Making work look like fun
Tom Miller has announced that he will retire from Sage North America on March 29, 2013.
This is not new news – it’s been out there for a while now. It took me a while to figure out what I would like to say.
I would like to use this space and honor his legacy.
Personally I’ve always been the type of guy that likes to sharpen the saw by reading smart ideas by smart people presented in new and interesting ways. Yet, while reading these sources of information and inspiration, I’m always reminded of the classics – Zig Ziglar, Dale Carnegie, Peter Drucker, Napoleon Hill – which, to me, are the fundamental sources upon which most other business philosophies are built upon.
I am not going out too far on a limb to say: Tom Miller is the embodiment of these fundamental sources of business inspiration.
He’s a living, breathing example of those classics.
I would challenge anyone to name a time where they interacted with Tom and didn’t come away richer for the experience. Whether it’s direct advice or, more likely than not, you walking away thinking you came up with a great idea even though he skillfully planted it, fed and watered it and helped it grow.
Tom has mastered the unbelievably difficult skill of helping others reach their potential. He’s not in the fish-handing-out business, he’s in the teaching-people-to-fish business.
He embodies the positive thinking, get ‘er done, 1 + 1 can equal 3 mentality that I aspire to maintain. Tom doesn’t see obstacles and problems, he sees opportunities and exciting challenges. Tom believes in the power of free enterprise and the ability of sharp business owners to find ways to create value for their customers, their partners and themselves.
Sage just announced a new Small Business Accounting Hosting Provider program that enables authorized independent hosting partners to offer small businesses secure, anytime, anywhere access to Sage Peachtree and Sage Simply Accounting as a managed hosted service.
While this program doesn’t appear brand new – it may be an expansion of hosting options for consultants.
According to the press release, which Sage very oddly decided to issue during the Sleeter Group’s QuickBooks centric conference in Vegas (I am asking Sage PR if I missed a press release from the July 2011 Sage Summit gathering):
Update: Sage say’s that the program wasn’t ready at Summit 2011 — despite my being able to find at one hosting partner press releasing participation in what appears to have been just such a program.
“Small businesses want a solution that works the way that they do; many of them appreciate the powerful features of a desktop product, but would like the flexibility of an online solution,” said Jennifer Warawa, vice president, partner programs, Sage. “Through our new Hosting Provider program, we’re offering small businesses the best of both worlds: the strength of the desktop coupled with the flexible access of an online system. Bringing hosted solutions to our customers gives them yet another option to make their business lives easier.”
Through the Hosting Provider program, small businesses will now be able to access their data securely whenever, wherever, via the platform of their choice (Mac or PC), and easily collaborate with their accountant while working in the same environment. Adopting the hosted model also eliminates the need to deploy and administer Sage Peachtree or Sage Simply Accounting across a network, which can reduce time spent on hardware setup and overall maintenance costs.
For accountants, working in a hosted environment improves productivity, enabling remote client service, easier collaboration, and same time data access for them and their clients.
Sage made today’s announcement from the annual Sleeter Group Conference, taking place today through Wednesday at the Cosmopolitan Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas. The Sleeter Group Conference annually draws hundreds of the world’s top accounting experts, many of whom also provide software and hardware consulting services for small businesses. It is the premier event of the year for the small business accounting, consulting, and add-on developer community. On Wednesday, Himanshu Palsule, Sage executive vice president, strategy, will keynote at the conference, looking at the future of the accounting profession and the importance of choice in the years ahead for practitioners and their clients alike.
Sage Small Business Accounting Solutions Now Available Anytime, Anywhere
Sage will report earnings on November 30, 2011. This webcast is free and open to anyone who wishes to participate. While the earnings reports covers all of Sage’s entities there is usually some breakdown and discussion of various regions and you may find it helpful to see how Sage North America is performing relative to other areas of the world.
Also during these calls Sage also often reveals high level corporate strategic initiative. Past calls have discusses items such as increasing the sale of premium support plans and plans for different niches such as payments and healthcare (which Sage just sold in North America). Read more
I would like to start by suggesting that this is a purely speculative post and expresses only my own opinion. Please draw your own conclusions.
I’ve spoken to a lot of people since the keynote and there are some big concerns about moving the focus from the individual product brands to emphasize focus on the core Sage brand. Nothing has been firmly announced yet but the speculation is that the new branding will see product names go away to be replaced by numbers with product type designations – much like the Sage UK and European product naming.
Is this a bad thing? I realize that there are some very strong brand names in the Sage portfolio – Act!, Peachtree, MAS, Accpac, Saleslogix, etc. and there are a large number of customers using each of these products that recognize the current name.
But… are they invested emotionally with the product name? I’m not so sure. The names are used as placeholders – “my Act! system”, “enter it into Peachtree”, “get the reports from MAS” (or “Accpac”), etc. In general, we don’t see people jumping up on couches professing love for Peachtree like Tom Cruise famously did about Katie Holmes.
In fact, in many ways, shifting the focus to the Sage brand instead of individual products allows the customers, the channel and Sage to develop a clean, consistent image of the brand that allow more of a family feeling to spread for the suite of products – as opposed to loyalty to any specific products. This is a huge advantage for all involved.
Think about Apple for a moment. Apple puts out an iPad and you expect a certain amount of quality and pizzazz from the product before you even speak to a sales person or read a brochure or pick up the device. It helps me as a customer identify what I should expect and it helps Apple engineers understand that same message.
Yes – there may be some pain during the transition and, I suspect, that some folks will be still calling their software by the old, individual product name for years to come but overall I think this is a brilliant and long overdue by Sage.
[This article has been edited based on confirmation from Suzanne Spear that Sage is using the RFID's to improve show and session quality.]
Attending Sage Summit, the eagle-eyed among us may notice the scanners around the conference halls. After hearing thoughts and speculation on what this was all about, it spread through the show that Sage is using RFID tags in the badges to measure attendance metrics at sessions.
More than a few people raised their eyebrows at this practice – feeling that it is a violation of privacy of some kind. Very similar to the uproar that happened when the mass public found out that their iPhones were tracking their every movement like a creepy ex.
Of course – that’s not what’s going on here.
The truth is that this gives Sage a great way of determining which sessions are well attended and keep the attention of the audience. Sure, one could argue that they have numbers on session sign-ups gathered during registration. But it’s my guess that many folks either don’t sign up for sessions that they end up slipping into or they don’t attend sessions that they have signed up for due to impromptu networking, client work, or other distractions.
Registration sign-ups also don’t account for people walking out of sessions for any number of reasons. My thought on this metric is that I would hope Sage doesn’t take this number as a sign that a speaker or a topic is necessarily uninteresting because there are a host of reasons why people might bail out of a session.
So… is it possible that Sage is using this tool for some sort of Big Brother measurement of individual behavior? No – not the case.
They are using it to track aggregrate, group behavior to improve the quality of future events.
The conference got off to a great start with a rockin’ video featuring Sage Irvine team members lip synching to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (not sure if that’s the official title).
Pascal Houillon, the new CEO for Sage North America delivered a solid presentation. He got some good laughs and proceeded to outline some strategy changes – mostly on how Sage is starting down the road of shifting focus on the Sage brand and away from the individual products such as MAS, Accpac, Peachtree, ACT!, Saleslogix, etc.
Individually these brands are solid and well-known but the challenge that they present is the customer is not connected to Sage as a group of products. The core problem here is that customers that could benefit from other Sage products don’t identify those products as sister or brother products to what they own. This means that the sales process starts from step one with each new product.
The idea of shifting away from long-established product brands is bold. There will be some pain (ok … maybe a lot of pain) for partners and Sage itself as they establish this brand but, personally, I think it makes a lot of sense and will make it easier for customers to feel comfortable with the Sage family of products.
In the long-run, this should make all of our lives easier.
Not a lot of details were provided. Pascal and his team may still be working some of it. I’m guessing we will see and hear some things soon over the coming weeks and months.
Comment below if you have specific questions.