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Sage Insights and Summit Conferences, Wellington 2012

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Introduction

This year Sage had its regional partner conference for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands in Wellington, New Zealand. This is the first time this conference has been held outside of Australia and was a great success. Since we were there already, we also had a customer conference a day before the partner conference started. The customer conference is Sage Summit and the partner conference is Sage Insights. After Wellington, Sage had two more customer Summit conferences in Sydney and Melbourne.

Wellington is located on the southwestern tip of New Zealand’s North Island. It has a population of around 400,000 people and is the capital of New Zealand. Wellington is a very compact city with the downtown nestled between the harbor and some hills. I took the picture above from the top of Mount Victoria looking back on downtown. You can easily walk from one side of the main downtown area to the other. It’s a fun place with a very vibrant arts scene, café culture and nightlife. While we were there the city was gearing up for the global premier showing of the new Hobbit movie which will be a giant party, unfortunately we were ten days to early. Certainly Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit are playing a large part in New Zealand tourism promotions and attractions around the country (see the picture at the bottom of the giant Golum over the cafeterias at Wellington airport).

Weta

The guest speaker at the gala awards dinner was Wayne Stables from Weta Digital. Weta did the special effects for movies like Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Prometheus, The  Avengers, Tintin and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Amazing work and many academy awards received. Interesting to see their development processes. They are preparing for the work on Avatar 2 right now, working on what is really their DevOps process to streamline the production of software into the video workflow. Interesting to think about their tight deadlines and how they have to deliver top quality each time. Since they are a separate entity from the studios, they have no job security from job to job. In business software we aren’t producing anything as beautiful as Avatar, but at the same time we want to produce screens with an excellent user experience, but at the same time deliver software to end users very quickly. I think that we can learn a lot from the movie and video games industries on how to deliver higher and higher quality user experience, but still stick to tight deadlines.

ISVs

The Sage ISV community is very active in Australia and New Zealand. Some local representatives exhibiting were Technisoft, Pacific Technologies, Enabling IP, Orchid, Redmap, BSP Software, InfoCentral Solutions, Modulo Software, Netfira, On Center Software, Wageeasy and XM Developments.  Then there were a number of exhibitors that had travelled from other regions including Iciniti, AutoSimply, Accellos, ACDEV Software, Accu-Dart, Altec, Enbu Consulting, Global Software, idu Software, Netstock, Tema Business Systems and Vineyardsoft.

There were several new SDK modules on display. It’s great to see accounting modules for new verticals making it to market and new bits of functionality being added to the existing solutions. Plus there were several additional ISVs that attended but didn’t have booths.

Redmap is an interesting ISV. They became an ISV by becoming a Sage customer first. They were originally a Netsuite customer, but the spiraling costs of Netsuite drove them to look for another solution and they chose Sage ERP X3 (see the articles here). Redmap creates a document automation and management solution. Now that Redmap is a Sage customer they decided to integrate their solution to Sage 300 CRE, Sage 300 ERP and Sage X3 ERP and to market this solution globally.

Hybrid Cloud

As part of the keynote, myself and Mike Lorge the Managing Director talked about the Sage Hybrid Cloud and showed off a number of connected mobile services running against this cloud. I blogged on the Sage Hybrid Cloud here.  It’s always nail biting to demo something at a keynote that relies on an internet connection. I demo’ed the Service Billing connected service from my iPhone 4S, I just turned on data roaming for the demo, since then I didn’t need to worry about hotel Wi-Fi and the 3G seemed to work fairly well in Wellington. Keith Fenner demo’ed the Sales Manager service on his iPad connected to hotel Wi-Fi, which actually held up. So we got through that with the connections from the devices to the projector working and the internet connectivity working. Certainly adds some new challenges to giving presentations. On the other hand we are telling businesses that these are reliable services that are available 99.9… % of the time, so we should be confident they will work during keynotes and other demos. We also showed the Sage Connected Services Vision video which is on YouTube here.

Products

The keynote also covered the latest releases of Sage CRM, Sage 300 ERP and Sage ERP X3 along with some peaks as to what will be coming in future versions. Sage 300 ERP 2012 has just been released in this region, so people are just starting to get it. So this was a good time to highlight this release and point out all the various features, plus we also talked about the roadmap for the next 3 years. Sage CRM showcased some exciting developments with CRM running optimized for mobile devices as well as showing the next generation of social media integration. Sage X3 ERP highlighted many relevant features in the current version and gave a video of the Syrapedia feature coming in version 7.

Summary

All the partners, customers and staff from our Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands region are very enthusiastic and dedicated to what they do. It is always very energizing to attend such conferences and have the chance to interact with so many people. I have tons of feedback to bring back on our products and our processes that hopefully we can incorporate to keep a real positive feedback loop going.

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Written by smist08

November 24, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Sage African Insights 2012

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Sage African Insights 2012

Africa

I’m writing this blog posting from South Africa where I’m attending and presenting at Sage’s African Insights conference. This conference is primarily for the business partners that work with the Sage Accpac, X3 and CRM products. In Africa, Sage sells a number of small business solutions like Pastel and Act!; however, they have their own conference. Africa is a fascinating continent where you get to have many adventures you couldn’t experience anywhere else. If you like photography or wildlife then Africa is the ideal place to visit. The people are incredibly friendly and fun.

Conference

The main theme of the conference is the release of Sage X3 Standard Edition. This edition includes a methodology to standardize the implementation of X3 sites. In Africa there aren’t really any Tier 1 companies. As a result Sage has products that cover the whole spectrum of companies in Africa with Pastel covering the small business market, Accpac covering medium sized businesses and then X3 covering the larger enterprises. I’m not using the new product name for Sage ERP Accpac in this article, since these product naming changes won’t be introduced into Africa for another year.

Africa is Sage’s highest growth region showing double digit growth in all areas. The economy in many regions of Africa is booming. Peace has broken out in many southern countries including Mozambique and Angola allowing phenomenal economic growth. Africa is extremely natural resource rich and as mineral prices rise, so do exports. Hopefully this new wealth will spread widely enough to keep this positive change happening.

All the African partners are very hard working and resourceful. Generally the size of customer sites are larger in Africa than other regions, however sometimes the infrastructure to support these is a bit lacking. It’s amazing what can be accomplished though, working around all the various problems with unreliable power and internet connectivity.

This African conference is nice because there is such a sense of community. All the people present are working with the same Sage products and the conference with 300 or so attendees is still small enough that most people know each other. Even though there are many day to day rivalries between the various partners, they still come together as friends at these conferences to share their battle stories and to have a drink together. It’s also fascinating to meet partners from all over Africa, from such interesting and exotic countries.

Day 1

The conference started with a number of keynotes including Jeremy Waterman presenting the overall state of the business, myself presenting changes to the Sage ERP Accpac roadmap (a topic of future blog posts), Lorcan Malone and Tom Nolan on Sage CRM, Benoit Le Tohic and Jeremy Cocqueel for Sage X3, Keith Fenner with the sales keynote and then Mandy Wiener, the author of “Killing Kebble, An Underworld Exposed” as the guest speaker.

This then was followed by a reception in the exhibition hall where Sage and many third party solutions had booths showcasing their solutions. It’s always nice to see such a variety of third party solutions. Some have been integrating to Sage products for over twenty years.

Sage ERP Accpac is often criticized for not having a built in workflow engine. However this gap is then filled in by a number of third party solutions. On display were solutions written in the Accpac SDK, the Sage CRM SDK and written as external orchestration programs. I wonder if Accpac did have a built in workflow engine, then would all these terrific solutions exist? Would the customer have the same breadth of solutions available to them?

Day 2

Keith Fenner started day 2 with a sales keynote on how Sage is successful at winning sales over the competition and highlighted key selling points against the competition’s many weaknesses.

Then there were many breakout sessions for everyone to attend. I gave presentations of “Troubleshooting the Accpac 6.0A Portal” and “SData: An Overview”. Then I backed up Andrea McGowan in her presentation on “Customizing the Accpac 6 Portal”.

At the end of the day was the “fancy dress” party which was themed around spies and detectives.

Day 3

Keith Fenner started day 3 with another sales keynote. Then there were another set of breakout sessions.

At the end of the day was the black tie partner awards dinner. It’s good to see so many partners achieving silver, gold, platinum and diamond status. Not only Sage gave out awards, but many of the third party developers gave out awards for the partner that either sold the most or had the best installations of their product.

Summary

Africa is always an amazing place to visit. This is my fourth trip to this conference. I always have a great time and feel extremely welcome. I always learn a lot at the conference and enjoy all the various discussions. I always feel I have gained so much good information to take back to Vancouver to share with my colleagues there.

The view of Cathkin Peak from my hotel room at the Champagne Sports Resort:

Written by smist08

February 13, 2012 at 7:02 am

Insights 2010

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I just returned from the Sage Insights 2010 conference in Denver, Colorado. The conference was really great and Denver was an excellent city to have a conference in. The good thing about Denver is that the conference center is in the center of the city and most of the downtown attractions are within walking distance. This meant we weren’t trapped in an isolated convention center at the mercy of those facilities.

The keynote addresses outlined Sage’s strategies going forwards. The main emphasis was to balance efforts between three columns:

  1. Providing value for the installed base.
  2. Providing connected “cloud” services.
  3. Developing strategic products for new customer acquisition.

These pillars aren’t just to do with R&D, they affect all aspects of our business, including marketing, programs, sales, support and services.

There tends to be a lot of confusion about what the difference is between developing for the installed base versus developing for new customers. After all both will be customers and their businesses will be very similar. Just one uses our products currently and one (hopefully) will shortly. These tend to be confused with an age old argument with-in our products of how many resources to put into developing “accounting” type application features versus “technology” features. Unfortunately anything that isn’t an accounting feature tends to be bucketed as a technology feature, even though many useful non-accounting features like better installation programs aren’t involving any new technology, just refining what we already use.

So to be clear, providing value for the installed base does not mean just adding some “accounting” type features and developing for new customer acquisition does not mean just adding “technology” type features. For instance three top requested features from the installed base are:

  1. Better reporting
  2. Better performance
  3. Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

None of these are “accounting” features. All may or may not involve new technologies to solve them. Number 2 may just be a matter of re-factoring existing code in the existing technologies. Number 1 may just mean providing more reports in the current tools, or improving the current reports. Sage ERP Accpac 6.0A is addressing numbers 1 and 3 with web based technologies. It includes a new Accpac Inquiry feature and real time dashboards to address number 1. It moves towards a true web based zero-client model to avoid having to install anything on all the client workstations to reduce TCO. Better performance is address by being able to use more advanced web based testing tools to guide code re-factoring for better performance.

By the same token, from the Win-Loss analysis it appears that we lose sales at the upper end because our operations modules don’t provide all the sophisticated features that larger companies require. So adding functionality like sophisticated re-stocking strategies is an “accounting” feature that will allow us to expand the reach of Accpac, but probably won’t benefit existing customers.

Then there is the question of meeting the competition head on. When going head to head with the competition we want our product to be the best looking and most exciting. Right now that tends to mean being the richest web based application. Many times this is categorized as a new customer acquisition strategy, since we need to impress the clients to make a new sale. But it’s also an existing customer strategy, since if we don’t do this then the competition will attack our install base and if they can convince them that our products aren’t moving forwards, then they can start converting them. So we need the new technologies to both make new sales and to protect our installed base from our competitors. We are lucky that accounting applications are very “sticky” and its hard to convert our customers, but they still can be converted and our install base does need to be tended to.

So we can see that for the existing customer and new customer pillars, each will be addressed by a combination of refining existing functionality, embracing newer technologies and adding application functionality.

The middle column above of connected “cloud” services is all about providing new services to all our customers. This includes a number of existing services like Avalara sales tax calculator and Sage Payment Services’ Exchange gateway. It also envisions many new services perhaps like a hosted software as a service (SaaS) model self service modules. For instance a web site where employees of a customer can go to enter expense reports, which are then entered into the on-premise accounting application (using Sage’s SData web services protocol). The goal of these is that they can be developed once and provide a standard interface and then be connected to every Sage accounting application. Some of these will be add-on modules, some may be complimentary.

After the keynotes, the conference was quite exciting as Sage ERP Accpac 6.0 was released to “alpha”, meaning an official installable image was released to all third party developers. The “beta” release that will be available to all business partners is scheduled to be about 7 weeks away. Accpac 6 was installed on many computers for partners to play with, there were many product demonstrations, which were very well received.

At the end of the conference we offered two days of developer training in the Accpac 6.0 SDK which went quite well.

The next year should be quite exciting as we see all these new initiatives and products rolled out.

Written by smist08

May 24, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Posted in Business, sage 300

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