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

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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

Confessions of an Olympics Junkie

OK, I admit it. “My name is Erika and I am a Summer Olympics junkie.” The minute I hear the familiar “Da-da, da da da da da, dum-dum” of the Olympic Fanfare I’m hooked once again. I’m not sure when my love affair with the Olympics started, although my time as a competitive swimmer as a child probably had something to do with it. My volunteer stint with the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee in 1984 confirmed my addiction and rooted it deeply within. So this week, with the NBC-TV trumpets blasting that familiar tune once again, I’m glued to the set to see what happens next, wishing I could be right there on site with the Today show’s Matt, Al, Meredith and Savannah interviewing the athletes, cheering them on and just absorbing the excitement, energy and pure joy that that event evokes.

But duty calls and I must stay stateside, completing preparations for another exciting gathering, the annual Sage Summit conference. While the purpose of the Olympics is to promote sports and sportsmanship among the youth of all nations; the purpose of Sage Summit, the only gathering of its kind for owners and employees of small and mid-sized businesses, is to learn, network and gain actionable insights and practical ideas that will drive real business benefits for each of their organizations.

Sage Summit brings forth hundreds of Sage product experts and solution architects who are eager to share their insider perspective and tips. And while the Olympics motto played out in the various sports activities is “Swifter, Higher, Stronger”, at Sage Summit, the in-depth sessions and hands-on labs you’ll attend will help you avoid wasting time and money on a trial-and-error approach, and take advantage of proven techniques that help you work “Better, Faster, and Smarter.”

The Olympic Creed reads: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” This is most certainly true in business life as it is in the rest of life. So take a few days as the London games conclude and join me and over 4,000 Sage customers, partners, employees and business experts to learn and share valuable and practical ways to solve business problems from those who have already walked in your shoes.

If you haven’t attended before, I strongly recommend that this year you take the time away from work to make the trek to the fabulous Gaylord Opryland hotel in Nashville, TN. Sage channel partners are invited from August 12 – 14, and Sage customers are invited to attend from August 14-17.

And when you see me, be sure to ask not only what my favorite Olympic moment was during this year’s event, but also which sessions are guaranteed to bring YOU a favorite Sage moment at Sage Summit.

Next post: Remembering the technology of the 1984 Olympics – we’ve come a long way, baby!

On to the Adventure,

CzarinaErika

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