Sage Summit Day 2: Bots, Branson, and Bold Statements
“Sage is looking to change 500 years of accounting,” exclaimed chief executive Stephen Kelly during his keynote on the second day of Sage Summit in Chicago.
Kelly, and Sage in general, were full of bold statements, bolstered by a series of product announcements and claims of overall innovation. “There is no company that integrates payroll, time and billing, general ledger, CRM the way we do,” added Kelly.
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Additional bold statements came in from Sage’s chief marketing officer Santiago Solanas, who told AccountingWEB that Sage has always been a solutions company that uses technology to solve business problems.
“We created disruption in the past and then were probably dormant for a while. Now we’re using technology to be disruptive again. There was a while where we were sleeping at the wheel, but we’re back,” he said.
So is Sage really innovating? In a word, yes...it's what £150M in R&D investment can do, and it really all started last year at Sage Summit 2015 with the roll out of a handful of fully cloud-based products, not the least of which was Sage Live, which essentially integrates CRM and general ledger functions in one product.
This year, the most tantalizing morsel for accountants at Sage Summit is the prospect of Sage Live for Accountants, a version the Salesforce-compatible cloud accounting engine template for the accountancy profession. The program will link to Salesforce for CRM functions and the company said that by February next year, it will have an integration with the Fairsail HR program in place.
The Salesforce app platform is helping Sage accelerate its slightly thin ecosystem by enabling faster integrations with products on the same development platform. One of these announced at the show in some style is a link up with Tom Tom Webfleet that will link GPS navigation/tracking data to the accounting system.
In a video sequence that culminated with her appearance on stage, Sage global product marketing vice president Jennifer Warawa drove around Chicago in a connected car, visiting the Lagunitas craft brewing company and picking up a sandwich on her way to the McCormick convention center.
Her movements are all tracked and visible on a mobile device, including the expenses claimed at various locations, enabling companies running fleets of vehicles to get a very detailed, visual update on their locations and cost inputs.
Like many of the announcements at Sage Summit, Sage Live for Accountants and the Tom Tom integration are coming soon.
One product that was harder to find out about was Sage Impact - the star of last year’s summit in New Orleans. Amid all the enthusiasm for Sage Live and X3 in Chicago, Sage Impact has become the forgotten baby sibling, however we were assured that we will be hearing more about it soon.
According to Sage executives, it’s a mistake to think of Sage Impact as a product. “It’s a program to create the accountancy practice of the future,” explained chief technology officer Klaus-Michael Vogelberg.“To take that idea to another level you need a different platform at a different level. Watch Sage Live for Accountants and what that can bring together.”
Accountants who are already working in the cloud and with apps may also welcome bots to their daily functions. Once thought of as invasive advertising or marketing tools, bots are being used in business software to not only locate files but store and deliver information though simple text commands, as you would do chatting with a colleague. Sage now has one of these bots, named it Pegg, and integrated it with Sage Live with plans for use in other Sage products as well.
Through the use of a messenger app (in a demo, Kriti Sharma, Sage’s director of mobile applications, used Facebook Messenger) users can input receipts or request expense reports that are in Sage Live (or, soon any other Sage accounting program).
But despite all of its recent innovation, Sage realizes that what, it rolls out needs to make sense for the businesses and accountants that use it, as Warawa explained.
“It is critical for us to maintain a happy installed base and we need to innovate in the best ways. It’s great to have 100 new features in a product, but we want to focus on the key three or four things that make the biggest difference for our users,” said Warawa. She also noted that there is a global strategy for accountants to solve for practice management, so expect Sage to introduce a practice management offering at some point.
Meanwhile, one of the highlights of the day was the one-on-one chat between Kelly and Sir Richard Branson, who entered the room of approximately 10,000 attendees to a standing ovation.
Since Day 2 was very much geared towards small businesses and entrepreneurism in general, much of the discussion was around those topics.
Probably the most impactful thing that Branson said, as it relates to accountants – particularly small firms was “you can take on Goliaths if you have a quality product.” Some other notable quotables from Sir Richard were: “if every company in the world can solve one problem we can get on top of every problem. We can't leave it to politicians; “Find someone as good or as better than yourself and delegate the running of the company,” he said on the topic of work/life balance; and finally “A good leader must look for the best in people, if you praise people they will blossom.”
That’s about all from the second day of Sage Summit, hope you found it useful or informative but feel free to ask any other questions you’d like to know.
Note: AccountingWEB UK Editor-in-Chief John Stokdyk contributed to this article