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July 30, 2015

5 key lessons from Sage Summit 2015

Speed, support and retention are key themes at Stephen Kelly's first conference.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Fulfilling every stereotype of the hyperactive Silicon Valley CEO, Stephen Kelly took a run along the Mississippi ahead of his keynote at the firm’s first conference with him as its boss.

What followed after Kelly had taken the stage was a flurry of information around the company’s stated pivot towards modernity, including greater cloud adoption and a renewed focus on the American market.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Sage Live rapidly launched

Perhaps the strangest turn in Sage under Kelly is the company’s partnership with cloud software firm Salesforce, which was revealed earlier this spring.

After a short honeymoon, the marriage has led to Sage Live, a "real-time" accounting product that operates off the Salesforce1 platform with a collection of apps catering to a range of business functions.

The product will be available immediately in the US, but the British and Irish will have to wait until the end of the summer.

2. ERP means ‘Expense. Regret. Pain.’

In a somewhat obtuse move Kelly criticised the enterprise resource planning (ERP) industry, saying: "Honestly, it’s been a well-padded meal ticket for the big five."

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That SAP and Oracle are arguably the only two big software companies still operating out of that five did not diminish Kelly’s distaste, with the chief executive renaming the letters: "Expense. Pain. Regret."

As such, the initialism is now dropped from Sage’s product line. Many were understandably baffled by the move, the weight of opinion among analysts that spoke to CBR being that it was a marketing flourish.

3. Turning to the west

Some people are surprised to learn that Sage is a British company, the firm having been founded in Newcastle back in 1981.

Judging by the early US release of both Sage Live and the ERP package Sage X3, the company is doing its best to reinforce this impression, and wants to be treated like an American company when it does business Stateside.

"I think in the US we’re like an American company," Kelly said to CBR. "I think we’ve got momentum in the US; I think we’re ready for prime time in the US."

4. Champion of British SMBs

Sage has long been oriented towards small and medium businesses (SMBs), and now is seeking a role for itself as the champion of the segment, particularly in its home country.

"The economies of the world demand the success of the small and medium businesses, and pretty much these guys have done it on they’re own," Kelly said during the keynote.

However in later remarks to CBR he noted that the British government was not doing enough to support smaller companies, highlighting business rates for office space and plans to raise the minimum wage as issues.

5. Tech support not up to scratch

It is rare for vendors to admit serious problems with their services unless they are seeking to turn a previously weak element into a selling point for the company.

According to Kelly: "Every technology company has done a mixed job on support." As such, it is something that he wants his company to improve on, and will likely factor into whether he can maintain the "Customers for Life" central to his business plan.

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