CommunicationA year ago I wrote a post congratulating Sage on an increase in communications they’d had with me. As I said at the time:

So I give Sage significant kudos for reaching out and contacting some of us, but I’m also mindful that they’ve created an air of expectation, the hope of an organisation that proactively talks to industry commentators, both as a public relations channel, but more importantly from a product development perspective.

Well it seems the expectation was unfounded. As Dennis Howlett said in his post on the subject:

But for reasons known best to Sage it never shares or seeks opinion.

While the word “never” is a little unfair – the infrequency at which they share and seek opinion is such that it’s hard not to think of them as a crippled giant – unable to innovate, unwilling to talk and blind to the seismic shifts occurring in the marketplace.

Now of course conflating inability to talk, with inability to innovate is a leap that isn’t always justified. Internationally they do have some innovative and interesting cloud-based products that I’ve talked about before, however that fact has to be colored by the complete debacle that was SageLive.

Duane Jackson, CEO of Kashflow, posted excerpts of a recent statement by Sage CEO Paul Walker:

many of the people who’ve launched SaaS products in the last four/five years and that industry analysts get very excited about, even though most of them have got less than 5,000 customers, is that what those solutions are is actually desktop solutions online. Very few of them, if any, have taken advantage of being a pure SaaS play. And what we’ve done is wait. We’ve listened to our customers, and we’ve looked at what the advantages of SaaS can bring to them

In one swoop Walker has alienated the industry commentators who focus on this space – and there’s few enough of us that alienating us isn’t a smart move. He’s also shown his lack of understanding of the space – the only “desktop solutions online” (Phil Wainewright calls it SoSaaS) that we’ve seen have been from the traditional vendors who really don’t understand the web – either from a technology perspective or a delivery one.

Yes the new entrants in the SaaS accounting space are nascent – even Xero, arguably the best known double ledger offering, has under 20000 customers and is still very much in the early days of building out its offering. But to argue that the legion of SaaS accounting products are simply desktop products put online is plain wrong – witness deep integrations, witness automated bank feeds, witness aggregated benchmarking – all of these thing leverage, in part on entirely, the fact that these offerings are native web apps.

So there you go Sage – if you want to talk we’re here. If you want some advice we’re here. But coming out with the sort of FUD we’ve seen recently alienates users, your own partners and the independent commentators who watch the 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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