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There are signs, however, that Sage and its partners may be getting past the turbulence of the last year. Jeff Roth, CEO of SWK Technologies Inc., Livingston, N.J., said he detected a more positive tone from Sage toward the channel in recent months. He and Stephen Blythe both pointed to a recent Business Partner Advisory Council meeting where they said Sage executives seem to be listening more to partners' concerns. Roth also said Langner, who joined Sage eight months ago, is taking on more of a channel advocate role.
Azamba's Wolf called the value of a number of other partner services Sage has launched in recent years "immeasurable," including the Fast Track for Marketing and Hire Assist programs – the latter of which is a service to help partners find sales and consulting talent. "I take advantage of these programs, and they've helped my business so much," he said, saying he used the service to hire a new sales representative.
New York-based IT service and solution provider Net@Work, which has become one of Sage's biggest partners, plans to unveil at Sage Summit an alliance program that builds on Sage's efforts to get more partners who sell specific Sage products to work with each other. Net@Work pitched the alliance program to Sage execs who co-president Edward Solomon said were receptive to the idea, which would make Net@Work something of a master VAR.
Partners will be looking for more clues at Sage Summit about the vendor's direction both in terms of its channel efforts and its product strategy.
Blythe is hoping to hear a "forward commitment to development of [Sage's] core midmarket products" and a "viable and competitive SaaS strategy." He'd also like to hear about a redesigned subscription plan that's "equitable for partners."
"We want to be sure the products we're selling today can deliver the goods," said SWK's Roth, who, like Blythe, is hoping to hear more about "a true SaaS cloud strategy" for Sage products. Roth declares himself "bullish" on Sage ERP X3, the company's midmarket ERP application set.
At Sage Summit, company executives will outline "how Sage is going to embrace the Web and mobile technology," Langner said, and showcase new products that "are going to raise some eyebrows."
On the technology side, all eyes at Sage Summit will be on Himanshu Palsule, a 15-year Sage veteran who last month was named chief technology officer and head of product strategy for Sage North America.
Sage North America has centralized its research and development under Palsule, and in a July interview, Palsule said the company has spent the last nine to 12 months developing a long-term product strategy that will emphasize development of common cloud and mobile services that legacy Sage products can tap into -- rather than redeveloping all those products. Some products could see reductions in R&D investments.
Sage Summit also will feature sessions that address the subscription pricing issue, Langner said, and the Sage Advisor system that provides partners with information about how customers use Sage products to help partners provide better service.
And providing better customer service is what it's all about, said Wolf. "At the end of the day, if we put out good solutions that meet customer needs, that's what matters."