While Sage North America chief executive Sue Swenson gave a general indication of what the company needs to do overall to grow and remain profitable, other top executives delved into specific plans of action to aid partner and company growth during a morning keynote address at the company’s Insights 2010 partner conference, held here.

Swenson noted that there is a “company roadmap” focused on Sage’s employees, reseller channel, financials and the customer (see Sage CEO Looks to Improve Revenues). Executive vice president of product strategy and marketing Himanshu Palsule and VP of channel management Tom Miller gave specific action plans and strategies for the immediate and near future.

On the product side, Palsule stressed the company’s plan to focus on three key areas for growth: maximizing the performance of existing products, adding cloud-based offerings, and strategies for new customer acquisition. He admitted, much like Swenson, that Sage “lacks a joined story” for its products, but again Palsule echoed Swenson’s message that “delivering an exceptional customer experience” will be a key step in retaining and acquiring customers.

“Sage is steadily stitching together compelling product portfolios, and while we’ve had a difficult year or so, the average revenue per customer is increasing, as are customer renewals,” said Palsule. “We also realize that the cost to upgrade can be expensive, so we are going to help ease that transition and make it easier overall to do business with us.”

Palsule noted that there are currently 41 service level contracts for customers, which has made it challenging for partners and customers. That will move to three primary levels of service: bronze for basic software assurance, silver for extra support and service, and gold for premium status.

Another key product focus for Sage will be in hosted or cloud-based software, delivered through a new program known as Sage Connected Business Solutions. These include products and services that can be hosted or are currently cloud-based. The most recent examples include Sage Exchange, a new secure, cloud-based Payment Card Industry-certified payments system to allow small and midsized businesses and organizations to accept all forms and methods of payment; and Sage Fundraising Online, a Software-as-a-Service application that will allow nonprofits to create multiple giving forms with marketing messages to better reach new and existing donors.

Palsule also noted there will be hosted or cloud-based versions of its customer relationship software products SalesLogix and ACT 2011, as well as other Sage products.
Miller asked partners to let him and the company know what they can do that they aren’t already doing to make partners more successful. The company plans to conduct quarterly “partner loyalty surveys,” the first of which will launch on June 1.

“We need to get more partners engaged, and I realize that the greatest disappointment in a single conference like this is that there isn’t enough time to engage with all of you individually,” said Miller. “These surveys will help us get the feedback we need from you to help us be a better partner. We have a huge embarrassment of riches in our product portfolio, and we need to find ways for you to benefit from that.”

He added that there will be a lower cost of entry into Sage’s Partner Advantage Program, as well as cross-selling incentives and partner tier credits over the next year for signing up new customers to use Sage Exchange.

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