Sage ERP Labs
The pace of technological change seems to really be accelerating these days. Here at Sage we want to ensure our products can utilize or integrate to all these new advances. We want to ensure we are ready for any new disruptive technologies that come along.
Product Management normally gathers features by studying the market, by talking to customers, evaluating the competition and generally learning what the market is asking for. This works well for adding business functionality and accounting features, but it tends to not work so well for predicting the impact of disruptive technologies. This is because most of the market isn’t aware of what is coming and describing it can be quite difficult.
What we need is a method to present disruptive technologies to the market in a manner that is understood in the context of their ERP and CRM business applications. Many times, these days, new technologies are presented in how they can benefit say Facebook users, but then it isn’t clear how these ideas can apply to the Enterprise.
Sage ERP Labs is an initiative of the Sage North America Mid-Market ERP (MME) group to provide framework for doing this. We are providing a forum for gathering and sharing ideas, and then a framework for developing Proof of Concept (POC) demos that can be used to evangelize and showcase new technologies in an Enterprise framework. These POCs will be developed across all our products including Sage ERP Accpac, Sage ERP MAS 90 and Sage ERP MAS 500. We will also be considering ideas around our connected services initiative.
We will then take these POC’s and present them to customers, staff, and analysts to get an idea from the market whether we should then add these to our release roadmap to productize and include in a future release. The goal is to start a conversation with our various stakeholders on how these often esoteric ideas can benefit them. Often the initial ideas won’t work directly, but with some work and lots of feedback can be translated into truly innovative features with real ROI.
To some degree this has been going on already informally in people’s spare time (see the examples below). What we want to do is to nurture this innovation and be able to allocate people’s time to develop these ideas. Basically to become much more enterprising in our endeavors. To make innovation become much more a part of our Normal Operating Rhythm (NOR).
The official Sage ERP Labs initiative is new, but it sprang out of a few POC’s that we did over the last year around Sage ERP Accpac 6.0A.
Social Media is a huge topic these days. So much marketing and corporate customer connectedness is happening via Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora and Twitter. Companies are asking how they can leverage that from their ERP. What does that mean? We created an integration to the Accpac 6 Portal which I blogged on here. This was just done via customization, so people can use this now if they wish. But the main point was to provide some context to start a conversation on what people really want. It’s easy to just add a feature to satisfy a feature sheet check box, but to provide real value takes a deep understanding of people’s problems and how to solve them in a real and meaningful way. So this is just a starting point, and then as we add Social Media to the core product going forwards it should be a much more integrated, holistic and valuable feature, than just adding some links and connections to random web sites.
These innovations don’t need to just target end users. They can also target the developer community. Sage ERP MAS 90 has a plug-in for doing ProvideX development in the Eclipse IDE. Originally for Accpac 6 development you did your coding inside Eclipse, but then a number of other activities in other tools like our screen designer in IE. So why not take the expertise we had from creating the MAS 90 Eclipse plug-in and create an Eclipse plug-in for Accpac? Which was done as a POC and is now part of the standard SDK and blogged on here.
We are currently in an idea generation phase, once we have a good selection of ideas, we will select the best ones to proceed to POC stage. Once we have the POC Demos, we will begin socializing these to get feedback on what really needs to be done (or not done) and then hopefully start including these innovative ideas as real useful features in our core products.
If you see one of these demos, please provide some feedback. You can have a real impact on future releases and a say in the direction.
This initiative has been rolled out to members of our R&D team but if you have an idea, feel free to e-mail me at Stephen.Smith@sage.com and I can enter it into the system.