As usual, I'm apologizing for not being more regular about keeping you folks engaged, so this is a thank-you to all 5 of my fans for not giving up on me. Remember that post I did in March about Microsoft Convergence? Well, I came back from that with flu and bronchitis, so I was pretty much out of action for a month, with my typically limited Internet access. After that, it was a matter of playing catchup to real life, so just getting through that ate up any time I might have devoted to writing for myself (again, with limited Internet).
All those problems are now fixed. I'm healthy (at least, as healthy as I'm likely to get until I get up off my butt and do some exercise), I'm mostly caught up to work and whatnot, and I have ditched my comically bad ISP for a new one. I could give you my impressions on everything that's happened in CRM world for the past 2 months, but that would be an unreasonable chunk of my time and yours. So I'm starting fresh, with recent events and thoughts, such as they are.
Sage's annual partner conference was this past week, and I was there along with the rest of the Gang of Four (or Fantastic Four, as Paul seems to prefer). Sage has had its ups and downs in the past couple of years, but it's really starting to get more right than wrong now.
- The Sage 2010 initiative includes a healthy dose of social media /Web 2.0 that doesn't feel bolted on. Check out their vendor-side blogs, for one, and then know that they're paying attention to the customer-facing part as well.
- The company is slowly unifying its market presence, making sense out of the chaos caused by three CRM product lines (well , two and a jumped-up contact manager that still does most of what most companies want CRM to do) and Mitra knows how many accounting and ERP lines -- and that's just in the U.S.
- The new CEO, Sue Swenson, seems to really want to reach the customer through the partners, not just reach the partners. This is important enough that it takes precedence over her lack of experience in the industry, being a former telecom big.
Sue was in something of a no-win situation with this conference. As a CEO who's only been there for 6 weeks, she couldn't sit this one out, but she couldn't have anything weighty to add to the discussion yet, either. She scored some points by being up-front about her lack of time on the job, lack of industry expertise, and by mentioning that she'd mostly been touring Sage sites and getting input from workers at all levels about what could be done better. She also lost some (with me, at least) by not venturing beyond those talking points and maybe energizing the crowd a bit. Again, there was no perfect solution and I think she handled it well.
Let me also say that sometimes I come off as overly critical of Sage, at least when Joe Bergera's in the same room with me. Joe is EVP and global GM of Sage CRM solutions, and a good guy. Very knowledgeable, as open as somebody with his title can be, and I can't seem to avoid putting my foot in my mouth when interviewing him. Thanks for indulging my shoe-leather addiction, Joe.
On a related note, Salesforce.com is apparently buying up all the Google AdWords that point to ACT!, Sage's contact manager-cum-CRM application. There's nice fat sponsored link to Salesforce.com with the headline "Grow Beyond ACT." Ouch, on one hand. On the other, SFDC shouldn't be going after ACT so much as it should SageCRM.com and/or SalesLogix. ACT users should already know they have other Sage products at hand when they want to migrate upwards in functionality, so it just feels to me like a cheap shot. Of course, this is why I'm not in advertising -- for all I know, this is a brilliant move.