Sage Group is taking steps to modernise its application line-up and plans to move toward a suite-based portfolio grounded on three suites all sharing a common look and feel. It is also intending to increase is spending on integration development and embrace web services.
Traditionally, Sage has sold individual products supported where needed by specific integration solutions. The move to three integrated application suites should simplify the buying and implementation process, and is designed to answer the growing need within SMEs for integrated suites.
Entry-level Sage 50 will provide broad-based business software covering core functionality such as payroll and accounting plus contact management, operations management, and forecasting and reporting. It will focus on out-of-the-box capabilities and business processes. Sage is a Microsoft house in terms of database support but will migrate Sage 50 to the open source database provided by Myself, a managed open source relational database vendor. This is part of Sage's promise to keep the system requirements for Sage 50 to a minimum.
Sage 200 is being positioned as an integrated business process management suite and will combine the MMS, Sage CRM, and MME applications. It will still use Microsoft SQL Server but Sage's aim is to ensure that customers can use the suite without having to buy into large portions of the Microsoft stack.
Sage 1000 will be offered as the top-end suite. The initial release will combine Line 500 and MME, but the long-range plan is to make Line 500 the core embedded component, wrapping other business functions around it. Following rearchitecting, these could include MME, IBM workplace, Microsoft Outlook, and so on, enabling customers to build what would effectively be a custom integrated application suite based on standard components. The move to reduce Microsoft dependency was evident in the plans for Sage 1000 with the company stating its aims as emphasising openness, low cost of ownership, and low, if any, dependence on the Microsoft stack.
Enabling these changes, particularly those needed for Sage 1000, demands major architectural change and the company plans to invest in open standards and a service-oriented architecture, enabling integration though web services. Accordingly, R&D; investment is set to grow. Sage said it devotes 5% to 10% of its R&D; time to integration issues, but this will increase to around 25%.
The plans mark Sage's intention to modernise its whole business and technology base, which is a necessary move even if it is rather late. However, with its phalanx of customers best described as trailing edge, the timing may not be a big issue. The early signs of a move away from Microsoft, or at the least embracing other platforms, is significant and will help differentiate Sage from its nearest threat (Sage and Microsoft are vying for the top slot in the SME business applications market). The plans also touch on uneasiness within the user community as a whole as to the scale of commitment they will need to run Microsoft Dynamics applications.