With Latest Product Barrage, Best Finally Becomes Sage

Sage Software is the company's best known brand of software worldwide and brings the company's U.S. unit in line with the name of the parent company, Sage Group plc. The decision to change the company's name beginning this month was first announced in March but partners have until March of 2006 to come into compliance with the new branding schemes.

Ron Verni, president and CEO of Sage Software said that while the company's efforts to create a single brand around a range of business applications continues to be "a journey," the North American unit of Sage experienced a 30 percent increase in revenue and a commensurate increase in net income through acquisitions and organic growth. He said the company now has revenues of $1.3 billion and has software installed in over 4.5 million businesses.

According to Verni, Sage is now able to use the Sage brand in the U.S. after coming to terms with a small marketing company that had the rights to the Sage brand name in the Untied States. A previous inability to come to terms led Sage to adopt the Best Software moniker as its U.S. brand.

In addition to launching the new naming convention for the company, Sage Software also launched 25 new products, upgrades and services that will be available between now and Sept. 30. The products, announced in front of some 2,300 partners attending the company's Insights 2005 partner conference here, include a range of new software-as-a- service offerings, which is a delivery model that is becoming increasingly popular in the SMB market that is at the core of the Sage product offerings.

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The new services include Act! Premium for the Web, which is a hosted implementation of Sage's popular contact management application and a re-branded SageCRM.com offering based on the Accpac product that Sage acquired from Computer Associates, and Sage Payroll Services, a service that can be integrated with on premise accounting applications sold by Sage.

Sage also released a rebranded Sage CRM, an on premise application as part of an effort to give partners the option of selling either a hosted or on premises CRM solution. Like its online counterpart, Sage CRM is also identical to the company's existing Accpac product. In essence, Accpac will be sold to customer's looking for a specific set of accounting features, while customers looking for integration of those features with other Sage products will be sold the same product under the Sage CRM moniker.

Gary Phillips, president of Executive Automation LLC in West Lafayette, Ind., said that while he did not fully comprehend all the changes being made yet, he was generally comfortable with Sage's approach to the market because it allows him to sell applications that are tailored to specific markets rather than forcing customers to adopt a single application for all solutions.

"There is no such thing as a one size fits all market," said Phillips.

He added that he liked the idea of being able to sell web-based software or install the same software at a customer's site depending on the requirements of the customer.

"Either way, we can still make the sale," said Phillips. To provide and added incentive to that model, Sage also announced that customers that want to switch from a service model to an installed software model can devote 50 percent of the money they spent on the Sage CRM service in the first year toward the purchase of installed Sage software.

Other product updates announced at the event include Peachtree by Sage 2006, which will be available next month and adds a number of vertical industry modules and online banking support to the small business accounting application; Versions 4.1 of Sage MAS 90 and Sage MAS 200 accounting applications, which will ship in September with improvements to the user interfaces; Sage MAS 500 7.0, which will also ship in September with a new business intelligence module; Sage PFW 100, which is schedule for availability by the end of September and combines Platinum for Windows by Best with BatchMasterPFW 5.4; and Sage Timberline Office, which will ship this month with a new document management module.

For the channel, Sage also announced that it would renew its 100/100 program under which it will spend in the next year another $1 million to train another 100 field sales executives across 100 different partners. The company is also creating a Sage Consulting Academy to complement its existing Sales Academy to fund training of consultants working for solution providers and has created a Fast Track 100 program under which partners can invest $5,000 to receive sales and consulting training, lead generation tools, partner benchmarking, custom sales and marketing plans and mentoring relationships. For each new customer acquired, Sage will then rebate $1,000 back to the business partner until the $5,000 investment is recouped.

"With this program, we're trying to create the concept of a solution provider in a box for the smaller partners," said Taylor MacDonald, Sage executive vice president for channel and sales operations. "A lot of these partners don't have a lot of the sales experience that they need to go out and get new customers."