Sage developers are currently working on a localised version of its online Intacct product, due for release in the UK later this year.
The £650m acquisition of Intacct in 2017 was the last big roll of the dice for previous Sage CEO Stephen Kelly. Last week’s half-year results announcement confirmed the deal has added momentum to Sage’s US operation, but all it has done in the UK so far has been to raise questions about the company’s jumble of mid-market and enterprise systems, which encompasses products ranging from Sage 50 Accounts to Sage 200, Sage Live, Sage ERP 1000 and Sage X3.
Sage is tidying up its portfolio by rebranding X3 as Sage Enterprise Financial Management for the top end of the market, but last week’s results announcement confirmed that Intacct was being readied for international release.
Sage Intacct is credited with boosting Sage’s 27.7% annual growth in recurring revenues from software subscriptions, particularly from what it calls “native cloud” applications in North America.
When Sage UK managing director Sabby Gill talked to AccountingWEB in 2018, he made it clear that beefing up the enterprise side of the business was one of his priorities, and Sage Intacct was a big part of his plan.
Another sign of things to come came with the promotion last month of Intacct founder Aaron Harris from senior vice president to chief technology officer at Sage. Based on his track record shaping a disruptive cloud product for larger organisations, Harris will extend his influence across the whole range of Sage Business Cloud products. His remit will include emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and connectivity to third-party applications, the company said.
Sage Intacct was “a big deal out of the gate” at the Sage Summit in Atlanta last week, according to AccountingWEB.com’s Andy North. Sage executives privately accept that they are struggling to keep pace with the global growth of Xero and QuickBooks Online in the cloud bookkeeping arena, but unlike Sage neither of them has much to offer organisations with more complex needs.
Sage 50cloud Accounts – now adapted in Sage-speak as a “cloud-connected” application able to handle the online filing demands of Making Tax Digital (MTD) – is deeply embedded in the UK, particularly among small and medium-sized businesses that often run it in tandem with specialised third-party applications. Sage 50 has done well for the software developer in the past year, as existing users have had to upgrade to the latest “connected” version if they want to file MTD for VAT returns, but there are always users who have pushed what was originally designed as an accounting system for personal computers to its limits.
As the low-end market settles into overlapping software camps and growth slows, those potential Sage 50 upgraders in £1m+ turnover organisations represent a lucrative prize. As long as Sage can keep them happy and engineer a smooth migration path to more efficient cloud alternatives, it has a path to maintaining a hold within the changing accounting software market.
But nothing is easy in the modern software market. With their extensive app ecosystems, Xero and QuickBooks are putting together alliances to cater for mid-market users. Meanwhile, pioneering mid-market and enterprise cloud accounting systems such as AccountsIQ, Oracle NetSuite and FinancialForce.com and are digging in for the long term. After investing heavily in its international expansion, NetSuite executives suggest that Sage may have underestimated the task of localising its US program for international markets.
Sage also needs to get its house in order and present a clear menu of mid-market applications that specifically target particular sectors and accounting needs. The catch-all Sage Business Cloud portfolio approach has introduced more confusion than clarity as programs are rotated in and out of the package at regular intervals.
Sage Live, for example, the great mid-market hope in Stephen Kelly’s heyday back in 2016, has been quietly retired without ever troubling the scorers in AccountingWEB’s annual software surveys. More housekeeping will be needed to find a suitable niche for Sage Intacct, but the transition will certainly make for an interesting autumn on the UK software scene.
Do you have experience with any of the products mentioned? Let us know which mid-market applications you think are best prepared to meet the needs of UK SMEs by commenting below, and tell us what you think of them in more detail in our online software survey. The results will be announced in September as part of the Accounting Excellence Awards.
About John Stokdyk
AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.