Mobility, Mobility, Mobility!

A little over four weeks ago I twisted my ankle in a supermarket parking lot and managed to cause a hairline fracture of one of the small bones in my left foot.  It’s healing, but not as quickly as I want. Of course I am the type who says “Lord, give me patience, but give it to me RIGHT NOW!”, so nothing ever heals fast enough for me.  As a result of my mishap, my personal mobility has been restricted, and I am spending more time than ever in a seated position.  With my mobility curtailed I seem to spend more time thinking about what it means to be mobile. And that turns me to thoughts about how Sage customers want to use applications in this very mobile world.

At Sage Summit 2012 in Nashville, TN last August, we introduced a video that showed a day in the life of a Sage customer.  It’s apparent to everyone these days that a typical workday is no longer just a 9-5 stint sitting in an office somewhere. I know I can’t live without my smart phone, and am rapidly becoming dependent on my iPad because my laptop seems so heavy in comparison. Most of my work day is still spent in an office, so if mobility is a necessity to me, how much more do sales and service personnel need tools to improve their work life when not chained to a desk?

We’ve got a team folks working on the answer to that question right now in Sage ERP development.  Based on the feedback we received from customers at Sage Summit and countless other one-on-one customer interviews, we’re developing two new mobile applications along with a companion integrated service that will be accessed via the web. The mobile service application will assist employees of service-based businesses such as pest control services track fees for those services and collect payment on-site directly from the customer.  The mobile sales application will facilitate order entry for companies that bring and sell goods to customers rather than having customers come to them.  And the companion web service will provide the account billing and payment for the two mobile applications in cases where services or goods are provided to customers ‘on account’ instead of via credit card at the time of sale.

What’s different about the plan for these applications is, well, pretty much everything. They are being designed and deployed in very rapid cycles, nothing like the traditional 12-18 month cycles of ERP product development. They will be services that have a different customer deployment method than ERP uses, so part of the planning to roll out these services includes determining how to bill customers for the services, how to ensure customers are entitled to use the service, and how the services get terminated if customers fail to pay.

This brings much change to the development teams in Irvine and Richmond, and a flurry of excitement that I haven’t really seen since we first started developing Windows applications. Just like then, there has been a major shift in the software industry. One could argue that we’re a little late to the table in making these changes; but we weren’t the first company to develop ERP and accounting software in Windows either. That just means we need to ensure these new products delight customers and solve their business challenges so customers will continue to look to Sage to help them solve those challenges.  And these applications are just the first ones to take root in the Sage family; we’ve got lots more in the works for the future.

Would you be interested in being one of the customers that the Sage staff talks with about business challenges to help us refine the plans for those future applications? We are specifically looking for conversations with “C” level executives; business owners, CEOs, CFOs;  and those who are responsible for the growth of their company’s bottom line.   If your company uses one or more Sage product and you have an interest in spending an hour or so with our team to discuss business ideas, either in person or on the telephone, please contact me.

On to the adventure,

Czarina Erika

Money Makes The World Go Around

“Money makes the world go around
…the world go around
…the world go around.
Money makes the world go around
It makes the world go ’round.

A mark, a yen, a buck or a pound
…a buck or a pound
…a buck or a pound.
Is all that makes the world go around
That clinking, clanking sound…
Can make the world go ’round”……..”Money…Money” from Cabaret, lyrics by Fred Ebb

Money moves into and out of North American businesses in a constant ebb and flow, but knowing exactly how to make more of it flow in and stay put is sometimes a mystery. Everyone wants to unravel that mystery and know how to keep cash flowing into their own pocket, be that a personal pocket or a business one.  Let’s look at a few basics on how to improve cash flow.

Decrease Expenses.  Probably the most obvious way to increase cash flow is to cut major expenses.  In some companies this may mean more conference calls and fewer face to face business meetings to cut down on travel. Or it may mean deferring the purchase of new manufacturing equipment or computers for the accounting staff until replacement is absolutely critical.  And cutting down on non-essential expenses can be done just about everywhere.  There’s not a personal budget guru alive that doesn’t say “Eliminate your daily caffeine fix at your favorite Starbucks and you too can eventually afford <insert your expensive want here.>” Businesses have non-essential expenses that can be reduced or eliminated too.  Identify your company’s ‘Starbucks fix’ and see how you can cut back gradually.

Manage Receivables.  This one too seems obvious….all ya’ gotta do is get folks to pay you faster.  Yeah, right, like that’s easy to do in today’s economy when 90 days is the new 60 for outstanding payables.  Perhaps the answer is to not extend the credit to begin with.  And by that I don’t mean losing the sale, I mean, what about offering a credit card as a payment method to your customer?  The customer gets the benefit of a 35-30 day grace period before they need to pay Visa/MasterCard, but you get your cash within 24-48 hours. And you get the added benefit of re-purposing your collections clerk to a role that drives more revenue to your bottom line.

What are the top business practices that you have put into place to help increase your company’s cash flow?

Significant Sage Milestones

Today marks yet another significant milestone in the Sage journey…our new Sage North American website has gone live at www.na.sage.com. The site has a new fresh look and rolls out all of the Sage new product names as well. Optimized for those who don’t know much about Sage and want a quick overview, I found the new site easy to navigate and find product information. It incorporates all of our new branding and adds a geolocation feature for North America. Check it out!
Also new today is Sage One, our company’s newest business management offering. Sage One is designed for the business entrepreneur who wants to manage his or her business rather than have the business manage them. This cloud based offering really simplifies business processes. It combines project and task tracking, invoicing, money management, team collaboration and time tracking all into one simple, easy to use system. And to make it painless for customers to start, we’ve got a special promotion that allows complete access to Sage One for $1 a month for 3 months. Use code 90219 at na.sageone.com to learn more about it and take advantage of the promo.

Today is also the launch of Sage 50 – US Edition which was formerly Sage Peachtree. And to complement the Sage 50 release, Sage Payment Solutions has released SageExchange.com, which integrates simple mobile payments directly with Sage 50. For those of you in the Sage 100, 300 or 500 product communities, this offering is what is coming later in the year for you. Take a cruise around www.sageexchange.com for a sneak peek.
But that’s not all! New print and on-line advertising is beginning today too. Look for Sage ads in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Inc., Entrepreneur, Fortune and more. And next month prepare to be dazzled by another Sage first….television ads for Sage One on DIRECTV and Dish Network stations including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC and more. Lots of exciting ways Sage is spreading the news of who we are and the value we bring to customers across North America.
After you peruse the above sites, let me know what you think!

On to the adventure,

Czarina Erika

The Road Ahead

     There’s something about spring that makes everyone in our industry start thinking about roadmaps.  I don’t know if that’s because we used to hold partner conferences in May, or if it’s because many of our current projects are planned to release in the fall so everyone is wondering what’s next, or if it’s just something about spring itself that causes thoughts to gravitate toward roadmaps. But they seem to be on everyone’s mind right now.

      In my role as liaison between Sage Payment Solutions and all of the products in the Sage ERP product portfolio, my roadmap thoughts lean toward the integration roadmap for each of our products. So last week I hopped a plane and went to visit the Sage Payment Solutions team at their headquarters in McLean, VA to work collaboratively on a roadmap plan. Our goal was to gain agreement on what we expect to deliver to our joint customers in the months and years ahead.  

      So how do we determine what to include in our joint roadmap?  Well of course we look to feedback from our customers and channel partners that have been submitted in the Ideas website for each of the respective ERP products. But ideas in those sites lean towards ERP features, and don’t really touch on integrated payments functionality. So we look to see what competitors are offering. But that’s not too easy to do because we don’t really have ERP competitors that offer the full-service credit card and payment processing integration that is unique to Sage. So we look to other sources where Sage customers can go to obtain payment processing and related services; their banks. We researched the offerings banks have that mid-market customers would like to see integrated with their ERP system so they can improve efficiencies and reduce manual effort.  One of Sage’s long-term goals is to be the one-stop shop for all payments related products and services, offering functionality that customers could get from their bank, but that they will prefer to get from Sage because of the unique integration with their ERP software that we provide and their bank cannot. 

      How do we prioritize the functionality once we’ve identified it? That’s not as easy as it might seem. First, we spent time evaluating the usefulness and desirability of each feature or service by key types of customers: manufacturers, distributors, service based industries, and retailers. Then we evaluated them on other dimensions by asking a few key questions:

     –       Is adding this functionality important for a full solution from single source? 

     –       Do we have a better chance to win and keep customers if we add this functionality? 

     –       Does it apply to both US and Canadian markets?

     –       Does this impact the Sage image or reputation? Is it expected from the marketplace?

     –       Will customers be willing to pay for this service or functionality? 

     After this, we determined if it makes sense to move forward with further research and customer validation on the functionality on our list. So while we haven’t completely finished the roadmap process yet, we’ve made a great start and look to have something to announce at Sage Summit in Nashville this summer. Meanwhile, what functionality or service would you like to see on the Sage Payment Solutions and Sage ERP Joint Roadmap?  Leave a comment below to share your thoughts. 

On to the adventure,

Czarina Erika

Payments 101

     Does anyone really carry much cash anymore? I know I have a wallet full of credit cards that I can and do use just about anywhere: for groceries, gas, clothes, entertainment, restaurants and, well, pretty much everything. It’s easy and convenient for me to use a credit card as a consumer because it doesn’t require any knowledge about the credit card industry. All I really need to know is when I’ve got to make my payment.
    

But as a merchant who takes credit cards in business to business or business to consumer transactions, a little bit of knowledge on the credit card industry can go a long way toward understanding how taking credit cards can help drive increased sales and how using credit cards as a payment method helps reduce your outstanding receivables .
    

There are many players in the credit card industry besides the cardholder and merchant. There’s the merchant acquirer, the processor, the card associations, and the card issuer. And there’s those Independent Sales Organization folks (ISO’s) who seem to call you every other week trying to get you to switch your credit card processor. How do all of these players fit together in the process?
    

We at Sage have put together some information to make navigating the credit card industry a bit more understandable. Click here for a link to a handy Infographic that explains a bit more about these different players. And, to learn much more, please join me and my Sage Payment Solutions colleagues for a webcast entitled “Payments 101: Making Sense of the Credit Card Industry” on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 at 11am PT. (1pm ET). To register for the webcast, click here. We’ll discuss the differences between an integrated and non-integrated payments solution, delve into the players in the industry and what each one does, and unravel a little of the mystery surrounding merchant fees. All Sage customers running any Sage ERP product are welcome to attend.

On to the adventure,

Czarina Erika