Sage Summit 2011: Looking Ahead with Sage’s Channel Chief
The VAR Guy originally predicted Sage Summit 2011 would be buzz about opportunities in booming vertical markets and the future of tablet-based CRM and ERP. But as it turns out, Sage is in the middle of a large branding transition. Its focus is more inward, which also includes changes to Sage’s partner program. The VAR Guy spoke to Sage’s Channel Chief Tom Miller for the details.
Miller covered a huge amount of ground in a short period of time, and it breaks down best like this:
The Sage Brand
The VAR Guy was so overwhelmed with the buzz around branding that he was relieved to get a straight answer from Sage’s channel chief himself about how partners would be impacted. Miller offered some wise words: “In my career in technology, [I’ve seen] six major branding initiatives — two of them I was directly involved in. I was a reseller myself and I had a direct personal connection to the brand I represented, but, in all of those major brand changes — myself [even] questioning one or two of them — I realized, as many others realized, we should’ve done it sooner.”
It’s comforting to know Sage’s plans have the channel chief’s blessing, with the experience to boot. Miller was absolutely confident that “it will have an incredible positive impact on our partners, [especially] as it becomes more challenging to find business. A powerful brand reduces the cost of acquiring new customers and keeping new customers, [and it] allows partners to build on top of that value proposition.”
The VAR Guy wanted a better idea on just how big Sage’s partner program is and what industries partners find themselves in. Miller was happy to oblige. “In North America, across the portfolio [of Sage products], we have approximately 5,000 partners. To give that some perspective, the ERP product sets are the ones that have the largest number of authorized partners. Vertical markets like health care, construction and real estate … have smaller segments of partners.”
Despite the apparent large size of partners in the program, Miller said the partner community and channel are “vibrant,” since Sage has such low turnover due in part to the company’s careful and selective partner process. “In our last fiscal year, we had over 1,000 applications for Sage resellers across the entire portfolio. Out of that number, we authorized 110. That, to me, is a positive indication that partners are looking for business opportunities.”
Miller noted that after the brand transition is complete, Sage will “have a lot more demand for products. I wouldn’t be surprised to see us add additional partners [and] I would not be surprised to see a significant increase because of the brand promise being able to deliver.”
The Sage Partner Transition Journey
With all the talk about branding and new opportunities, The VAR Guy wanted to know where Sage fits into perhaps the biggest opportunity out there right now: the cloud. How does it play into the channel and where is Sage headed in the cloud? The answer, he said, lies within the company’s new Sage Partner Transition Journey. “Since the keynote, hundreds of partners have come up to me and said, ‘I’m ready to change.’ There’s a positive energy and our cloud strategy is very solid in terms of opportunities,” Miller said, noting how these changes can make it better for customers, too, since cloud can facilitate multiple on-ramps to Sage products.
But Sage’s Partner Transition Journey is not an epic movie directed by Peter Jackson; instead, it’s a four-step plan for partners to reorganize their business and break away from the much-hated and much spoken-about 1980s model of software sales. “Partners are being exposed to different thinking in terms of their business model. instead of being an hourly or billable service environment, it’s a value-based environment.” Learning that change, which encompasses not just cloud business but also integration and consulting, is all facilitated via the aforementioned four-step program. Miller provided a simple summary of those.
- Firm of the Future Symposium: This two-day “experience” teaches partners about shifting their mindset from the “service economy to the experience economy,” which is mainly about giving customers the ability to choose their needs from the partner. “Instead of being an hourly or billable service environment, [partners learn about] moving to a value-based knowledge environment.”
- Leadership Symposium: “It’s a symposium focusing on what it takes to lead change. It’s important that people understand how to react to changes and [react to] customers needs,” Miller said.
- Web Strategy for Partners Workshop: This two-day workshop exposes partners to seven different sales models and their implications to partners’ existing business model. The idea, Miller said, is for partners to walk away with a transition plan and the confidence to carry through the changes. More important — it’s completely free.
- Web Strategy for Partners Webcast Series: The web series offers partners the best of the workshops and symposiums to those partners who can’t attend the offsite events. “Since the first three components require physical presence, I wanted to ensure we could take the best practices and make them available electronically,” he said. The series will consist of downloadable videos stored in an electronic database so partners can access what they need when they need it from various sessions.
“This is a start, not the finish,” Miller said. “We’ll continue to add [more] educational resources as we move along,” and as new models hit the marketplace, Sage will address them. “We’re investing in our channel with partners who want to grow the business,” and Miller is excited to have the channel driving Sage’s organic growth up and out into the future.