• November 5, 2007
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Customer Connection Is Sage's Flavor of the Day

CHICAGO -- Sage Software convened its third annual Sage Summit here this weekend, welcoming a sizeable crowd of customers; estimates ranged from 2,200 to more than 3,000 registered attendees. The Sunday afternoon keynote session hammered home the message that Sage is intent on connecting with its end users to find out what they want and need from business software -- and to deliver it, either directly or through its reseller channels. The tone of the primary address, delivered by Nina Smith, president of Sage's recently formed Business Management Division, was more sober than the pep talk one would normally expect at such a gathering. "We have a long way to go before we can say we're fully meeting your needs," Smith said. "Even then, we're not done because your business needs will continue to change." Smith reassured the crowd that Sage would "continue to serve you better so you can serve your customers better." Smith extended her "communication" theme by mentioning the ways in which Sage was going straight to the customer for feedback, including customer design labs (where Sage observes its products in actual use to see how to improve) and the Sage Migration Center, the company's assistance program for customers seeking to move up to the next level of one of Sage's product families. "We hear that our software is sometimes a little too complex, and we're working on it with simplified workflows, reporting, and usability," she said. Smith added that the question Sage faces daily is, "Would you be willing to recommend us to your partners and colleagues?" It's worth speculating how much of Smith's address (or a later presentation by Doug Meyer, president of the vendor's Industry and Specialized Solutions Division, an arm with more direct sales) was a result of the recent executive decapitation of Sage's North America division
, and how much stemmed from her work realigning the numerous and diverse product families gathered under the Sage umbrella. Whatever the motivators, attendees got a very nuts-and-bolts talk. Following the earthy chat was something more uplifting: Chris Gardner, the featured speaker of the afternoon and CEO of his own investment banking and brokerage firm Gardner Rich, wrote The Pursuit of Happyness, the autobiographical bestseller that became a hit Will Smith movie in late 2006. In a riveting speech that was by turns heartwarming and wry, Gardner detailed his "life happens" story of misfortune, homelessness, and eventual success as a stockbroker in the 1980s while caring for his toddler son. Sage, no doubt, is hoping to harness some of that rebound magic for itself.

Related articles: Sage Dismisses CEO Facing challenges, the venerable midmarket vendor beheads its North American operations. The 2005 Influential Leaders Since becoming CEO of Sage Group's North America operations in October 2000, Ron Verni has presided over a number of high-profile acquisitions, including SalesLogix, ACT!, and ACCPAC. Feature: The 2007 Market Awards: Midmarket Suite CRM Perennial entrant Sage Software is named a Leader, though with the usual analyst ding about too many product offerings in one space. Feature: The 2007 Market Awards: Small Business Suite CRM A midmarket and SMB staple, Sage Software is named One to Watch; its big challenge is to bring a more unified message to the market. Sage Delivers Insight on Changes [May 2007] Insight '07: The company's annual partner and customer convention kicks off with talk of the future, growing from recently announced structural shifts. Sage Makes Commitments to Customers and Partners [May 2006] Insight '06: The company reveals a score of new applications, and renews its allegiance to the channel that supports it. Best Software Yields Sage Insights [May 2005] Insight '05: The company announces at its annual partner conference new initiatives and a name change to signal alignment with its international brand. Wise Move: Sage Software Undergoes a Restructuring [May 2007] The CRM vendor realigns its corporate foundation to create two new divisions that will better serve their customers' needs. Sage's New Global Strategy [Oct. 2005] Restructuring Sage's CRM delivery strategy is part of an ongoing effort to rebrand and unify Sage's SMB products. Sage Taps Experience to Lead Its Midmarket Segment [Aug. 2005] Elvin Monteleone returns to manage the company's ongoing rebranding drive, but the reseller-only delivery model may stymie efforts. Best Software Unveils Triple-Barrel Midmarket CRM Strategy [June 2004] ACCPAC CRM to take on the hosted market; SalesLogix is refreshed. Best's Road Ahead, After its ACCPAC Acquisition [March 2004] Analysts sound off on what The Sage Group needs to focus on after completing today's acquisition.
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