Sage Summit 2013: That Was Then, This Is Now

August 8th, 2013

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3 thoughts on “Sage Summit 2013: That Was Then, This Is Now

  1. Nice post, Laurie –

    You will see a continued increase & interest in Sage CRM as the years progress, that’s for sure. You only need to scan the analyst & business trends threads around the web to know CRM will eclipse most business software spends within a few short months. It’s all in recognition that a business’ most valuable is their customer. And #CRM must be as a foundation.


  2. Laurie, as usual you have done a nice job in your article.

    However I must disagree with some of your observations. In fact The More things Change ….., may have been a better headline over the current one That was Then ….

    Starting with your comment on “fresh talent”. Besides replacing Laurie Schultz, the current team is comprised of pre-Swenson Sage veterans from the days when Sage products were market leaders. The reality is that Sage missed the opportunity to bring in fresh talent when founder Paul Walker retired as CEO, and it lost whatever fresh talent it had brought in during the last few years, with Sue Swenson’s departure.

    Second, with respect to rationalizing the “unfathomable” number of overlapping products. I can’t imagine that selling off 2 CRM products makes the Sage portfolio any more or less rational or unfathomable than it was before? It is too easy to rationalize the historical non-performance of these Sage business units by saying that there were too many and overlapping products and that is what made them perform badly. The fact of the matter is that each product was a market leader when Sage purchased it, and each was eventually overtaken by a more nimble competitor. It was not cannibalization that did any of the products in. It was lack of execution.

    Third, I am especially intrigued by the statement that “it is now unacceptable for Sage executives to position the Sage portfolio in different ways”. What does “in different ways” mean? An example of two may be helpful. Was it ever acceptable for Sage executives to “position the Sage portfolio in different ways”?

    Fourth, pulling R&D out of business units and consolidating them is under one umbrella is a really bad idea if you want to drive innovation, and innovation is what Sage desperately needs. This consolidation is only about one thing, cutting costs and driving margins. Not at all about the top line, new customers etc. I predict that R&D will be back in the business units in the next year or two.

    Fifth, the connected services strategy, Sage Cloud etc were enumerated in 2010/11. We are almost at the end of 2013. Two plus years is an eternity in this business, yet there is precious little to show for all this time.

    A focus on rapid execution of key initiatives, via small steps taken quickly, is needed.

    Sixth, with respect to the Sage exec who when questioned about social and big data plans said “ the customer are not calling these out as priorities”.

    This is a telling response and one which points to the core of the problem facing Sage and other large companies. Large companies know how to farm existing customers and markets, making incremental improvements in offerings, but usually don’t know how to hunt for new ones through radical innovation.

    In his book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, Steve Blank highlights this difference (page27) “big companies tailor their Product Development to know customers. Product features emerge by successive refinement against known customer and market requirements”. In the case of startups however “Product features emerge from vision”.

    Sage and other traditional publishers need to figure out how to farm existing customers so to speak as well as hunt for new ones at the same time. Easier said than done.

    Seventh, with respect to the Channel. In the few months since my company Versaccounts (blatant plug) announced their mid-market cloud ERP offering, multiple top-tier Sage and other publisher VARs have reached out to me (completely unsolicited) to explore a possible relationship. The common theme around why they are looking for partnerships beyond their existing publisher has been the sorry state of their relationship with that publisher. Not the lack of products, or services. Not lack of cloud offerings. Improving their relationships with their channel partners may be something publishers should work on over announcing new partner programs and recruiting new partners.

    Finally, it goes without saying that there are a lot of smart people at Sage (several are now on my team at Versaccounts, and I hope we will have several more join us in the months to come) and given a chance I am sure they will easily get things turned around. The challenge is to identify these people and give them the room and resources to get the job done. For a great article on the role of leadership in doing just that take a look at this interview with Laurie Schultz, now at ACL, in the New Your Times.!

  3. Hi Sunil,

    Thanks for reading and for your perspectives! I’ll certainly welcome Sage to weigh on in your comments in more detail, but here are my thoughts on some of your comments.

    Fresh talent: Joe Langner, Brad Smith, Doug Lebahn are a few of Pascal’s hires I’m referring to who are reshaping Sage’s strategy.

    Products: In addition to selling off the CRM products you’ve mentioned, Sage sold the Nonprofits portfolio and healthcare solutions, and has identified core and noncore products for future investment.

    Positioning the portfolio in different ways: Yes, I used to hear very different stories about product positioning from different parts of the organization. Agree they should have been– but they were NOT on the same page with the big picture story before. This year, everyone positioned the portfolio consistently.

    R&D: My understanding is that R&D is centralized to ensure 1) consistent user experience 2) make it easier to roll out of new common capabilities (e.g. mobile) more easily. I believe there will still be development going on in individual groups, however.

    Social: I agree with you there, as I said in the post, Sage needs to be ahead of its installed base here.

    Channel: Its always a mixed bag with partners! Some are very loyal to Sage, and others are dissatisfied and want alternatives. But my impression from the partners I spoke with at Summit were that they felt positive about Sage’s new strategy.

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