There was an interesting booth on the trade show floor at Sage Summit 2017 in Atlanta. Set up like an instant photo booth you see at the mall, it allowed attendees to record 30 seconds of “sage” business advice to their peers in return for some very nice swag.
Despite my trepidation (I really hate the sound of my voice on recordings), I was all set to give my 2 cents in 30 seconds. Unfortunately, as it tends to happen at Sage Summit, I ran out of time to swing back by the booth. (No, seriously … I promise I didn’t chicken out.)
But the beauty of having a forum like this is I can broadcast my advice anyway (without my annoying stuttering and the full use of a backspace key). In a nutshell, here is my advice: Be honest and be yourself. Not only is it the right thing to do, but also most people can spot a phony a mile away.
When I write these posts, I do my best to live up to that advice. By being myself, I don’t sound like I’ve swallowed a Sage marketing brochure. (You could just go read their marketing materials if you wanted to hear what Sage has to say.) It’s also in my nature to base my opinions on certifiable facts and to make sure I give an accurate representation, even when I give criticism.
So with that advice in mind, here’s my wrap-up of the 2017 Sage Summit Tour stop in Atlanta:
The keynotes: More for your audience, please
Keynote speeches are a curious thing: They’re part opening ceremonies, part showcase, and part press conference. All the big tech and software companies use their keynote speeches at their annual conferences to announce to the audience in the room and to the world at large (through the media in attendance) their successes of the past year and their plans for the near future.
Unfortunately, more and more of our customers are starting to skip the keynotes. Why? “There’s nothing there for me,” is the usual response. And they’re right: Except for “Hello and welcome to Sage Summit 2017 in Atlanta,” there was nothing geared toward the 18 Sage 500 customers we had there. And there was barely anything for our four Sage HRMS customers, our three Sage X3 customers and our Sage 100 customer in attendance.
This year’s keynotes focused mostly on Sage One, Sage Live, Sage People and Pegg the chatbot. Don’t get me wrong: We’re excited that Sage is launching successful products and dedicating resources to the latest technologies. Sage has every right to be proud of these products and this is partially their forum to showcase these products to the press.
However, with the possible exception of Sage People, none of our customers would use these products. This made for a long keynote for our customers, who all use enterprise systems, on Wednesday morning.
From gathering comments from my coworkers and our customers, I’d suggest that Sage use the partner keynote to share its new technology with the press and use the customer keynote to celebrate all of its technology — big and small, new and traditional.
George Foreman’s gold-medal winning speech at Sage Summit 2017
There’s only so much you can learn out of a book, and George Foreman is living proof of that. On the site of the 1996 Summer Games, 1960 Olympic heavyweight boxing gold medalist Foreman told the audience to “never stop fighting.”
Here we had a a pre-high school drop out earning a standing ovation to a crowd of technology people. Why? Because there are some things that translate across generations, genres and other demographics: Don’t let anyone tell you that you will not succeed. Don’t let your past dictate your future. Don’t let your age determine your success. And learn from your mistakes.
Sometimes the smartest people in the room need to be reminded that failures, mistakes, and misfortune can happen to anyone. But it takes courage to pick up an try again.
Well done, Sage, on providing a great motivational speech!
Sage Summit 2017 timing and the trade show floor
The Sage Summit trade show floor has certainly become more interesting over the past few years. I mentioned the video booth, but there were other great interactive booths that had me playing hooky from a session or two.
I loved seeing the engagement — let alone the participation — of the people attending the Sage City roundtable sessions. The participants were leaning forward, raising hands, and sharing their experiences. Too often in classroom sessions, participants listen to a lecture while kicking back and checking their e-mails. But I’ll come back to the Sage City roundtables later.
There was one drawback to the trade show floor this year: It was too short. It only lasted a day and a half. That’s not nearly enough time to schedule enough time to see everything — especially when it’s not open during the morning keynotes.
If the trade show had been open earlier, let’s say on Tuesday afternoon, that would have given partners a chance to preview the floor. It’s really important for us partners to have a handle on the lay of the land and learn about what’s new, different or updated before our customers arrive.
I know that logistics plays a factor in the trade show schedule. However, this is one time that I’d like to see more of a good thing if possible.
Sage Summit 2017: The Return of Sage 500 (kind-of)
Ok, so Sage 500 wasn’t mentioned during the keynote address. Again, I recognize that Sage was focusing on the new and improved, and I can appreciate that. On the other hand, the Sage 500 sessions were well attended.
However, around lunchtime on Wednesday, I came across a very confused Sage City Sheriff on the trade show floor. Jennifer Fennell said there had been such a response for the Sage 500 Ideas and Questions roundtable session that Sibohan Finders, formerly of Sage and now with SWK Technologies, agreed to host back-to-back roundtable sessions.
Mind you, this was after Fennell said there wouldn’t be any additional roundtable sessions added because they were led by volunteers. I didn’t get a chance to speak with Finders, but I know she cares so much about Sage 500 that it must have been an easy decision for her to host a second session when asked.
What had Fennell confused was only nine people (four of them were our customers) showed up for the first of these two sessions, even though it was completely booked. I found out why from one of our customers I was walking the trade show with who was supposed to be at the session: The Sage 500 Roadmap session had started nearly a half hour late and overlapped with the roundtable session.
This was a real shame, and I think the fault was more in the scheduling than in the roadmap session starting late. Sage Summit is a “live performance” and things can happen that can cause schedules to go awry. Even when the roadmap session ended, people didn’t bother going to the roundtable because they felt it was too late to join the conversation.
Either way, it was heartening to see Sage adding the second Sage 500 roadmap session.
The Great Cell Phone Debacle of Sage Summit 2017
I promised my friend Robert Wood, Sage 100 consultant extraordinaire, that the conclusion to the story of my lost cell phone would be embarrassing and awesome. So here goes:
As many people know, I tweeted out Thursday morning that I had lost my personal cell phone on the trade show floor. I still had my work cell phone and my tablet, which I tried to track down my Samsung phone. I figured the most likely place I left it was the Blytheco booth, where I stopped to talk to a fellow University of South Florida grad. (And Rocky was invited to take a picture with a Blytheco fedora.)
The night before when I realized I was missing it, I called my husband to let him know to to contact me on my work phone. Our biggest night of the year — our customer appreciation dinner — had already started, and I had to turn my focus to our guests. Oddly enough, I noticed my husband had called me back about 10 minutes after we talked, but I had to ignore that for the time begin. I ended up forgetting that little detail.
At 5:30 the next morning, I was using Google to track down my Samsung. According to the track my phone functionality, my phone was in the Georgia World Congress Center. Or in a posh hotel in Miami Beach. Or in a Motel 6 in Toledo, Ohio. But definitely one of the three. (The dot kept bouncing between these three locations.)
After an early breakfast, I went over to the convention center around 8 to try to poke around. I went to the Sage Summit lost and found, the last conference room I was in, and the Sage Summit business office. Nobody had turned in my phone.
So I did the only thing I could do: Start tweeting about my phone and head to the keynote session. I was heartened by all my Twitter friends who helped me get the word out.
Then, as I was leaving the session, my phone rang: It was my other phone! I nervously accepted the call and nearly shouted my hello out of excitement. Sure enough, it was someone down at the Blytheco booth. And oddly enough, they had mentioned they spoke to my husband the previous night.
My husband? The phone call! Yes, had I just checked my voice mail messages, I would have known my phone was safe and sound all along. Oops.
My final thoughts
All in all, it was a good Sage Summit. Hopefully some of this year’s issues will be resolved with a full year’s planning for Sage Summit 2018. And thanks to all the people at Sage who continue to not only put on this event, but also listen to feedback like mine to help make it the best it can possibly be.