Sage Software Unifies Globally Around CRM

The Sage Group reorganizes its strategy around CRM, heading into fierce competition against giants Oracle and SAP.

The Sage Group plc, known in earlier incarnations as Best Software, announced Wednesday a major realignment of its development teams around CRM (customer relationship management).

The company, based in London, is best-known for its line of accounting software products for SMBs (small and midsize businesses), is taking a three-pronged approach to tackling CRM.

First is the launch of a global CRM organization that will bring together disparate development groups under a single umbrella—with a unified mission around product strategy, research and development, product roadmaps and marketing.

"This strategy is a change for Sage, which is largely a decentralized group of holding companies," said Dave Batt, senior vice president and general manager of Global CRM at Sage.

/zimages/2/28571.gifSage launches Web-based contact manager. Click here to read more.

"We have operations in a number of different countries, but that model is decentralized. We realized CRM is not bound by regulatory issues [like accounting], so we could have a global organization."

Secondly, Sage is re-branding its CRM suites —ACT! CRM, Sage CRM, and SalesLogix—under a single moniker. The products are now collectively known as Sage CRM Solutions.

Lastly, Sage is taking a more unified approach to integrating its CRM products with its vast family of accounting products (Peachtree, Mas90, Line 50, Line 100, Best Software)—taking a business process approach.

The company is in the process of polling its 4.5 million customers to see what processes are most important to them. Order-to-Cash is one such process thats in the running.

As yet, the company hasnt laid out a timeline for process integrations, but said during a conference call Wednesday that it would look to increase integration points by 50 percent.

"This is an ongoing process," said Batt, in London. "Were ramping that up. The approach the company had taken before was product-centric. When we had integration points, wed go back to customers and theyd sort of shrug their shoulders. Now when we go back and say we have integrated processes in order-to-cash, they get this."

The other major technology initiative Sage is undertaking is the integration of its on-demand CRM products with its accounting packages—an exercise that is expected to be complete inside this fiscal year, according to Batt.

As the new head of Sages first global development organization, Batt has his hands full. Not only is he looking at bringing together the road maps of a disparate product set, hes also looking at unifying, to some degree, the CRM suites with a disjointed set of accounting products.

(Even going to the companys Web site to find a cohesive list of products presents a myriad of challenges, from figuring out which country to focus on, to which Web site within a Web site to click on).

At the same time, competition in the CRM space is fierce. Software giants Oracle Corp. and SAP AG (the worlds largest software developer) have on-premises CRM software that it wants to move into downstream markets.

SAP and Microsoft Corp—which sells to the mid-market in a partner-driven approach similar to Sages—have both hinted at on-demand offerings in the works. And Oracle announced last month its intention to acquire Siebel Systems Inc. for $5.85 billion.

Add that to the fact that, a company that has racked up an impressive on-demand customer base in the five or six years its been in business, is expanding its base to include a development platform and applications marketplace.

Also, NetSuite Inc., which provides an integrated CRM and ERP (enterprise resource management) suite to the mid-market, was just named second in Deloittes Fast 500 companies to watch in the coming year.

Batt, however, seems to have a bit of an inside track. A veteran of the relatively nascent CRM industry, he has held top spots at Oracle, Microsoft, and Siebel—all companies looking to move their products from the enterprise market, downstream to the mid-market, where Sage plays exclusively.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about Sages rent-to-own CRM suite.

In his month-old post at Sage, Batt said the competition has nothing to do with the companys realignment around CRM.

"This is totally independent [of our competitors initiatives]," said Batt.

"We are already in the CRM marketplace. What has gone on is up-market vendors like Siebel—and with the consolidation of Oracle—have saturated their market.

"So they either have to come down, or look to mergers and acquisitions [to grow]. At Sage were growing."

/zimages/2/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.