Sage CRM Thought Leader Larry Ritter In His Own Words

Larry Ritter

Sage CRM Solutions—And Their Adoption of Cloud, Mobility, Social & Analytics

Larry Ritter, SVP and GM of global product management and marketing for Sage CRM Solutions, shares how the company is responding to trends toward the cloud, increased mobile CRM adoption, advances in CRM analytics, differences in CRM purchase criteria among SMBs and enterprise organizations—and how Sage is implementing a strategic branding strategy to achieve globally consistent recognition.

"What people do in terms of building a business hasn't really changed. It's how they do it that's changing and social media will play an increasingly strong role."

— Larry Ritter

Key take away points in the discussion with Thought Leader Larry Ritter:

  • As a software publisher of both on-premise and on-demand CRM applications, Sage is in an interesting position and opportunity to capitalize on business and technology trends. For example, a recent research report titled the U.S. SMB Cloud Services Study by AMI-Partners, forecasts SaaS CRM to grow at double-digit year-over-year growth during the next five years. The analyst firm also predicts that during this period, spending on SaaS CRM will outpace on-premises CRM nearly four to one. Larry puts this trend into better perspective by noting that the more significant SaaS CRM growth is in largest part by customers purchasing their first CRM system.
  • As part of the company's cloud services Sage has introduced Connected Services—business services from the cloud that extend both on-premise and on-demand Sage business systems. There are a variety of Connected Services available for all three Sage CRM products, including ACT!, SageCRM and SalesLogix, such as Sage E-marketing (email campaigns), Sage Business Info Services (powered by Hoovers) and Sage ACT! Connect (ACT! on iPads, iPhones, Androids etc ).
  • Mobile CRM is reaching a tipping point in terms of wide scale deployment. Mobility is benefiting from advancements in more ubiquitous high-speed broadband as well as smartphones and tablet devices with greater computing power and longer battery life. In tandem, CRM software publishers such as Sage are adopting more extensible mobile technology such as HTML5. This represents a technology shift from the prior era of developing mobile operating system specific apps such as an iOS version (for iPad and iPhones), a Droid version, a Windows Mobile version, a RIM version and versions for other devices. HTML5 can act as an insulation layer or layer of abstraction between the mobile device operating system and the CRM application, thereby permitting one mobile CRM app to run across all devices that support HTML5. This write once/read many approach offers publishers greater extensibility without necessarily reducing mobile capabilities. As Larry points out, mobile devices are experiencing an average life span of about 10 months thereby requiring more flexibility across devices and mobile operating systems. SalesLogix Mobile and SageCRM both support HTML5 mobile technology, and ACT! is expected to benefit from this mobile approach in the near term.
  • Sage introduced the new SalesLogix Advanced Analytics – which is composed of interactive dashboards and allows integration with external data sources. This is in part from the company's partnership with the TIBCO Spotfire BI engine which delivers in-memory visual and predictive analytics, and includes some nice features such as SSO for users and a flexible data mapping tool for SalesLogix Administrators. Sage recognizes that CRM systems must do more than act as data repositories and believes that BI and analytics deliver next level information and increased CRM value. The SalesLogix Advanced Analytics permit CRM users to engage with the data and create their own ad hoc queries for more insightful analysis. The analytics also leverage visual elements such as dashboards and graphical controls as well as connectivity to ERP systems and external data stores to aggregate broader data sets for enhanced analysis.
  • The Sage Advisor program is built upon software technology that detects what users are and are not using within their application software – so that Sage can make in-product recommendations and respond or optimize the application software pursuant to how its being used in the real world. This is a unique solution that can increase software payback by collecting usage data and then providing highly relevant advice on additional features customers should be using, proactively warning customers when something is wrong or sensing when a customer needs assistance with their business software. Sage Advisor is currently available with Sage's Peachtree product, with some basic elements now available in Sage ACT!. The company expects to extend this service into the Sage SalesLogix and SageCRM products in about the next 12 months.
  • Sage is a global business software publisher with revenues of $2.15 billion, over 6 million global company customers and over 75,000 companies representing 3.6 million users of Sage CRM solutions (consisting of about 56,000 businesses and 2.8 million users for ACT!). The company maintains a very strong focus and customer concentration in the SMB market, with 82% of Sage's customer base employing 0 to 25 employees, 16% employing 25 to 500 staff and the remaining 2% retaining over 500 staff. In identifying the differences between CRM software for SMBs and CRM for larger enterprises, Larry points out that SMBs often seek out a very simple, out of the box user experience. This may be accomplished by leveraging pre-configured or template business process designs as well as pre-built integration to common desktop tools or back-office accounting software or ERP systems. On the converse, larger enterprises manage more sophisticated business processes and require more tailorable software customization (possibly to accommodate in-house processes that have been defined and matured over time), deep integration with legacy and bespoke systems, and richer analytics.
  • Sage offers both SageCRM and SalesLogix for SMB customers seeking a CRM suite with integrated sales, marketing and service. The two Sage CRM products are different applications but seemingly have a lot of overlap, such as both offering on-premise and on-demand CRM delivery. For prospects or customers trying to self identify which solution may be a better starting point for their business, Larry advises that SageCRM tends to fit SMBs particularly well as it offers a simpler, out of the box user experience with pre-built integration to Sage ERP systems. Sage SalesLogix extends to more sophisticated business needs such as online/offline operation, deep software customization capabilities, business process workflow support and rich analytics.
  • Over the prior three years we've watched Sage implement several branding and product strategies. The company co-branded individual product solutions by appending the Sage moniker. Then the company released more tightly integrated Sage CRM and ERP. Last year Sage demonstrated a company concerted effort to make customer experience a differentiator. Now Sage is underway with a phased branding strategy which among other things seeks to gain global consistency for the Sage brand and simplify software product naming. Larry notes that Sage wants to achieve brand consistency at a global level. Currently the Sage brand is more recognized in Europe while Sage product brands are more recognized in the U.S. The current strategy is to re-prioritize product brands and promote Sage as a global master brand.
  • Looking forward, Larry forecasts the CRM software market will advance with ubiquitous mobile, pervasive analytics, more social media business use cases (such as customer acquisitions and retention), increased cloud adoption (including hybrid deployments) and more plug-and-play integration among applications.

The next podcast discussion is with Martin Schneider, Research Manager of Enterprise Software for 451 Research.