Almost exactly one year ago, Pascal Houillon (pictured), the CEO of Sage North America, took the stage in front of more than a thousand people at the company’s annual partner and customer conference. He spoke passionately about the need for his company to change.
His vision for change involved strategic shifts, including:
- focus on your core business
- build your brand visibility
- embrace the cloud and the rapidly-growing preference of customers to use mobile devices.
And today, almost exactly one year later, he again took the stage at Sage Summit (#SageSummit) with a similar message. But this time, he was able to demonstrate actual progress by the global accounting and ERP software company over the past year.
The message from Houillon and other senior members of the leadership team might be summed up in a simple phrase: the cloud and mobility change everything. And Sage, with 2 million customers worldwide (half in North America), is evolving along with the marketplace, they assert.
According to Houillon, Sage North America has divested 7 businesses that it deemed non-core. Where before it had a hodgepodge of different brand names, including Peachtree accounting software, today all products carry the Sage brand. For example, Peachtree became Sage 50. Instead of Act! — one of the business lines divested — the company is now focusing on the Sage CRM product.
By divesting, the company says it is not shrinking, but is able to allocate resources better and focus on the customer experience for core offerings. One of the achievements company officials pointed to is that Sage’s “net promoter” score of customer satisfaction nearly doubled over the past year.
Sage Mobile Apps and Cloud
Company officials see new opportunities that the cloud and mobility open up.
Among them are Sage One, the cloud-based accounting and productivity system designed for startups and small businesses of up to 10 employees, introduced a little over a year ago. Sage One now has 10,000 customers worldwide, and the company continues to invest in it. Sage plans additional enhancements later this year and next, that officials say will add functions and expand the product’s attractiveness for slightly larger businesses (up to 25 employees in size).
Mobility is another area of growth. Sage’s Mobile Payments — which allows just about any kind of mobile phone or computing device to accept credit card payments — continues to grow.
In addition to Mobile Payments, three new mobile apps were introduced this week. Users of the Sage ERP system can now automate sales, field service and billing/payment functions using mobile devices, in a seamless way with their Sage ERP system. In a promotional piece, Sage says it wants to show customers “how to transform the iPad from a You Tube-addition time-sucking device into a magic money machine.”
Sage Mobile Sales enables a field sales force to close sales quickly, wherever the customer happens to be. Sage Mobile Service improves efficiency in internal processes and cuts down on wasteful paperwork. Sage Billing and Payment helps companies get paid faster.
The key to the company’s mobile product strategy, asserts CTO Himanshu Palsule, is to create applications that are not just ported to mobile devices, but are built “native” to each type of mobile platform. This way the apps can take advantage of the unique features of each platform. For example, mobile apps built on Windows 8 use the Windows 8 “Metro” style and touchable/clickable tiles. This makes them intuitive to customers.
One of the upcoming products in the future led to spontaneous applause in the crowd when it was demoed. Sage Voice, a Siri-like application, will allow users to look up information in their Sage software by voice on a mobile device, even with only partial information such as a partial name. As one attendee said, “THAT is how I like to look up information.”
According to Houillon, companies that need to change have more power in their hands than they may realize. “We can all leverage the assets we have in our hands, much more than what we think,” said Houillon.