When you wrote to me on July 23 to tell me you and George Koerner couldn’t to make it to Sage Summit 2015, we were in a bit of disbelief. Sage Summit without Jann and George? You’ve been attending with us for so long that it wouldn’t be the same without you. Your fellow member of Team Squeaky Wheel, Monica Stancik, was really disappointed and quite a few of our other customers asked about you, too.
But we were all sad with a sense of understanding: We all know what it’s like to have to miss an important event because our duty to our jobs dictates it. You guys weren’t the only ones who had to cancel (or not register in the first place) because there was just too much to do back at the office.
So I figured the best thing I could do was to bring a bit of Sage Summit 2015 to you. Here’s a bit of what you missed:
Monday: Partner Success Day
Technically, you didn’t miss anything on Monday because it was Partner Success Day at Sage Summit and there were no customer sessions. In the partner keynote address, they asked us not to broadcast the big news items that would be revealed the next day for the customers. (But since I’m writing this 10 days in the future, I can tell you the big news right away!)
- The term ‘ERP’ is leaving the Sage lexicon: Ok, they were a bit more melodramatic in the keynote, when they basically said ERP is dead. However, the more appropriate translation is that the term Enterprise Resource Planning is 25 years old and no longer describes everything that Sage’s business systems can do. (It’s kind of like me still saying I’m going to “tape” a show on my DVR instead of saying “record.”) And let’s face it: Sage X3 is a much more streamlined title than Sage ERP X3 Version 7.
- All Sage products are safe: There’s no getting around it: You know as well as I do, Jann, that Sage partners and customers have had our heads down looking for cover, waiting for the other shoe to drop — especially those of us who live in the world of Sage 500. After quite a few executive-level changes, Sage has a new mantra: As long as one customer still uses a Sage product, that product will be fully supported. Which leads to the next big announcement:
- No more forced migrations: Himanshu Palsule, Sage’s chief technology officer, had the quote of the day: “Customers for life means not forcing migrations.”
- New products: This really doesn’t apply to your company, Jann, but there were some big announcements of new products, but I thought you may find this interesting. (I’ve found that some big ideas that start in one segment at Sage may dictate or drive innovation in other areas.) Sage is going after the most famous name in small business accounting (it rhymes with BrickHooks) with Sage Live, which combines the world’s first real-time accounting engine on the Salesforce1 cloud platform. If it works half as well as it looks, this could be a game-changer. For the Sage Construction and Real Estate folks, they also launched Sage Service Operations, which opens up a world of information for employees in the field. (We see a bit of crossover between CRE and The Artist Formerly Known as ERP when it comes to service companies, so this could also benefit everyone.)
Tuesday: All hands on deck
To say that Tuesday started off with a bang would be an understatement. Right out of the box, the new Sage international CEO, Stephen Kelly, hosted the first Featured Conversation with Gen. Colin Powell and Deepak Chopra. While some people may have thought these two men may have opposing viewpoints on many things (Chopra to Powell: “I’m a lover, not a fighter.” Powell’s response: “Fighters can be lovers too.”), their philosophies were similar: Be a perpetual optimist, take care of the people around you, take risks, and have compassion.
After this conversation, Kelly began his keynote address. Even though I missed his partner keynote the day before, I understand that the theme was pretty much the same: Kelly is apologizing for the way things have been run for the past few years at Sage, and how customers and partners have been treated. He also one-upped Palsule’s statement the day before:
— Practical Software (@consultPSS) July 28, 2015
Jann, I know we all take these kinds of messages with a grain of salt. But here’s hoping that Kelly is as sincere as he seems.
Also, Lanee Kirby from Industries of the Blind Greensboro was awesome on her session panel, “Full STEAM ahead: inspiring girls to get involved in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.” She was a bit thrown off by the topic changing from when we first brought the idea to Sage last year, but she was still great! The audience participation was amazing in this session — they basically had to kick us out of the theater because the conversation kept going. I know you would have enjoyed this topic and this session.
Wednesday: Best. Day. Ever!
This was my longest day ever at Sage Summit, but it was also my best day ever at Sage Summit. My day started out at 6:45 a.m. walking in 90 percent humidity to Cafe du Monde and Beignets with the Boss. Free beignets and a chance to meet Stephen Kelly? Yes, please.
It was a nice little event that wasn’t very well attended. (There were some theories mentioned in hushed tones about what attendees may or may not have participated in the night before.) However, the small numbers made for a better event because Kelly had a bit more time to spend chatting with everyone there. And I had the opportunity to do two things that I was hoping I would get to do: I got to take a selfie with Stephen Kelly and I introduced him to one of our customers.
Samuel Keeler and Edward Darrow from Jolly Farmer joined me for Beignets with the Boss, and they had a chance to explain a bit about their young plant operation. I think we were a little surprised when Kelly said that he would love to visit their operation in New Brunswick during his planned trip to Canada. Pretty cool, huh?
Kelly definitely seems much more approachable than previous high-level Sage executives. (Except for Himanshu Palsule … he’s always been good for a selfie.) I think it hit home right before Wednesday’s Featured Conversation when the lady sitting next to me (a prospect who was interested in software for her architecture company) said, “I think it’s great that the CEO sits in the audience with the rest of us.”
But the real highlight for me was Practical’s annual customer meeting and customer appreciation dinner. Jann, I’m both excited and sad to tell you that it was the best customer event we ever had. (Boy, I wish you two could have been there for this one!)
As you know, we couldn’t get a room in the convention center, so we had our meeting at the restaurant. We had thought about doing it previously, but we’d finally get a chance to see how this worked in action. And Jann, aside from Greg Lafferty having to repeat everyone’s introductions, it couldn’t have gone any better! (I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how great the staff was at Drago’s Seafood Restaurant for working with us to coordinate the serving of appetizers and entrees with the timing of the meeting. Their whole staff treated us like gold!) Instead of the meeting feeling like a yet another session at the end of a long enough day as it is, it was way more relaxed and made for a great atmosphere.
Also, since the meeting and dinner were combined, it made it easier for the folks we invited from Sage to stay for the whole evening. This gave them a chance to actually visit with everyone (a novel concept, right?) instead of giving just a five minute speech to say how great everything’s going at Sage. The best example was Olivier Cuvillon, the senior director of sales for Sage.
As luck would have it, Olivier sat across from Monica Stancik at dinner. Jann, you know darn well that Monica was not going to hold back from giving her opinions to Olivier. I couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but it looked like they had a great chat over dinner. As you know, Monica’s already of the Customer Advisory Board for Sage 500, but it was a great opportunity for her to share her views with someone higher up the chain.
However, I was most impressed when Olivier went around the room and spoke to everyone. And I mean EVERYONE. And it wasn’t just a, “Hi, how do you do?” He stopped and chatted with everyone — even our CRE and HRMS customers — for at least five to 10 minutes. He listened intently and he took notes. And he never seemed harried or disinterested. I never got the feeling that he felt like he would rather be anywhere else. What more could you ask for?
Thursday: Sage Summit storms into the Windy City
For me, Sage Summit is always a balance between following the agenda I plan before I get there and helping customers navigate the conference once we’re there. When the ladies from Industries of the Blind asked me to join them for breakfast before they left later that day, I couldn’t tell them no — even though I wanted to see the the Featured Conversation with Tony Hawk and Matt Weiner. Then again, Sage made this an easy decision because all of the Featured Conversations were recorded again. (As busy as I’ve been since we got back, I think I’ll finally get a chance to watch this one on Friday!)
So I don’t have much to report on that keynote for now, but we did find out that morning that Sage Summit 2016 will be in Chicago. I’m really looking forward to that one, especially since it’ll help me check off another major U.S. city that I’ve visited. (And pizza. And Italian beef sandwiches. And Wrigley Field.)
The closing celebration was also a blast. I’d never heard of Walk the Moon before Sage announced them, but they had a pretty good vibe. (I told someone they sounded like someone married the lyrics of a ’60s band with the sound of a ’90s band.) Greg Lafferty and I had an interesting discussion on whether Sage should have a retro band for the final celebration rather than a current act, but that’s a conversation for another day.
The final analysis: We missed you
Even though I’ve only been to three Sage Summit events, this may have been the best one ever. (Monica will be able to give you a better opinion on that one, Jann.) That’s not to say it was perfect, and I think even Sage would admit to that. (The “open-air” sessions worked well in different corners of the trade show floor, but not right on top of each other in a room with no sound dampening.) And other complaints I heard from customers were relatively minor: They want more hands-on sessions and sessions that focus on how to use their software more effectively.
But no matter what, I’ve always said that attending a conference isn’t just attending sessions or networking or the surrounding events. It’s about the relationships that we’ve built, whether it’s partner to customer, customer to customer, partner to partner, or Sage to everyone. Nothing brings people together from different walks of life (or different walks of industries) better than meeting around the dinner table. That’s why every time I looked down the table at Monica and Olivier, I half expected you to be right along with her, laughing and having a good time. You’re a big part of our community, Jann, and we missed your presence.
I know it’s not the same, but I hope you’ll be able to join us next week for Tuesdays with Practical when we have our annual Sage Summit recap meeting. It’s obviously not the same thing as attending, but at least we’ll all be there together.
Amanda (your favorite ‘kiddo’ at Practical)