dominate, and there will be a gradual dismantling of traditional professions", said Susskind.

He stressed that there’s currently a move away from bespoke service in the professions, instead it’s broken down into tasks and activities. Moreover, the systems we use to perform professional tasks are becoming more powerful, efficient, and pervasive and if accounting professionals and others are to remain they must evolve from what they have traditionally done. To accountants, Susskind had the following advice:

"Don’t hold out until retirement before any change engulfs you. Start with a blank sheet of paper and ask, 'how can I do things differently?' Explore new roles and skills and capabilities and how you can learn them. Most importantly, change your mindset, always ask what part of my work can be undertaken alternatively. You can do things the way you always have done them, but you will be disappointed. Or you can be agnostic on how you solve a problem and think of alternatives."

Note: AccountingWEB UK Editor-in-Chief John Stokdyk contributed to this article

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
Jul 26th 2016 12:14 EDT

Sage has pulled out all the stops to make the summit as big and brash as it can, with CEO Stephen Kelly claiming the 15,000 attendance made it "the world’s largest gathering of entreprenuers and business builders".

To build the buzz, it appears that Sage has saved up all of its goodies for this week. Some of us have been wondering whether Kelly's transformational crusade to build a global Sage has lost a little momentum.

Sage has counteracted that impression effectively at the event, but the variety of product announcements, alliances and partner tools doesn't make it easy to clarify exactly where Sage is focusing, because it's doing so much simultaneously.

With all these industry conversations taking place, Kerry Mann, the CEO at Tornoto-based Sage partner Mantralogix, commented, "Sage doesn’t have to be best kept secret any more."

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