More than 10,000 accountants and business partners made their way from 28 countries to Chicago this week for the Sage Summit, claimed by CEO Stephen Kelly to be the “world’s largest gathering of entreprenuers and business builders”.
To feed their anticipation, Sage unveiled product roadmaps for its six main global accounting application families - Sage One, Sage Live, X3, Sage 50, Sage 100 and Sage 300 - and a range of integration tools, partner alliances, and associated product announcements.
Since taking over at Sage just under two years ago, Kelly has shaken up the FTSE-listed software developer. But after the initial enthusiasm, the announcements from the development labs appeared to be slowing. Maybe that was because Sage was saving everything up for the summit.
The most interesting product news for accountants this week was Sage Live for Accountants.This puts an online general ledger on top of the Salesforce CRM engine. To cater for what Sage now calls "scale up" rather than mid-market businesses, Sage Live is a multi-dimensional, multi-currency system that can cope with the demands of departmental and project reporting.
Sage Live for Accountant is being positioned as a platform for accountants to run their practices, with extra templates for different practice tasks, including timesheets and billing,
By February next year, it should also be able to integrate with the Fairsail HR program.
Sage executive vice president for global product marketing Jennifer Warawa said that a handful of firms have been testing Sage Live for Accountants and the product is slated to go on full global release by the end of 2016.
The feedback so far has been good. “They could potentially use it to run their firm and do CRM. That’s the foundation,” she said. “The part that’s missing is how do we let them use it to take data from their customers and analyse that? And what else would they like to see?”
If Sage can get the functionality and marketing messages right, the new application will spearhead the company’s ambition to be the accountants’ preferred technology vendor. “To do that we need to get our technology into firms,” Warawa said.
One product that seemed to have disappeared amid all the excitement in Chicago was Sage Impact, the Sage One-based cloud practice suite that starred at last year’s Sage Summit in New Orleans.
According to some Sage executives, however, it’s a mistake to think of Sage Impact as a product. “It’s a program to create the accountancy practice of the future,” explained chief technology officer Klaus-Michael Vogelberg.
“To take that idea to another level you need a different platform at a different level. Watch Sage Live for Accountants and what that can bring together.”
Vogelberg said he was an early champion of building compliance tools to accompany Sage One and promised that personal and partnership tax tools were still in the pipeline for UK accountants.
“With all these fancier concepts we touch on, at end of day taxes need to be done and accounts filed. It comes down to very mundane things, but most practices still run on things we designed as an industry 20 years ago. There’s a lot to be gained for our customers if we’re really hot on getting the basic building blocks out.”