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Sage to drop forecasting and job costing tools

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19th Sep 2014
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Accounting software giant Sage has notified users that it plans to withdraw Sage 50 Forecasting and Sage 50 Job Costing as separate products with effect from 1 October.

An email notified users of the changes this week, but urged them to buy now (with a 40% discount) if they were thinking about getting them, as they would continue to be supported until September 2016 (with a valid support contract).

They would “of course be functional long after that date, providing operating systems and the Sage database structures are not radically changed” Sage added.

Sage 50 Forecasting will not disappear totally. While not available as a standalone product, it will still be available as part of the Finance and Business Packages until further notice.

But the implications for Sage’s product strategy are unclear, and clarifications are being sought from the company.

But the switch in product strategy for these specialist editions may indicate that low end cloud computing alternatives are beginning to eat into the company’s ability to extend the Sage 50 range into more sophisticated areas demanded by mid-size companies.

The new approach will disappoint those who want to do more sophisticated forecasting and budgeting work with Sage data, particularly since the company has quietly pensioned off its popular Winforecast tool. But the number of those specialist users is probably fairly low. With the need to focus on profitability to satisfy its City investors, Sage keeps a tight focus on profitability, which suggests that not enough people are buying these specialist Sage 50 tools.

Update: Sage clarification, 23 Sept - Jonathan Cowan, head of commercial management for Sage Start-up and Small Business (SSB) division, told AccountingWEB the decison to drop the two applications was “a strategic choice”. He explained that the decision was part of a wider plan: “We have a group strategy of focusing on the core. We are investing in products and technologies that we think our customers need and the market requires of us. We are looking at opportunities where we’re going to grow our business.”

That core strategy is to “be number one in accounts and payroll”  and Sage has communicated that message clearly, Cowan continued. “We believe we can be best in world in those two things. We can’t be all things to all men, so we are going to focus our attention and resources and investment on things that are congruent with the core strategy to be number one in core accounts and payroll.”

To illustrate the strategic choices that have already been made, Cowan pointed out that ACT! was sold a couple of years ago because it “wasn’t part of that core story - we won’t be number one in CRM”. The same applied to job costing.

Sage has been open about both its strategic objectives and what it will be doing with Sage 50 Job Costing and Financial Forecasting. “We’re going to support them until the end of 2016 and are giving customers plenty of notice about our intent,” he said.

“We will stop selling for new orders from 1 October 2014 and withdraw technical support at the end of 2016.”

Some Sage customers acquired the programs as part of the Sage 50 Finance and Business packages, that bundle together different Sage services and programs. Although they have been notified of the end of the products’ lifecycles, they can continue using them. “They don’t require a legislative update and can can continue to be used, but we will be withdrawing technical support,” Cowan said. The Finance and Business bundles will be amended over time, with new components being added to take the place of the forecasting and job costing modules.

AccountingWEB also asked how this product announcement related to the future product strategy for Sage 50 Accounts itself. See the comment below for his response.

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By Cardigan
19th Sep 2014 16:37

Love Sage 50 Forecasting

I was disappointed to read this as I love Sage 50 Forecasting. I have created many forecasts on this and its predecessor Winforecast, from simple sole trader forecasts to complex projections linked to even more complicated Excel spreadsheets.

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By Birksyr
19th Sep 2014 17:53

Sage Job Costing
For a company like Sage, two weeks notice is a complete joke. In the case of job costing, this program is central to the running of some of my clients systems. I assume no alternative is in the pipline either, other than Sage 200?

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ghm
By TaxTeddy
20th Sep 2014 09:39

A period of Consolidation

I suspect there will be similar announcements form other firms in the next year or two. Competition in the software market is fierce and companies will be looking to cut costs - probably with more product mergers to come.

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By carnmores
20th Sep 2014 10:15

win4cast one of the great products

sage frigged around with it and made it too expensive , can someone please buy it back

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
20th Sep 2014 18:01

More comments coming in

One AccountingWEB member sent me an email in which they commented, "The fact that the product is not being supported/developed is worrying. Many business users have or will be moving to Office 365 or Excel 2013 and as reported in an Any Answers post a couple of months ago, the product is not compatible."

We're still waiting to hear back from Sage, but hope to have a clearer explanation on Monday.

 

  

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Dennis Howlett
By dahowlett
21st Sep 2014 21:18

Sage may be sunsetting but Adaptive is rocking along

Really sad to see this - I remember Winforecast in its early iteration when I was still in practice. It was a professional accountant's wet dream. In other news, I recently met with Adaptive in the Bay Area - they're growing like topsy with great customer stories to back up their marketing. 

The really sad part about this is that Sage had it to crush "spreadsheet hell' - now we step back 20 years. 

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By Alf
22nd Sep 2014 09:50

Who is the competition that is eroding Sage's profitability on 50 Forecasting?

When I moved to Excel 2013 (from Excel 2003) earlier this year and found that my Hotlinks stopped working (and Sage confirmed that they had no compatible product) I looked around for a decent alternative and couldn't find one.

My solution was a 2nd hand Excel 2010 from eBay.

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
23rd Sep 2014 10:44

Cloud competition for Sage 50 forecasting

Hi Alf,

The products I was thinking of were several of the business intelligence and associated add-ons I saw at the "Xero village" during June's Accountex event. They cater for the lower end of the market, while like Dennis I have been hearing a lot about Adaptive Insights, but in the UK too.

Since you mention Excel, it's worth reminding ourselves that it probably remains the top forecasting tool of them all. One of Sage 50 Forecasting's strengths was the way it integrates with Excel, and lets you report P&L data against the forecasts you create.

No doubt many people have, and will continue to do a lot of that import/export work for themselves, but somethings a well constructed commercial solution can save everyone time and potential errors. I already think I can hear a lot of gnashing teeth around this announcement.

I'll be talking to a Sage executive about the announcement later in the day and will update the original article when I have their explanation for the decision.

 

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By Alf
23rd Sep 2014 11:13

Adaptive

Thanks John.

It's interesting to hear what you, and Dennis, have to say about Adaptive. Their website seems to show a product worth investigating although it's difficult to tell exactly how it works in practice.

I would be interested in hearing from anyone with practical hands on experience of using Adaptive and the kind of level that they price at (no prices on website is never encouraging!!)

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
23rd Sep 2014 15:54

Future plans for Sage 50 Accounts

While talking to Sage's Jonathan Cowan this afternoon, I asked if this announcement represented the “high water mark” for the Sage 50 Accounts program, which in recent years had been developing into a fairly competitive low-end mid-market accounting application.

Sage’s current emphasis was less about the functionality of the accounts application, he explained. “It’s a cracking product. We know what it’s capable of. Our investment and focus has been on simplifying it and making it more useable and user friendly. [In the past] We’ve crammed a lot in to respond to all customers’ needs, but not every customer has the same needs.

He did briefly acknowledge the competition posed by cloud accounting developers such as Xero. This was not such a big challenge to Sage on the forecasting front, but more for changing users' expectations about how accounting software should look and work.

In response, the latest release of Sage 50 Accounts saw drastic changes to make the user interface faster and more user friendly rather than sticking in more functionality to cater for small bunches of users. “We’ve stripped back the need of justifying the upgrade by putting in functionality to address core usability,” Cowan said.

My interpretation of his response is that we probably have seen Sage 50 Accounts hit the ceiling of its functional capabilities. It will morph into some new shapes and interfaces (eg mobile and cloud hybrids) but I suspect that if you want the facilities Sage 50 Job Costing and Financial Forecasting delivered, you're going to have to start talking to Sage's mid-market division about Sage 200.

If you're keen to pursue this conversation with other Sage 50 Accounts users, I've posted some follow-up comments from Jonathan Cowan in our Sage 50 Accounts discussion group.

@Alf - Like Sage's mid-market product (and more sophisticated variants of Sage 50 Accounts), Adaptive is not a low-cost, budget application. It was developed to disrupt the market for all those old reporting, planning and analysis programs we used to hear about that came with £100,000 price tags. As a centrally served cloud application, it's much cheaper than that - but still a significant investment in time and money [ie - I don't know the exact pricing either, but you can find whitepapers and UK contact details on Adaptive's Supplier page on AccountingWEB].

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By Alf
24th Sep 2014 12:56

Forecasting needs

Thanks John.

For me, and I suspect many small practices, the forecasting requirement is to be able to easily and robustly provide forecasts for a variety of small entities, which may, or may not, then require future updating, and which may well not need to be linked to an accounts package (to import actuals).

It sounds like Adaptive is aimed more at large organisations with regular, complex, forecasts

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Dennis Howlett
By dahowlett
24th Sep 2014 15:21

There are others out there

Just to add a wee bit to the Adaptive yap - yes, it is probably fair to say aimed at larger businesses but there is no reason why a well seasoned Excel jock couldn't 'adapt' (sic) to their own needs for say templating client groups and using Excel as a data pump for robust forecasting. 

Elsewhere, I am seeing firms like Anaplan, Tidemark, Qlik, Tableau, Pentaho and Good Data alll offer modest cost tools that allow for different ways to represent data from Excel that help clients get better insights and understanding. Not for the very small business but certainly usable for the upper end of the SME market.

Still - I guess Sage has now ceded the market to Excel. Bonkers. 

To John's point about Sage endeavouring to make 50 better - well - I tend to go 'duh?' I really don't understand why Sage continues on this path. I've said consistently over something like 8 years now that you can't expect to compete in 21st century if you try put lipstick on a pig.

There are so many core issues with 50 they could have solved all their problems by starting off with a blank sheet of paper and re-imagined accounting. The fact they continue with this approach coupled with what we've seen with Xero and others speaks volumes. 

Oh well. another rusty nail in a disintegrating coffin. Such a pity that users are the losers as well at a time when the profession needs more not less real help. 

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By abagley.roffeswayne.com
25th Sep 2014 13:36

Sage have lost an important USP

With this latest news from Sage it is hard to see what their USP will be for Sage 50 going forward.

The recent loss of ACT and Construct, followed by Forecasting and Job Costing, not to mention their failure to follow through with Intelligent Reporting, means that Sage 50 is now just another book-keeping and payroll solution.

I have clients using Forecasting as a tool for their management accounts, taking advantage of the links to actuals and budgets. Obviously they will feel let down, but spare a thought for other clients with whom I am currently working towards doing the same, they will feel their investment of time and money has been wasted.

Winforecast was a great product in its day and unlike Forecasting could be used for consolidations. The advantage both products have over Excel is the ability to report Profit & Loss, Balance Sheet, and Cashflow without the user having to manage the often complex formulas.

Like others, I will be very interested to learn of alternatives to Forecasting.

 

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