The Friday Interview: Liam Mullaney, Sage Ireland

2 May 2008

From eight people in 1999, through a strategy of acquisition, business software player Sage has grown to employ 300 people in Ireland, reporting revenues of €33m per annum. Liam Mullaney (pictured) is managing director of Sage Ireland.

Sage has moved from pure accounting to include online transactions and e-commerce. Are Irish SMEs adequately connected to the latest internet technologies?
More businesses have broadband than before but from what I can see, connection speeds are insufficient. Broadband speeds are not where they need to be in terms of real business-to-business transactions.

Often when you see telecom companies promoting broadband, there’s a big difference between the speeds quoted and what is delivered. What is delivered is insufficient to put real business-to-business software applications in place.

Why do you think this situation has arisen?
There’s no consistency in broadband policy. At all levels, from Government to telecoms and business, we all know what needs to be done but no one wants to do it.

The Government hasn’t really seen the potential impact of broadband and therefore hasn’t shown vision.

There’s so much talk of doom and gloom about the economy and this drives me round the bend. People need to be positive and take the right actions.

Broadband can empower businesses and individuals to do a lot more, resulting in more innovation, which in turn will drive the economy.

The majority of companies in Ireland are still stuck with software on their desktop and that’s the main way software is still distributed in Ireland. That will change in time, but really it needs to change faster.

Do you foresee further acquisitions for Sage in the Irish market?
Our business model has always been about growth and acquisitive growth. We’ve successfully achieved that in Ireland since 1999.

In the current climate where people are talking doom and gloom, there are great opportunities for companies like Sage to take advantage, it’s a good time to acquire.

We’re looking at opportunities and will continue to drive organic growth. My remit is to look at local opportunities.

What changes are afoot at Sage in response to the current business landscape, which is dominated by talk of recession and credit crunches?
What’s changing for us is our focus to provide not just accounts software but customer relationship management and other business technologies in an increasingly complex environment.

Six years ago, Sage 50 was typically running on a single desktop. Today, it lives on a server along with a plethora of software like Google Gadgets that can be accessed securely from anywhere.

The world that is business today means everything sits on a technology stack and the infrastructure is getting more complicated as everyone is online.

The challenge for software companies is to ensure support during traumatic situations and allow businesses to focus on their own needs and not be distracted by ineffective processes.

By John Kennedy