Over 7000 people waded through the humidity of New Orleans in August to hear what new CEO Stephen Kelly has planned for Sage. Over the past three years, Sage has faced changes in product road maps, leadership, and partner programs. As the company refocuses back on its core mission of serving the small and medium sized businesses, customers are left with a stronger impression that the organization may be headed in the right direction.
Five key points anchor the new strategy (see Video 1 below):
Golden triangle of accounting, payroll, and payments drive the core. 1:1 conversations with CTO Himanshu Palsule confirmed that a significant technology investment is going to revitalizing accounting, payroll, and payments. In demos during the keynote, users could sense the innovation and emphasis on mobile, analytics, and the future of digital business models. Point of view (POV): The recent investment to rationalize product lines, centralize development, and streamline innovation is key to Sage's revitalization. Partners remain unclear about which platforms in the cloud (i.e. Amazon, Salesforce, Microsoft) will win, but the re emphasis on innovation has reassured concerned partners about the future of Sage's product road map for now.
Payments embedded everywhere. Paul Bridgewater, CEO of Sage Payment Solutions, reemphasized the integration of payments throughout the Sage franchise. (POV): In discussions with customers, many applauded the announced integration to Magento. In Constellation's conversations with SMBs, the ability to complete commerce and go direct to customers remains a key priority for 2015 to 2016 initiatives.
Death of ERP. The introduction of an the new SageX3 Cloud brings all the on-premises functionality to a cloud deployment option for customers. (POV): Industry observers have wondered when Sage would bring the full suite into the cloud. The announcement and launch showed Sage's commitment to the cloud, but also reemphasized the challenges faced in making a full transition. Early customer sentiment shows an excitement of what the cloud can do to help lead digital transformation.
Choice of deployment options. CEO Stephen Kelly publicly acclaimed his love for on-premises, hybrid, and cloud all at once. Sage made a commitment to support all deployment approaches for its products. (POV): An informal survey of 71 customers indicates broad support for multiple deployment options. Customers expected their maintenance dollars to fund innovation to enable on-premises as well as cloud transition at their own pace.
Re brand and re-launch of Sage Live. Built on the Salesforce1 platform, Sage Live brings the Sage accounting platform onto the Salesforce platform. The solution takes advantage of the full Salesforce platform with analytics, collaboration, and mobile capabilities available to customers and partners. (POV):Constellation believes this is a smart move to bring financials at the SMB level and the power of the Salesforce ecosystem to create new products and spawn greater partner innovation. As a technology company, Constellation does find it a bit strange that Sage did not deliver this capability on its own platform and chose to partner instead of build.
Video 1. Live Update - Sage Summit
The bottom line: Change is in the air
Sage customers have seen the changes over the past two to three years as the software vendor makes the transition to the cloud as well as to new business models. As a key technology partner for small and medium sized businesses, the new outlook is refreshing. As Sage makes a continued reinvestment in new technologies for accounting, payments, and payroll, customers should push hard to make sure that delivery of the new products meets the new requirements to run a digital business, and that Sage remains focused on innovation with the maintenance dollars customers have entrusted with them. Overall the outlook has improved, but there is more work ahead. How Sage executes in the next 24 months will determine whether or not Sage will grow into the next transition.