Sage Group is planning to release an integrated business application suite by the middle of the year. This product will, for the first time, unite Sage’s traditional back office ERP and accounting functionality with its newer front office CRM capabilities without the need for a separate middleware layer or application to application integration.
The new application will be based around the mid-market Line 500 and CRM MME applications. It will use a single database, and a common interface with support for end-to-end workflow and reporting.
One of its central design aims is to use the existing business logic of the core applications, in order to create a migration path for users of its standalone systems.
Sage’s aim is to enable users to, for example, not only look at a customer record but also raise an order without having to deal with a screen pop making the complexities of the process apparent to the user. The company said the underlying architecture will also enable rapid development of dashboards and other types of reporting as well as support for workflow management.
Sage’s plans are spot on, it is its timing that it out of step because this is something it should have done a long time ago given the back-to-front office integration trend within the industry and its own growing portfolio of applications.
Although Sage is entering the world of integrated suites, it will continue to progress and support its standalone applications in line with its core philosophy of offering its customers maximum choice in what they use and how they deploy. There will be roadmaps for each application and several new versions are slated for this year.
The company will continue releasing packaged integration products and developing its application integration server to facilitate data exchange, a common view of data and enabling business processes from one Sage application to be activated in another.
Factors such as market demand and Sage’s own desire to get back to double digit growth during fiscal 2006 have contributed to the move to develop an integrated suite and Sage believes it will help expand its customer base rather than cannibalize its existing user community.
Already in a strong position, the new suite will further boost Sage’s status in the SME market and increase its ability to compete with Microsoft and SAP. It will have a range of products that includes best of breed plus complementary integration technology, as well as an integrated suite and an established partner channel to get its products to market.
Although Microsoft has a partner-based channel to market, it is unable to offer an integrated suite and has made so many changes to its enterprise applications plans and timetables it has created uncertainty in the market. SAP has breadth and integration in terms of its offerings with its mid-market All-in-One service and the low-end Business One suite but it lacks a strong partner channel.
Sage’s challenge is to produce a high quality suite with relevant functionality, then articulate its message clearly and get its resellers trained and selling the new suite. Resellers can be slow to add to their portfolio but Sage is aware of this and has created the Sage Business School whereby it takes on the cost of educating its partners and training them on Sage products.
The addition of an integrated suite from an established SME player will add another dynamic to the already highly competitive market segment and could put Sage in a position to challenge for the lead position. It has many of the attributes, what it lacks is status.