Sage is taking Simply up market

Ottawa – Perhaps drawing inspiration form the name of its accounting software for the SMB market, Sage Software announced at its annual Simply Partnership conference here last week it was slimming down its product line for 2008. There will be one new SKU, however, as Sage looks to bridge the gap between Simply Accounting and Accpac, its enterprise-class offering.

The goal for Simply Accounting by Sage Enterprise 2008 was to simplify the product line says Scott Zandbergen, vice-president of product management. The 2007 lineup had nine different boxes, sometimes leaving potential retail purchasers confused as to which edition was right for them.

For 2008, the line has been slimmed to two main flavours: Simply Accounting for $140 and Simply Accounting Premium for $249. Payroll functionality can be added to either edition for an additional $100. The professional edition has been discontinued, but its functionality was rolled-into the premium edition, at the lower premium price level. Additionally, the Basic SKU has been eliminated and the $49 Entrepreneur edition will be co-branded and available exclusively at Staples.

“It’s a big love in with Staples right now and it’s great, because most of our users buy Entrepreneur at Staples,” said Zandbergen.

However there will be one new product SKU for 2008: Simply Accounting by Sage Enterprise 2008. By adding serialized inventory, role-based security and payroll as well as support for more users, Zandbergen says the goal is to give growing SMBs an incremental upgrade opportunity with Simply and begin to bridge the gap between Simply and Accpac.

“There’s that grey zone in there, you could drive a truck though that gap its so big,” said Zandbergen.

On the technical side, the 2008 lineup has been redesigned to improve usability and capacity, as well as scalability and data integrity while providing a platform for future development. Sage made the move to a MySQL database which promises better reliability, and also moved to .Net for faster performance and full compatibility with Windows Vista.

Laurie Schultz, senior vice-president and general manager for Simply Accounting for Sage, says five million small business in North America use some form of accounting program, but 11 per cent of those have or will outgrow it. Not all of them want to move, she says, and Simply Accounting Enterprise can help them. But one third of them do want to move-up.

“By combining Simply and Accpac under one roof we’re very committed to customers for life, and being able to help our customers when they’re ready to move up the food chain,” said Schultz.

While Accpac has a more traditional partner channel, Simply’s partners are not resellers but are typically accountants that provide accounting and consulting services to small businesses. They don’t always sell the software to their clients, and when they do, they often pass their margin on to their clients; their revenue is derived from the ongoing services enabled by the software.

While they may not sell the software to their clients, says Schultz, they do make recommendations, and those recommendations are essential to Sage’s success. Marketing surveys show 45 per cent of new Simply sales are based on the recommendation of a partner, the largest single influencing factor.

“People don’t buy because they saw a billboard in the airport, they buy because you told them to,” Schultz told partners. “We want to become partners in your business.”

Shultz says Sage’s challenge will be to leverage its accounting professional channel as it moves into the mid-market with Sage Enterprise, blurring the lines with the traditional Accpac channel with its very different needs and program. Just how Sage intends to tackle that space from a channel-perspective going forward is something Schultz says she’s still evaluating.

One of those Simply partners is Kelowna, B.C.’s Jennifer Warawa. She owns two companies: Dreamscape Business Services and Prism Business Training. About 75 per cent of her business comes from accounting, says Warawa, while 25 per cent comes from Simply Accounting-related training, consulting and customization.

Looking at Simply Accounting by Sage Enterprise 2008, Warawa says she likes what she sees, adding she has had a number of clients that have been waiting for the serialized inventory capability.

“That’s very interesting to my clients,” Warawa said. “There are so many improvements.”

She adds Sage Enterprise will give her clients the opportunity to stay on the Simply platform, and continue working with her, for a longer period of time.

“For the client busting at the seams they now have the option to stay,” said Warawa. “However, if a client has outgrown the software and need something specific I’m happy to say ‘you need something different and I need to let you go.”

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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