“We are not just an accounts and payroll provider; we are a general business solutions company.” That was the main message of Sage Ireland boss Liam Mullaney at the opening of the software firm’s two-day Sage Visions conference at Croke Park yesterday.
Speaking to siliconrepublic.com, Mullaney said that the acquisition last year of Intelligent Apps and APS Paypoint had enabled Sage to extend its footprint into new areas such as business intelligence (BI) and point-of-sale systems. But, as the product portfolio mushroomed, the company needed to become more “vertical” in terms of its marketing, ie target specific industries such as retail, manufacturing and construction and Sage was reorganising its channel partnerships to reflect this.
“The way I put it to our business partners was that if somebody in the retail or manufacturing arena wanted to look for a solution and it had a choice between two business partners, one a generalist and one a specialist, the specialist would win every time,” Mullaney explained.
Several new products were unveiled at the event. They include the ACT! Professional, which replaces the previous version of its contact management product, ACT! Version 6.0. Mullaney said the new product contains numerous enhancements and is now more akin to a customer relationship management (CRM) system than a simple contact management tool. The product comes in two versions: ACT! Professional, an entry-level solution for individuals and small groups of sales professionals, and ACT! Professional for Workgroups, designed for large sales teams of up to 50 users.
“Sales professionals in both medium and small businesses are now demanding more and more functionality from contact management software, which is taking on many of the attributes of CRM systems but at a fraction of the cost,” observed Mullaney.
Also making its debut is a new financial forecasting package, Sage Financial Forecasting, described by Sage as a “flexible financial planning tool for all businesses”. Unlike the product it succeeds, Win Forecast, which was aimed at larger businesses, Sage Financial Forecasting is aimed squarely at the SME sector, a deliberate move to win a larger market for the product, said Mullaney.
In the point-of-sale area, Sage Ireland is announcing Sage PayPoint, electronic point-of-sale software for businesses operating within a retail, trade, tourism or leisure environment. The product has come out of Sage’s acquisition of APS last year. Existing customers for the software include retailer and distributor Eason & Co.
Sage PayPoint can be operated stand alone or integrated with users’ Sage accounting systems – from Line 50 to Line 500 – allowing them to manage pricing and stock control across the business.
Mullaney also revealed that Sage was working on an off-the-shelf BI product for its small business customer base. “One traditionally associates BI with mid-market and enterprise but we are bringing that technology down to [Sage] Line 50 users with a pre-canned, user-friendly version,” he said, estimating that the new product would be available in the Autumn time-frame. Mullaney added that while BI was a notable growth area, it would be 12 to 18 months before “BI filters down to SMEs”.
Sage, which last year recorded revenues of €16.3m in the Irish market, is now the largest player in the business management software area, Mullaney claims, although obviously players such as Microsoft have larger revenues overall.
By Brian Skelly