Sage Answers the "So What" Question about Software Trends

ATLANTA — Usage patterns are changing and buying patterns are changing -- all of which are reflected in trends facing the software industry. In the welcome keynote at the recent Sage Summit user conference, Jodi Uecker-Rust, the president of Sage Business Solutions, told attendees that it's the company's vision to build out the Sage community. And doing so means adapting to trends that are becoming evident from customers, partners, and in the larger industry landscape. 

In a later press and analyst briefing session Uecker-Rust and Himanshu Palsule, the executive vice president of the Sage Business Solutions Division, further delved into those trends and how they are impacting Sage strategies. 

Uecker-Rust and Palsule focused on the following five ideas:

1. Mobile Workforce

The goal here is taking your business system with you wherever you go. "Employees expect software to travel with them" Palsule said. You should be able to input data and retrieve valuable business information where ever you are. Uecker-Rust said that Sage's commitment to mobile is evident in Sage SalesLogix mobile applications and also in healthcare devices that capture information and flow that back into Sage Intergy software. It's all about extending your reach anywhere, anytime, Uecker-Rust said. Act! with its Mobile Live announcement allows users to sync CRM data wirelessly - to and from virtually any smartphone.

Beagle Research Principal Denis Pombriant made an interesting point surrounding mobility and the need to conserve resources. He encouraged Palsule to think about the time period between November 2007 to November 2008. During that span, Pombriant said, people drove on average 122 miles less. Traveling salespeople must account for a big part of that. Think of that in terms of mobility and how moving out of the economy will retest those principles, Pombriant said.

2. Social Media

According to an attendee text survey on Monday, approximately 80 percent of Sage Summit attendees are on Facebook - but only a half of attendees are on Twitter. Still, the large amount of activity is enough to prove that Sage needs to get active in the social space. It's about how to make the trend relevant though, Uecker-Rust said. The September release of Act! 2010 focused heavily on social elements - and the company was deliberate in marketing the product in a social way, as well. According to Larry Ritter Sage's senior vice president and general manager of CRM Applications, Sage's Act! has exceeded sales expectations -- both in revenue and units -- which he says he thinks is partly due to the vendor's social media strategy with the launch.

 "We are learning," Palsule said. Every product has its own community which has aided Sage in setting the ground level of its social efforts. "For us to transact, the first step is to build credibility on social media," Palsule said. "I think we are at that level." We are at the cusp of knowledge sharing turning in to something more, he said.

3. Business Intelligence

Sage business solutions have a real opportunity to provide additional tools and dashboards to support decisions, Uecker-Rust said. Palsule elaborated: "Customers in their third or fourth product purchases, they begin asking the question '[What am I getting out of this?' The Sage executive said the goal with products moving forward is to have the analytics bit baked in to the core applications. Stand alone data warehouses mostly end up as shelfware. Even if they are used, he said, the usage is limited. 

Sage has begun building functionality within the products as evident in SalesLogix with Visual Analysis.

4. Globalization

"This started as an enterprise thing," Palsule said, "Five years from now, even the smallest customer will be expected to be global in nature." Palsule pointed to Act!'s global competencies. In fact, Sage has 5.8 billion customers globally - 2.9 of which are in North America. Since Sage as a company has such a global reach, it has a huge opportunity to expand the global capabilities in the Sage business solutions.

5. Cloud Computing

To dispel any fogginess around Sage's cloud strategy, Palsule conveyed the following tagline: "We are the broadest provider of end-to-end solutions, combining the richness of on-premise applications with the reach of cloud-based services." In other words, Sage wants to be able to give customers the liberty of switching back and forth being on premise and in the cloud. A scenario Palsule relayed is that a CFO might subscribe for a cloud service for six or seven months and then tire of paying for it that way. The CFO can then burn the data from Sage and no longer host it in the cloud. 

Palsule said there are some myths surrounding the cloud -- one of which is that subscription services have to be limited to cloud deployments. "There's no reason why traditional on premise [solutions] can't provide the same payment convenience," he said. In several product instances, Sage has introduced the ability to pay by installments. 

"We get this and we understand cloud computing," Palsule said. "We are unwilling to believe the entire world of computing is going to move to the cloud." He admitted that software-as-a-service has a great deployment option that Sage needs to take advantage of, but he said ultimately, "the basic form of computing should be a choice the customer makes." That being said Sage is increasing its Web services -- positioned as software-plus-services - which according to Sage means it will maintain the core products on premise but, when needed, will go out and grab services from the Web. An example of this is Act! 2010's e-marketing capabilities.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine.

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