Sage Adds a Little Spice to Its Roadmap
Sage Summit '08: Sage CRM General Manager David van Toor fields questions on social CRM, the recession, and collaborative communities.
Posted Nov 21, 2008
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DENVER — Sage Software may have taken the occasion of its annual user conference here this week to simplify its brand to "Sage," but at least one executive at the business management solution provider claims the company's not big on gimmicks. "That's not Sage's style," said David van Toor, general manager of Sage CRM, at a roundtable discussion at this week's Sage Summit.

Missing from the keynotes and presentations were buzzwords, drum rolls, and the hype typical of many other software conferences. Clearly present, however, were the familiar issues facing the CRM industry: the sinking economy, the concept of "social CRM," and product innovation.  

Denis Pombriant, founder and principal of CRM consultancy Beagle Research, calls the new Sage CRM roadmaps "evolutionary, not revolutionary." Still, Pombriant says that he believes the company remains focused on listening to its customers, and as a result its three CRM products — Act! by Sage, SalesLogix, and SageCRM — are now linked to a far more seamless degree than ever before.

Van Toor said that an umbrella strategy over the CRM products remains a corporatewide goal. When asked about any product-level rebranding plans to strengthen the ties between the offerings, Van Toor admitted that the topic has come up.

"I'm not ready to pull the trigger," he said, noting that the decades-old Act! is a singularly identifiable brand and that rebranding, in general, is always a double-edged sword.

In terms of the company's social media efforts, the SalesLogix roadmap listed social CRM as a goal for 2010. In the meantime, the Sage CRM products all enlist mashups with sources such as social-networking site LinkedIn to glean the social data that might benefit an end user in a business scenario.

Pombriant, who has blogged extensively on the subject, says that mashups aren't the best way to deliver social CRM. However, he notes that Sage's customer base — mostly small and midsize companies — doesn't yet seem all that interested in the burgeoning technologies.

On that point, van Toor told the roundtable, Sage is merely trying to get ahead of the curve. "The problem with any of this stuff is [that] most businesses are busy staying in business," he said. "They haven't really gotten the core business down yet...and they're busy paying bills." He made clear that the majority of Sage customers see accessing LinkedIn as a completely sufficient level of social CRM, but nevertheless apologized for what he acknowledged was a vague position on the topic. "Vendors at this stage are ahead of our customers," he said. "There's a lot of experimentation." He said that, for the moment, Sage is more intent on integration for its Web products.

In terms of selling Sage CRM software in today's economy, van Toor said a goal is to push common integration, which allows for a single concept of how front- and back-office systems should interoperate. "It's about how we sell our product and who we market to," he said.

Another area of continued focus involves community development. Van Toor pointed to Sage's Act! community forum, which he said has blossomed over just the last 12 months. He said that Sage is now looking at how to capitalize on (and perhaps even monetize) the collaboration possibilities that a community offers. He also revealed that, given the success of the Act! community, Sage plans to launch a community for SalesLogix soon. Though he declined to provide a concrete timetable for its launch, he suggested that the new community would see the light of day in the imminent future.

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