Sage CEO: We Went Back To Basics

Swenson, who has led Sage North America for a little more than two years, painted a generally upbeat picture of the company itself and the market for its ERP, CRM, accounting and other business applications.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty happy to see the economy improving,” she said, noting that last year’s Insights conference came in the midst of the worst recession in decades. “It’s choppy and bumpy, but choppy and bumpy on the way up.”

Swenson devoted much of her keynote to describing how the company used the economic downturn as a chance to “get back to basics,” including motivating and training employees to improve the company’s software products and improve the customer experience.

“Our strategy is clear, it’s about extraordinary customer experience,” she said. And to partners: “You are a key part of that plan and road map.”

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Sage’s product lines are a collection of sometimes disparate applications -- many of them acquired -- which has created difficulties in terms of brand awareness and product compatibility.

But Swenson said the company is working through those issues, developing a single face to customers and partners and making strides in improving market awareness of the Sage brand.

At Insights last year Sage North America CTO Motasim Najeeb admitted in a speech that some of Sage’s products had “fallen behind the technology curve” and needed updating.

Swenson said Sage has implemented a product review process that improves the quality of existing products and new products being brought to market. She said the vendor also has improved the integration among its products -- a move that she said will improve cross-sell opportunities for channel partners.

In the area of cloud computing the company is expected to detail at this conference a connected services strategy for its application products. And while upgrade sales account for a big chunk of Sage’s sales, Swenson said the company would continue to make “selective” investments in new products.

Swenson also said Sage Group plc, Sage North America’s parent company, is making progress on “stabilizing” its revenue and growing its profitability on a sequential quarter basis, although sales on a year-to-year basis remain down. Sage North America accounts for about half of Sage Group’s sales.