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Sage ERP Positioning Sage ERP Software Solutions

 
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By Chuck Schaeffer

The Many and Changing Faces of Sage ERP

Along with Microsoft, Sage is an ERP software leader in the SMB market. Sage North America is a subsidiary of Sage Group Plc (LSE: SGE), and its ERP division counts more than 75,000 customers, 2,000 VARs and 500 ISV partners. And like Microsoft with its Dynamics AX, NAV, GP and SL products, Sage has acquired an ERP software portfolio that covers a lot of bases, but also raises a lot of questions among ERP buyers. Those questions are being exacerbated as Sage is underway with a rebranding exercise that is changing the ERP and accounting software names from the recognized marquee brands of Simply Accounting, Peachtree, MAS 90/200/500 and Accpac to the more unassuming and progressive names of Sage 50, Sage 100, Sage 300, Sage 500 and Sage X3.

Social media has given rise to social customers, and a significant change in the purchase process whereby about 90% of SMB ERP buyers begin their buy cycle in Google, community forums, review sites, customer opinion sites, social networks and other online destinations. In fact, ERP buyers complete about two-thirds of their buy cycle, and generally reach a vendor short list, before they ever pick up the phone and speak with the vendors that made that short list. The Sage naming nomenclature changes underway can cause some challenges for ERP buyers trying to self-identify which Sage ERP solution they should be considering, so in this post I’m going to try to share the target market, key capabilities and messaging for each of the SMB Sage ERP solutions. Fortunately, I just received a briefing from Jean Huy, Sr. Director of Product Marketing at Sage, and he advised some good points in understanding Sage solutions.

Sage 100 ERP

Sage One, Sage 50 Accounting-Canadian Edition (formerly Simply Accounting) and Sage 50 Accounting-US Edition (formerly Peachtree) are the first three Sage accounting software products, however, as they serve sole practitioners and very small businesses for which I don’t have expertise, and which are generally not the readers of this website, I’m going to start my comments with Sage 100 (formerly MAS 90 and MAS 200).

Sage 100 offers core financials, distribution and manufacturing ERP software for small businesses, generally with 5 to 15 users. However, I would describe the distribution as light distribution and the manufacturing software as light assembly (simple warehouse movements and BOM explosions). I've heard several ERP consultants suggest that Sage 100 is comparable to QuickBooks, but this is a false comparison, as Sage 100 is often an upgrade path for small businesses that have outgrown QuickBooks. Sage 100 ERP a simple system that enables a rapid implementation, but the trade-off of course is that it’s not deep in functionality. It’s available on-premise or in a hosted model with SaaS subscription pricing. It also uses Sage Connected Services, which are essentially cloud integration services that extend both on-premise and on-demand Sage applications. There are a variety of Connected Services available such as Sage E-marketing (email campaigns), Sage Business Info Services (powered by Hoovers) and Sage ACT! Connect (ACT! on iPads, iPhones, Androids etc ).

Sage 300 ERP

Sage 300 was previously known as Accpac, and generally serves customers with 5 to 15 users. Its strength lies in its accounting software capabilities. It’s a market leader in its native Canada and its strong financials make it popular with services companies. It also handles international accounting software requirements (multiple entities, multiple currencies, languages, roll-ups, etc.) pretty well. It’s not strong in either distribution or manufacturing, however, does have a relatively mature ecosystem of integrated third party products which can accommodate these and other vertical markets at varying levels.

Software delivery is either on-premise or hosted, but its important to recognize the hosted option doesn’t work like a native SaaS ERP solution. Instead, it’s more of a managed hosting environment and currently requires Citrix to aid bandwidth requirements stemming from a fat client. Sage is currently developing a new client for Sage 300 for a future, more SaaS-like cloud option. The new product will still use a single-tenant database architecture, but should more closely approximate the performance of thin-client, web-based ERP systems.

Sage 500 ERP was previously named MAS 500, and I’m not going to spend much time on this product as its being sunset. Sage will support the product for 5 years, giving existing customers sufficient time to plan a change.

Sage ERP X3

Sage ERP X3 (formerly Adonix X3) is the most comprehensive, all-in-one ERP suite solution. It’s a global ERP solution and tends to fit more in the midmarket, supporting customers with 20 to 50 ERP users on average. Sage claims that it can scale to support 1000 users. Sage also targets this product to five vertical markets, including Chemicals, Food & Beverage, Manufacturing, Life Sciences and Whole Distribution. Sage ERP X3 is a multi-platform solution, developed with a proprietary toolkit (that resembles C#) and operates on Linux or Windows operating systems, or SQL Server or Oracle databases.

The ERP X3 accounting software is pretty typical with one exception—embedded analytics. Going beyond the traditional dashboards and packaged reports, Sage has actually OEM’d SAP BusinessObjects as its data warehouse and OLAP (online analytical processing). It’s a powerful Business Intelligence (BI) solution which hides much of the complexity by being exceedingly well embedded into ERP application.

Sage ERP X3 distribution functionality covers the procurement, sales order processing and inventory movement processes well. It doesn’t reach to the feature sets of supply chain management systems, but will likely cover the distribution processes for most midmarket inventory carrying organizations. The manufacturing software is broad, covering the planning, scheduling and production control activities for discrete or process manufacturing as well as the make/configure/assemble to order and make to stock mixed-mode manufacturing environments.

CRM is the weakest link in ERP X3. The application is delivered with a basic CRM application, however, this is really just a customer support, incident ticket system and without any Sales Force Automation (SFA) or marketing capabilities. For customers needing CRM software, there is an option for the SageCRM software, which comes at an additional charge, but is delivered with a packaged integration to X3.

Unfortunately, at this point Sage doesn’t directly host ERP X3 in the cloud. Customers can procure X3 using a SaaS-based subscription pricing model, however, they need to then select a cloud provider and deploy the application into a remote data center if they desire cloud ERP (other than a private cloud). In the future, Sage plans to host ERP X3 for cloud delivery to customers.

Some Final Sage Thoughts

Sage is steadily moving to the cloud, but it’s clearly behind the curve. On the positive side, Sage 100 and 300 are hosted from Microsoft Azure and come with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and guaranteed 98% uptime delivery. However, each of the Sage ERP solutions lacks a multi-tenant database architecture that may limit the innovation that comes with more easy and frequent software updates. Sage suggests that ERP customers don’t always want updates, as most Sage customers have customized their ERP applications and therefore want more control over the upgrade process. It’s a somewhat true statement, however, innovative competitors have figured how to use Platform as a Service (PaaS) tools to create integration and software customization using layers of abstraction (and without modifying source code), so that future upgrades can be assimilated without breaking things.

An area where Sage ERP software direction is still unclear is in its support for social business strategies. Applications such as X3 appear designed for collaboration, provide the simple outbound integration hooks to social networks and facilitate internal web based access for customer or suppliers. However, they don’t yet accommodate the more empowering functions such as social listening, extracting social data and appending it to customer or vendor profile records, enabling peer to peer support networks or offering internal social networks with push-based information subscriptions.

An area where I see Sage ahead of the curve is mobility. The company launches near continuous mobile solution updates that work with both the ERP and CRM software solutions. Sage mobile solutions support varying smartphone and tablet devices and include more advanced mobile features and mash-ups such as their Mobile Payments, which empowers mobile devices for payment processing. End

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Comments (2) — Comments for this page are closed —

Guest BBJean
  So if we are a $56 million company that is growing and looking for a flexible, web-enabled ERP / financial system which Sage ERP is the best starting point?
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    I suspect Sage ERP X3 might be a good starting point. Since Sage acquired former Adonix in 2005, the company has invested heavily into this solution, including a UI upgrade, a Web 2.0 portal, MS Office integration, very strong BI (using SAP BusinessObjects), the Sage Visual Processes tool and improved manufacturing software capabilities. This Sage system is a multi-tier application that uses a Web-oriented architecture and supports multiple operating systems, databases and deployment models. It also uses the Sage Application Framework for the Enterprise (SAFE) X3 platform, which makes the system more extensible for customers and partners.

 

 

 

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An area where I see Sage ahead of the curve is mobility. The company launches near continuous mobile solution updates that work with both the ERP and CRM software solutions.

 

 

 

 

 

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