Sage Group Plc has entered the hosted CRM fray in the UK with the launch of SageCRM.com, a hosted version of the existing Sage CRM Mid Market Edition, and said the offering differs from those of other hosted providers because of its ability to provide local support via is partner network.
What differentiates us is that we are bringing it to market through the channel. We have 6,500 partners…who are business experts, said Sage’s marketing director Gerry Carr. What that gives us is local touch, companies [our customers] can rely on. Unlike Salesforce.com and NetSuite which he said provide a centralized product, take their subscriptions, and leave users without local on the ground support and advice, Sage backs its hosted service with local support by partners it said are geared towards business process management not just the technical aspects of CRM.
According to Carr, the Sage option is about freedom of choice. Like Siebel, customers are able to opt for a hosted or an on-site deployment, or move from hosted to on-premise when and if necessary. As part of that commitment, Sage offers a Rent to Own option where an organization can subscribe to the hosted service for the standard rate of 50 pounds per user per month, inclusive of support. If it chooses to move to an on-premise model, Sage will provide a discount on the fees paid to date. Potential customers can also access SageCRM.com through the Self Starter Pack, which provides for self support, or the Expert Advice Pack which is offered by Sage’s partners who will provide configuration, consulting, training and ongoing support.
Like Siebel, Sage’s challenge is to offer a hosted service without cannibalizing its existing higher cost business or taking business from its partners, which is why it is stressing the opportunities for partner involvement. According to Richard Bee, director CRM at Sage in the UK, the hosted service will bring in new business because it is targeted at the small and the low end of the mid-market.
The company has a difficult management task and this is reflected in the level of its hosted offering, which is less sophisticated then those of NetSuite, Salesforce.com, or Siebel. It does not offer vertical capability like Siebel does or instance, or integration or development platforms such as those from Salesforce.com and NetSuite. Nor does it offer its existing integration packs as part of the hosted service. In addition, despite having a broad portfolio it is only offering CRM as a hosted service, not any of its back-office software, no doubt because these single-tenant architecture applications would require a complete rewrite. These factors make its hosted approach appear half-hearted but are the consequence of its need to protect its partner’s revenue stream by providing them with opportunities for sales and consultancy.
We know from six month in beta with customers and parents that they want a fully formed CRM product. They want vertical functionality but it is not a barrier, said Carr. Where there is a requirement for vertical capability he stresses that customers can go to the partner network that have the technical capabilities and more importantly an understanding of the business requirements. Forget vertical, it is a one-to-one offering. The local touch is extreme differentiator to a US company offering a centralized product, added Carr.
He said the company is trying to take an honest and straightforward approach in terms of where the hosted model fits into most companies operations: We don’t believe the no-software mantra or dictate how software is delivered. We offer a good hosted product, a full service product. Although he said he could not talk about the size or shape of the anticipated customer base, he said he expects most organizations to stay with the hosted service but said it is important to offer an option.
Sage dipped its toe into the hosted waters when it acquired Accpac from Computer Associates early last year as Accpac was offering a hosted CRM solution in the US and Canada at the time. Sage launched its own branded service in the US, based on the Accpac offering, earlier this year. Sage CRM Mid Market Edition is the rebadged version of the Accpac software and SageCRM.com is the hosted version. The software uses the same code base, although the hosted version has more limited integration and customization capabilities.