Sage has been in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and accounting software business since the 1980s, focusing on small and midmarket companies, those with fewer than 1,000 employees. For the last year or so, it has been going all out to take its on-premise products onto the cloud.
That plan received a hue boost during the company’s annual user conference in July. The announcement of the Sage Data Cloud provides customers with access to a 50 gigabyte (or bigger if needed) cloud storage area. Information from Sage cloud applications and copies of data stored in on-premise application servers are replicated and placed into this cloud, too. As a result, mobile applications can access core application and cloud application data via a single cloud server.
Hybrid Cloud ERP Update
"The biggest news coming out of Sage Summit was the general availability of Sage Data Cloud, previously known as our hybrid cloud strategy," said Doug LaBahn, senior vice president, Mid-Market Solutions, Product Management & Marketing at Sage. "One data cloud serves multiple customer bases across the Sage portfolio. These changes will enable us to innovate more quickly, and make it possible for us to deliver a consistent experience across the functions of a business, serving the needs of the president, bookkeeper, sales, marketing, finance, HR, as well as address the needs of office and mobile workers alike."
So far, connectors for Sage 100 ERP and Sage 300 ERP are generally available. Work is ongoing to finish the connector work for Sage 50 (formerly Peachtree accounting software) and Sage 500 ERP. Using the Sage Data Cloud makes it easier for developers to link to the various products in the Sage portfolio.
"Regarding the hybrid cloud update, it behooves Sage to spend a lot of time on this as they have many years -- and customers -- of legacy deployments to shepherd into some kind of hosted environment," said Chris Chute, an SMB cloud/SaaS analyst at IDC. "Sage Data Cloud takes a lot of the complexity out of adding capability and moving a traditional on-premise capability to a cloud-based one for customers and third-party developers."
LaBahn said two key factors drove the development of this new cloud platform: widespread adoption of mobile devices, and the desire of customers to reach data remotely. Changing market demographics mean that digital natives are becoming a large segment of the market. For this group, the old ways of data delivery are no longer acceptable. They want to consume it remotely and on mobile devices.
"With the explosion of mobile devices, people have different expectations around how they want to do business,” said LaBahn. “Sage is delivering both the mobility and that data integration that customers want. Our mobility and payment processing features are integrated into accounting/ERPs versus alternative standalone apps."
During the Sage conference in July, the company issued dozens of press releases related to the many product updates and announcements for the show. LaBahm zeroed in on a couple of specific changes, such as integration of Sage Enterprise Intelligence with Sage ERP X3.
"This offers extensive self-service business intelligence capabilities in a Web interface that can be viewed via Web portals or mobile devices," he said. "We’re also adding new capabilities to Sage One, our cloud solution for start-ups and entrepreneurs. We’ll introduce a Canadian version in the fall, and will introduce an Accountants' Edition next year."
How is this transition to the cloud impacting Sage on the business front? The firm has about 14,000 employees, around six million customers, over 25,000 resellers, revenues of over $2 billion a year and a soaring stock price.
Integrating ERP with CRM
Sage X3 has resulted in "double-digit growth, increased retention rates on contracts, and continued strength in construction, fixed assets and payments,” LaBahm said. "Our Sage Mobile Service is giving the service or sales person the best of an ERP system and the best of a CRM system in one integrated experience. Exactly the information, services and experiences they need to be successful, but not so much that it’s complicated."
Chute of IDC echoed that sentiment.
"The combination of platform-agnostic (iOS, Android, Windows 8) Sage Mobile and Connected Services was another big a piece of news at the Sage conference," said Chute. "We view the intersection of ERP/CRM and mobility as the hot trend for the next year or two as a lot of operational capability gets not just mobilized via a browser, but smoothly implemented in a native context for efficient field work."
Finally, he drew attention to Sage Payments, which has become a critical element of the company’s expansion efforts in the U.S. According to IDC, it now amounts to one third of North American revenue per year. By integrating payments, accounting and ERP, IDC sees this as a key differentiator for the company in its efforts to combat the rise of payment solutions such as Square.om and Intuit GoPayments.
"Sage Payments is one of their most successful North American products, to the point where it's driving a lot of cross-selling of more 'traditional' Sage products," said Chute. "Integration provides a better experience than standalone apps, which is particularly compelling for a business environment."
Stay informed on other ERP vendors here.
Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).