Sage Summit 2012 – What a Week!

     The headline says it all but it bears repeating…what a week we had at Sage Summit 2012 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville!  After a weekend at home sleeping, napping and sleeping some more to recover from the long days and nights of informative sessions, partner and customer networking, trade show demos, and great country music there’s finally time to reflect on a fabulous week.

     For me, Sage Summit began early on Sunday as a presenter in two separate all-day sessions, one for Sage 500 ERP channel partners to learn more about the total solution they can provide when using endorsed partner solutions, and one for Sage 100 ERP partners to prepare them for success with the upcoming Sage 100 ERP 2013 release. Both sessions had great participation with lively interaction between the attendees and the various presenters.  Squeezed into my Sunday schedule were Product Advisory Council meetings for Sage 100 ERP and Sage 500 ERP with lively discussions on the Sage Innovation process.

    At 6pm the Trade Show and Welcome Reception opened, finding Sage staff meeting and greeting partners in the Sage booth.  Everyone was eager to see the early versions of upcoming releases and to learn more about Sage Exchange.  Sunday evening was spent at dinner at the always excellent Old Hickory Steakhouse in the Gaylord, followed by an evening at various venues within the hotel, catching up with some of my favorite channel partners.  These interactions are always memorable and informative, and I come away energized knowing how much our partners care about the solutions they provide and the customers they serve. And who knew that Ed W. from Tampa was such a fan of Hank Williams, Sr.?

     Monday started off with a bang, literally, as a drum line kicked off the Opening Keynote with Pascal Houillon and his frank message to our channel.  The session introduced a great video on the day in the life of a Sage customer and outlined the strategic vision for Sage.  That was followed by a great session of Sage Product Strategies and the Impact on the ISV Ecosystem with some enlightening demos of mobile applications.  A delicious lunch in the trade show area followed with more chances to catch up with partners and vendors in their booths.  Next was the always packed Sage 100 ERP Road Ahead session for partners who were excited to hear about Sage Exchange integration, expanded AP invoice numbers, the ability to view cleared checks in vendor maintenance and much more. That was followed by two sessions on credit card processing and then back to the trade show for a reception and more networking.  That evening the fabulous Partner Appreciation Party Sage Rocked the Block with three partner bands entertaining the exuberant and lively crowd. All of the bands were excellent and had the crowd dancing and singing along;  with “Hair on Fire” edging out the others to earn the coveted slot as opening act for the next evening’s customer event. 

     Tuesday started with a 7am Sage 500 ERP Customer Advisory Board meeting, followed by a hands-on session for Sage 300 ERP partners to experience Payment Processing and Sage Exchange. After that, an energized group of partners learned how to expand their portfolios by offering integrated payment processing for their customers and prospects.  And then back to the trade show area for another yummy lunch where customers started to filter into the trade show area to join channel partners and the many Sage vendors.  Next up was a repeat of the Road Ahead for Sage 100 ERP for customers this time, who were delighted that @mbabsi tweeted all of the new functionality as it was announced. (Thanks, Todd, you rock!)

      Next up was the fantastic networking event, Sage City, where all attendees had the opportunity to find and meet with like-minded individuals and share best practices, ideas, and solutions to business problems.  The excitement in the room was electric, and the buzz was palpable.  I repeatedly heard that this is a must-repeat event for next year.  Tuesday evening was the time set apart for various after-parties in different venues.  After a great BBQ dinner downtown with a group of long-time Sage 100 ERP partners (thanks again, Wayne!)  we moseyed down the street to the Avalara party at Margaritaville.  Much merriment ensued including line dancing to a live band and some costumed guests that brought lots of laughter.  After a cab ride back to the hotel with more networking with customers from the Midwest, an X3 channel partner from England and a Sage 100 consultant from the OC, it was a quick sleep and, gee, it was Wednesday already!

     Wednesday started bright and early with a Sage 300 ERP customer hands-on session for Payment Processing in which Ian did an outstanding job of educating our customers with me as his Vanna White.  After a quick lunch in the trade show area, another hands on session for Sage 100 ERP customers and credit card processing, followed by more networking time in the trade show area.  A quick dash to my room to don jeans and my cowboy hat was followed by the Customer Appreciation Event – A Night at the Grand Ole Opry. 

     The Opryland show started with the partner band “Hair on Fire” performing a medley of Beatles hits followed by a fantastic rendition of “Piano Man” complete with harmonica and outstanding piano riffs.  Next up was Montgomery Gentry who rocked the house with their greatest hits, followed by Diamond Rio.  This band was super, and took a photo of the crowd that they later pasted on Facebook and Twitter, to the delight of all attendees.  Next the breakout new artist, Jake Owen thrilled the crowd.  Trace Adkins entertained even the non-country music fans in the crowd, especially wowing them with his hits “Songs About Me” and “Honky Tonk Bedonka Donk.”  After the concert during the 5 minute walk back to the Gaylord Hotel I heard “Who knew I liked country music?” more times than I could count.  This event was stellar in more ways than one and the Sage Events Team will have its work cut out for them to be able to top it next year, but I am confident they will rise to the occasion.

     Thursday started with a great group of attendees with a desire to “Understand PCI Compliance and What Failure to Comply Could Mean to Their Business” interacting with one another and the two Sage presenters, Sandra Horvath and me. Bottom line the message is clear…compliance is here to stay, it applies to everyone who takes credit cards and Sage has applications that can help you achieve compliance.   After a final lunch in the Trade Show area, Sandra and I presented my favorite session of the conference; “Demystifying the Movement of Money – Understanding the Top 5 Business Practices that Drive Increased Cash Flow.” The interaction in this session was great; especially during the small group activity where attendees shared other things they had learned at the conference that could help their peers drive cash flow.   

     Thursday night found me at yet another fun after-hours activity – the invitation-only party at the Wild Horse Saloon for Sage ERP customers who registered early and were lucky enough to win the drawing to get an invitation.  This was a lively networking event and I especially enjoyed congratulating Russ Nobbs on his win of an iPad for entering his Sage Summit session evaluation.  It’s great to know that one of my session attendees was the lucky winner! Laughing and hanging out with Russ and his wife as well as other customer advisory board members Lisa and Brad was a highlight of the event.  And dressing up with a feather boa to appear in a special photo with my friends from Realized Financial Services still brings a smile. 

     Friday found me packing up and heading out to the airport for my flight home, sad to leave Nashville and all of our great customers and partners.  Despite being jam-packed, the week was way too short.  Mark your calendars now for Sage Summit 2013, July 21-26 at the Gaylord National in Washington, D.C.  I’ll see you there!

 I’ll close with the question I asked many of you  in person – “What is the one thing you learned at Sage Summit that you will put into practice in your business right away?  And, have you done it yet? ”

On to the adventure,

CzarinaErika

The Top 8 Credit Card Processing Questions about Sage 100 ERP 2013

In the release overview of the Sage 100 ERP 2013 Initial Pre-Release Guide, you’ll learn that “The Sage 100 ERP 2013 release (formerly Sage ERP MAS 90 and 200 5.0) will focus on providing compelling value to existing customers, generate interest in the marketplace with new connected services and add-on solutions, and continuing to offer more deployment and pricing options. Substantial value will be provided to existing customers by addressing their top enhancement requests, Auto Updates for easy application of Sage 100 ERP Product Updates, enhanced Credit Card Processing using Sage Exchange, and more.” This blog sneak peek will focus on the credit card processing enhancements coming in Sage 100 ERP 2013. 

Credit Card Processing in Sage 100 ERP 2013 will utilize Sage Exchange to provide many enhancements and increased flexibility including card-swipe capabilities, charges for repetitive invoices and Accounts Receivable invoices, mobile payments, improved cash flow management and forecasting, and will provide a consolidated view of payment activity. 

 

What is Sage Exchange?

Sage Exchange is the cloud-based technology developed by Sage Payment Solutions that provides the integration between Sage 100 ERP and the Sage Payments Gateway. It consists of three key elements, the Sage Exchange Vault, the Sage Exchange Portal, and third party developer tools which enable Sage Development Partners to connect to Sage Exchange. The Sage Exchange technology includes connection to a secure vault for storing all sensitive credit card information outside of Sage 100 ERP, as well as for processing credit card transactions.

 What is the Sage Exchange Portal?

The Sage Exchange portal provides a user-configurable dashboard and flexibility to view payments information on the web via a tablet or desktop.  Customize My Dashboard to gain access to the payments information you want to see.  Assign access to the Sage Exchange portal for your employees, and easily establish connections to link employee’s tablets and mobile phones to Sage Exchange.  Plus have 24/7 access to the Sage Payment Solutions customer support database right at your fingertips.

Sage Exchange Portal

Why is the Sage Exchange Vault important?

The cloud-based vault helps to reduce fraud exposure by storing all sensitive cardholder data there rather than in Sage 100 ERP data tables.  For added cardholder security, Sage 100 ERP 2013 will also allow a one-time use credit card for a payment transaction without saving credit card information. Customers migrating from previous versions of the software will be able to easily move their customers’ credit card information from their current location into the secure Sage Exchange Vault. The process will be streamlined for customers who are already using Sage Payment Solutions, so if you are using another processor now, it is highly recommended that you consider switching before you upgrade to Sage 100 ERP 2013.

 

How will card swipes be integrated in Sage 100 ERP 2013?

Sage Exchange will reduce merchant transaction fees when cards are present and speed the data entry process when swiping credit cards using a Sage Payments recognized USB card swipe device attached to the terminal. Our new card swipe capabilities have been truly integrated so that payments processing is built into the normal Sage 100 ERP workflow, which can replace the disconnected card swipe capabilities many companies use.  So, for example, when processing an order within Sage 100 ERP, after all line items are entered in the order and the clerk proceeds to the payments tab, after indicating that the payment method will be credit card, the Sage Exchange window pops up to allow the customer’s credit card to be swiped directly into Sage Exchange.  But if the card isn’t present and the card number is already stored in the vault, the same workflow will allow selection of the correct customer’s card for retrieval from the vault.  And if the order is being entered while the customer is on the phone, a card can be entered for one time use using the same workflow.  It’s all been streamlined to be simple and fast.

Sage Payment Solutions with credit card swipe active

Approved Sage Exchange card swipe device

 

How Will Sage Mobile Payments be Integrated with Sage 100 ERP 2013?

Sage Exchange will allow payments to be collected anytime, anywhere, via smart phone. Ideal for cash sales, Sage Mobile Payments will immediately capture the cash transaction information for a sale and send it to Sage Exchange, for secure transfer to Sage 100 ERP 2013 Accounts Receivable Cash Receipts Entry.  A cash receipt batch will automatically be created for these mobile cash transactions which can be updated by accounts receivable personnel at the end of each day.  Companies that provide services and collect fees in a mobile environment, such as mobile pet grooming, will find this functionality especially helpful.

 

What other functionality will be available from Sage Mobile Payments?

Sage Mobile Invoice Query, Pay and Post will be introduced in a Product Update shortly after the release of Sage 100 ERP 2013. This functionality will benefit companies with a mobile sales force that also collects payments on outstanding invoices. The software will include the ability to identify an existing Sage 100 ERP customer from the mobile device, view the customer’s open invoices, and select one of the open invoices to pay. With a Sage Mobile card swipe device connected to the smartphone, the salesperson can swipe the customer’s credit card and present the touch screen of the mobile device to the customer for signature approval of the charges. The credit card receipt can optionally be emailed directly to the customer from Sage Exchange.  And, not only will the payment go directly into the merchant’s bank account just like any other credit card transaction, but it will also create a cash receipts batch within Sage 100 ERP to complete the financial transaction.

 

What is happening with the PCCharge Payment Server Integration to Sage 100 ERP?

PCCharge Payment Server will no longer be integrated with Sage 100 ERP 2013.  The way in which PCCharge was integrated with previous versions of Sage 100 ERP required Sage 100 ERP software to store credit card numbers.   As detailed above, with version 2013, credit card numbers will no longer be stored within the ERP software, therefore PCCharge will not work.  Also, Sage’s customer support department will answer questions about the ERP side of PCCharge for older versions of Sage 100 ERP through December 31, 2012. As of that time, Sage 100 ERP support for PCCharge will end. 

 

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

What’s In A Name?

After 20 years of working at Sage, the world’s largest provider of business management software and services for small and medium sized businesses, I seem to have become a bit of a ‘sage’ myself, gaining knowledge of Sage products, people and processes, both past and current.  As a result, it’s time for me to share some of that hard-won knowledge with you, our loyal Sage customers, channel partners and other members of the greater Sage ecosystem.  The goal of this blog is to spark ongoing dialog with you about topics that are near and dear to my heart, and give you some insight into what the Sage product management team has in store for the future.

Sage has recently embarked on a transformational journey. As part of that journey, we’re changing the names of some of our established brands to be more reflective of the Sage brand than of the various product names of the past.  For example Sage Peachtree is becoming Sage 50, Sage ERP MAS 90 and 200 is becoming Sage 100 ERP, and Sage ERP Accpac is becoming Sage 300 ERP.  Along with these name changes, other Sage products such as those that provide fixed asset accounting and human resource tracking are also being renamed to emphasize the Sage brand name.  Some question why this is being done, but to me the explanation is simple.  Sage is the world’s largest provider of business management software and services for small and medium sized businesses, yet our company seems to be relatively unknown in North America by anyone other than existing customers.  In order to attract more customers to our brand, prospects need to know who we are. In simplest terms, the Sage strategy is to move from a house of product names cobranded with Sage to a strong branded house, emphasizing Sage.   Click here to see a video on the Sage branding changes.

Those who know me may also know I’ve been the self-proclaimed “Czarina of MAS 90” for quite some time. “Why Czarina?” you may ask.  My reply of course is, “Because Queen is so mundane.”  Over the past few years my role at Sage has changed and is far from mundane. While my roots are with Sage ERP MAS 90 (becoming Sage 100 ERP)  I’ve got much more than that product to talk about these days.  Over the course of time I’ll update you on what I’ve been doing lately, what my colleagues at Sage are up to, and my observations on our industry and the future. 

When trying to come up with a name for this blog, I Googled my first name and discovered that two of the Scandinavian definitions of Erika are “ruler” and “forever”.  So, with my longevity at Sage in mind and tongue planted firmly in cheek, Czarina Erika seems to fit.  The “floating to the top” reference has to do with my long-time love affair with water activities including boating, sailing, sunbathing, relaxing in the hot tub, and yes, even synchronized swimming.  And as a former swim instructor, one of the key instructions I gave to beginning students was, “If you feel like you are sinking, just relax and stop moving for a moment. Once you relax, you will float to the top.”  So hopefully everyone who takes a moment to read this blog will also take the time to relax briefly, and use the information provided here to help them ‘float to the top’ and rise above the challenges of the day. 

On to the adventure,

Czarina Erika