Sage chief executive Stephen Kelly and his senior colleagues came to London this week to bang the drum for Sage Live, the new cloud accounting system built to run alongside Salesforce.com.
In the space of a year, Sage forged an alliance with Salesforce and brought the program to market. So far Sage has marketed the product more energetically in North America, but Kelly’s message this week was, “We’re ready for prime time in the UK.”
Having pushed his developers to come up with a product that wasn’t just an online version of Sage 50, Kelly boasted, “We’ve leap-frogged everything in small business computing.”
Undeterred by the product’s relative youth, James Foulkes, director and co-founder of international digital marketing consultancy Kingpin, told journalists and analysts on Monday evening why he had signed up as an early adopter of Sage Live.
Having spent 18 months assessing rival systems including FinancialForce.com, NetSuite and Exchequer, Sage Live was less expensive and fitted with the company’s rapid growth pattern, Foulkes explained.
“Spreadsheets weren’t cutting it for us for sales reporting and we wanted to source them from Salesforce. It was a question of which [program] we could integrate with it to get a seamless accounting system.”
Sage Live’s “dimensional” chart of accounts provided the flexibility Kingpin needed to track reports back to individual clients and projects, and could be fed from sales opportunities created in Salesforce. The CRM application’s workflow tools mean that when Kingpin is ready to invoice a job, “We can push a button and the opportunity goes to finance and they can raise the invoice in the client’s local currency. It sounds simple but integrating our front and back office has saved us time and made our life easier,” Foulkes said.
As well as giving Salesforce users the ability to see whether clients have or haven’t paid, if an expense comes in for a particular project the finance team can code it back to the right line within the Sage Live nominal ledger, he added.
After all the hoop-la surrounding Sage Live at Accountex and the Sage Summit last summer, it was refreshing to hear from a real-life user as they are still rare on this side of the Atlantic. But Jennifer Warawa, the Canadian accountant who is now the Sage global vice president in charge of accounting software and Sage Live, batted back the suggestion that Sage’s cloud initiatives had lost momentum.
“The most important thing to us is the customer,” she said. “After the Sage Summit we wanted to make sure the user experience was optimised and that our partners and their customers were happy with it; the December release filled in some holes customers were asking for.”
The process of extending the application’s functionality and “ecosystem” of third-party add-ons was continuing on a weekly basis, she added.
The Salesforce.com integration created a perception that Sage Live was a mid-market application, but Sage has been talking to a two-person company in London about the software’s suitability for its mobile working practices. “It’s more about business complexity and how customers want to operate,” Warawa said.