Sage Summit 2011
This year Sage North America merged its Partner Insights conference into its Customer Summit conference to have one large Summit conference in Washington DC at the Gaylord Convention Center. The conference ran from July 10 to 15 with the first half being for partners and then with the customers joining on Tuesday. This was the first major conference to feature our new CEO Pascal Houillon who gave the initial keynote address and spent quite a bit of time mingling and chatting with attendees. The event night was the best ever at the Smithsonian Aerospace Museum on the Washington Mall. There were many announcements, demos, town halls, tutorials, labs and presentations. This blog posting looks at a few of the items that I felt were most significant (at least to me).
In Pascal Houillon’s opening keynote, the first big announcement was the product branding announcement. Basically we have been marketing our products as things like Sage ERP MAS, Sage ERP Accpac, Sage Simply Accounting, Sage Peachtree, Sage Act!, Sage Saleslogix, etc. Now we are going to drop all the legacy product names (the MAS, Accpac, Peachtree, Act! part) and now combine all the separate marketing programs into one that will be focused on promoting the “Sage” brand. When partners are pursuing a new leads, often they will be competing with Microsoft, SAP or Oracle. All these companies have a strong brand and the customer will have heard of them. Having to establish who Sage is and what the company does puts you at a disadvantage. The primary goal of this change is to make Sage a well-known and respected company within North America like it is in many other parts of the world. The branding change allows us to combine our separate product marketing resources and launch large scale campaigns across North America that promote the Sage brand and as a consequence all the separate Sage products. Now hopefully when you are pursuing a new customer, they will already know who Sage is, and be willing to enter into a business relationship based on that knowledge. The other thing this does is help with cross-sell. Often if a customer has a Sage ERP product then we would like to sell them a Sage CRM or Sage HR product. But as it stands today the customer thinks they have MAS or Accpac and then selling them Abra or Saleslogix appears like completely unrelated products. We would rather they think they have Sage ERP and adding Sage CRM or Sage HR is just a natural thing to do.
Anyway there is a lot of emotion associated with all the individual Sage product brands, but it seems like here at the conference once people have a chance to think about these changes they see how they can benefit them.
Sage is a Customer Company
Pascal also mentioned that when he asked people about Sage, then if they have heard of Sage then they think we are a technology company. Pascal said he was quite surprised by this. I was also surprised by this, but perhaps for a different reason.
As part of this Pascal unveiled our new slogan: “Making your business life easier”. This represents our true focus on the customer and making their life easier. Then technology is one of many tools that we will bring to bear to accomplish this goal. This is to remind the technology people in the company, like myself, that the technology isn’t an end in itself, it is a means to an end and that we have to always keep that end in mind in everything we do.
I blogged on the Accpac roadmap here. In the session “Sage ERP Accpac: The Road Ahead” a new roadmap was un-veiled:
You might notice that the roadmap has changed. The marketing spin is that you are getting Order Entry in the web sooner than the old road map. The reality is that the project is taking longer than anticipated and we are switching from an all in one first release, to releasing when the first module is available and then releasing all the other modules as a stream of product updates over the next year. As a consequence of this we are also adding a number of feature enhancements as we go along. Another advantage is that we will be more feedback as we go along so we should have a far stronger product when we’ve completed all the modules, than we would have had with one single large release.
Now that we are starting to see Accpac accounting modules in the web, we can give quite a good demo, entirely running in the browser from front office functions in SageCRM to back office functions running in Accpac to even charging credit cards from the Web based interface to Sage Exchange. I’ll blog about these individual components in more detail in future posts, but here is the cliff notes version.
The demo started in the front office with SageCRM 7.1. Here we showed a number of add-on components that we will be releasing for free on our web site over the coming weeks. Below is a screen shot of our new collections dashboard where you see the aged data for how much is overdue and you see a list of customers with overdue invoices. When you select a given customer in the left grid you get the list of overdue invoices in the right grid. We then showed a number of these add-ons.
Then we went into the Accpac Quote to Order feature with-in SageCRM. Here we showed someone entering an Accpac order from the Accpac web screen embedded in the SageCRM frame (you can do this part with the released 6.0A product).
Then we went to the back office, where an accounting clerk picks up the order that the salesperson entered in SageCRM and performs some edits to the order. Below is a screen shot of the new Order Entry screen:
We then showed a number of the zoom forms, popups and hyperlinks that make up this screen. We pointed out how the screen is modernized and updated but still familiar to long time Accpac users. We ran it in the Chrome browser to emphasis how version 6.1A supports all the major browsers and hence will run on Macs and tablet devices as well as Windows.
Then we entered a pre-payment and pressed the button to charge a credit card. The screen was then re-directed to https://www.sagevault.com/VirtualPaymentTerminal/frmCreditCardPayment.aspx where the credit card was processed (this link won’t work directly from this blog posting).
The cool things here is that we did front office tasks in SageCRM, back office tasks in Sage ERP Accpac and then processed a credit card transaction with Sage Exchange all in web pages, all from the browser. No Windows desktop programs involved.
Sage is continuing its strategy of releasing connected services. All the Sage products are starting to have cloud versions similar to AccpacOnline.com. The Sage Advisor technology that appeared originally in Sage Peachtree will be coming to all products. Frictionless upgrade is a high priority to reduce TCO at upgrade time.
This was a very quick overview of some of the goings on at Sage Summit. I’m sure these themes along with others will be intertwined in all my blog postings over the coming year. Looking forward to Sage Summit 2012 in Nashville next August.