Just before publishing my post talking about Sage’s new SaaS product yesterday, I had a conversation with Sage’s PR people. I asked a bunch of questions, the answers to which didn’t get to me by publishing time. It seemed appropriate to communicate them here in full. Answers are from Simon Black, MD Sage Online Division.

Q – API, if, and when?

A – We are still developing an API. When it becomes available, we want to ensure that we work with the best developers to ensure that any developed apps are high quality and meet our customers’ needs.

Analysis – that’s a typical glib *big business* answer. Best developers blah, high quality blah. Customer needs blah. An API should be an integral part of the application from the get go. As Duane Jackson points out, they’ve spent more time and money on this product than another company would have, the lack of an API questions the quality of that spend;

Sage are quoted as saying they’ve spent “millions” on this product and that it’s been in development for over a year. An agile startup could have got a product with this level of functionality built and released in under 3 months with a team of 3 or 4 people and it would have cost far less than £200k.

Q – Direction with SageLive, ie do you intend it to move up the food chain and hence compete directly with other Sage products [NB – My bad misnaming SageOne as the previous and now discontinued product SageLive]

A – First and foremost, the product we have launched is definitely NOT SageLive – Sage One is a completely new product, developed from the ground up by an entirely new team. Of course we learnt lessons from Sage Live, but it would be unfair to draw too great a comparison between the two products. Sage One is and always will be aimed squarely at a very particular market, namely very small businesses and accountants. Adding functionality to take this product up the value chain would go against the very ethos of the product, which is to provide business users with simple, secure and low-cost software, allowing them to take control of their finances without needing any specific accounting knowledge or IT skills. Looking at our wider strategy for the web, we believe customers should not only have the freedom to choose the right solutions for their needs but also have the support and flexibility to manage those services as they choose. As we continue to integrate more solutions offline, online and on mobile devices, we want to give customers greater flexibility in licensing models with more immediate controls over access and subscriptions.

Analysis – Not a bad answer, the challenge with these super lightweight solutions is always to avoid the pressure to add features and therefore move them way from their micro focus. Time will tell ho they go balancing the various pressure

Q – Comment on how you’re seeing the competition (kashflow, xero, fac etc) affecting market share

A – We think the peace of mind we offer business owners through 24/7 telephone support is a real differentiator for Sage One, setting us apart and delivering real value.

Analysis – 24/7 phone support as a differentiator? Knowing what I do of Sage’s communication skills (still waiting for replies to those emails guys) I’m not convinced that the marketplace will see it that way. IMHO the differentiator for SageOne is the Sage name, SMBs will take more comfort from hat than from any guarantee of support at 2am….

So, one OK answer and two bad ones. Not a definitive assessment by any stretch but an indication of just how far Sage has to go to catch up with the existing SaaS vendors. As always, watch this space.

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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