Sage’s 2017 Summit was the largest it has ever hosted in the UK. It was a great opportunity to learn more about their vision for the many products in the Sage suite and meet dozens of customers, partners and accountants.
Keynotes, Hosted by Alan Laing
Executive Vice President Partners & Alliances at Sage
Alan opened the event and hosted the keynote sessions on both days. Wednesday was aimed at partners and accountants, with customers also invited on the second day.
Some amazing stats were announced:
- Sage is the largest tech company on the FTSE100 and the second largest in Europe, with over 3 million customers globally, 1 million of whom are using cloud products.
- 53% of people in the UK are paid via Sage
- £3 trillion worth of transactions are processed through Sage products each year
- There are 21,500 Sage partners, all of whom Alan stated, “No ifs, not buts, we love our partners!”
UK entrepreneur and TV Dragon
First to speak was Deborah Meaden of Dragons Den. She launched her first business straight from college aged nineteen and, much to Alan’s delight is a Sage customer.
Insights from her discussion with Alan included the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when pitching for investment is to not think of the investor; what’s in it for them and why would they be the right fit for your business. Deborah looks for someone willing to take risks, but not wild ones when looking at which business leaders to work with. They must understand basic business concepts such as Profit and Loss reports and Cash flow. They don’t have to always be right, but they do have to be willing to learn.
And finally, Deborah has no intention to follow fellow entrepreneur Donald Trump into politics!
Martha Lane Fox CBE
British businesswoman, philanthropist, and public servant
Co-founder of LastMinute.com in 1997 Martha Lane Fox recalled some of the challenges she faced when launching the company. 20 years ago, not only did she have to convince customers and investors of her product but also that the internet was not some passing fad and that yes, it is safe to input your credit card details!
The pace of change is increasing, it’s an exciting time. Martha Lane Fox gave these three tips:
- Focus on the user. The reason she loves the internet is that it allows people to make better decisions. Great internet businesses think about their user’s needs. For LastMinute.com, it was co-founder Brent searching every Friday for restaurants, hotels and flights for his weekend plans. He was the perfect user for the application. Online you can keep testing and refining.
- Build for scale. Think of a global audience and build to that, not just your region or country. Successful companies from Silicon Valley focus on their global audience (she is a board member of Twitter).
- Think of diversity. Apple didn’t include anything in the launch of its health app for women, menstrual cycles and menopause data for example, as not a single member of its team were female. Half of their potential audience were alienated by this. Think of the furthest away people first. By building your product or service for them you will easily capture the early adopters.
VP Bots and Artificial Intelligence at Sage
Kriti, Sage ‘superstar’ who was listed in the Forbes 30 under 30 and inventor of Sages’ chat bot, Pegg came to the stage to talk about AI and the 4th industrial revolution Business Tech Trends 2017.
Why did she invent Pegg? She is an admin-phobe “No one wants to do admin!”
There was a slick demo with Alexa (intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon), with Kriti asking who owed money and what tasks she had and Pegg “Automagically” answering. The following day a similar demo was run, this time with Pegg in robot form on stage rather than just a bot.
Nick Goode & Jennifer Warawa
EVP Product Management & EVP Product Marketing at Sage
Next to the stage Nick and Jennifer updated the audience on Sage’s suite of products.
Sage 50 is the market leader in UK and Ireland. Sage One has been on the market for 6 years and is now available in 14 countries, with simple inventory and bank feeds coming soon to strengthen their offering. With compliance offerings and dashboards, Sage wants you to run your whole business from a single location.
At the other end of their cloud offering, X3 is an enterprise solution for Manufacturers and Distributors, which can be run from desktop, cloud or a hybrid solution. Sage are launching payroll for X3 later this year.
Following their acquisition of HR application Fairsail and rebranding as Sage People, they have seen the transition in the business world from Personnel departments, to Human Resources and now People. Expectations are changing from staff.
Sage People has grown 1000% in 3 years and has strong license renewal of 99%. From the brief demo I saw on the show floor it looks like a great offering for time and people management, especially for business who don’t have their own intranet offering.
Sage Live is available in 8 countries and continuing to grow. There was a great walkthrough whereby a customer requested a demo of a product via Chatter, the customer visit could be booked and an invoice created and annotated all from with Sage Live. The customer could also sign an annotation to the document to authorise it.
The message from the product and marketing team was that they have delivered and will continue to deliver. Sage have a commitment to innovation and are leading the technology revolution – the 4th industrial revolution.
Alan opened the second day with a story of his family’s business, which made animal feed. They had a great business with many loyal customers but didn’t adapt. Alan’s Father thought more paper meant the business was doing well. At that time spreadsheets were progress.
Your progress is at the heart of what sage does…the family business went bust.
“We at Sage live our customers…we call you business builders”
Alan quoted a statistic that 60% of businesses are unaware of political changes to make business better and claimed that Sage can open doors for you. They host a forum for business builders and have met the Prime Minster in the UK and Taoiseach in Ireland to represent your needs. Sage is talking to HMRC daily about the way we are moving to digital reporting.
Making Tax Digital is “…not as scary as the reports may suggest”. If the government gets this right it could be a great opportunity. Sage believe digital tax will help you be more efficient
Sage are Committing to a free Making Tax Digital (MTD) service for the simplest business to file their taxes. However, how they will do this remains to be seen. I asked on the show floor if this could be a Sage Online “lite” version, however the sage staff I spoke to were tight lipped!
Alan finished by saying nobody compares to Sage on compliance and that AI can be a source for good and if ethical, can be a game changer.
Sahar Hashemi OBE
Sahar founded Coffee Republic in 1995 and is the author of two bestsellers on entrepreneurship.
She got the idea for Coffee Republic after suffering jet lag visiting her brother in New York and went looking for coffee. She was expecting rubbish, but found great coffee and wished for the same in London…light bulb moment!
Sahar was encouraged by her brother to bring the concept to the UK, but she wanted someone else to do it…for her to be a customer! Her brother funded some research which involved her catching the circle line and getting off at every stop. She couldn’t find good coffee anywhere! That was her market research.
Everyone said no to her…39 bank managers in fact, their thoughts seeming to be that Britain is a nation of tea drinkers. Eventually, the 40th bank she saw, said yes!
The break-even point for the business was selling 700 drinks per day. For the first six months, they were only selling 200. As things improved they opened two, seven, 30, 100 stores, however they then lost start-up feeling and it was time to leave; a sad and stressful time.
They learned a big lesson. The coffee market exploded, but they’d lost the start-up culture. They should have kept it
Sahar’s advice was to act small however big you are.
- Go back to your customers
- Get out of the office / don’t get stuck in the paperwork
- Be clueless – it’s a big advantage. Immerse yourself totally.
- Experiment, don’t get stuck in perfection
- Give yourself licence to fail
- Be 100% yourself
CEO SBTV, digital entrepreneur
A Key theme is a changing world. Jamal joined Alan on stage and talked about founding SBTV when he was 15, documenting the rise of new music. He started off filming foxes as he was a big fan of Steve Irwin but soon realised that the Discovery Channel was already there!
He started filming his friends rapping and singing and came up with a platform for artists who couldn’t get mainstream attention, however, he didn’t know how to monetise social media. YouTube turned him down as a partner three times but he persisted. The 4th time YouTube accepted SBTV.
Jamal worked at Topman to fund his lifestyle and left the YouTube money alone. He knew he had to keep overcome many hurdles. His parent’s and others didn’t take SBTV seriously and with no mentor, his inspiration was the closed doors he faced. Later he was mentored by Nick Southgate, CEO of Shed Media Group.
When asked what the most difficult thing he has been asked to do so far, Jamal responded light-heartedly saying that it was when someone asked him to teach them to rap. His response was simple, put your mind to it and you can achieve it.
AI and the Future
Kriti and Christoph Auer-Welsbach, IBM Watson Partner followed with a conversation about the future of AI. They agreed it could be a paradigm shift – cloud and bots making things actionable. By enabling AI, data connectivity can be at a massive scale.
One of the challenges the tech industry faces is how to avoid some of the human stereotypes. Christoph noted that we are thought leaders and need to bring in diversity. Currently, 90% of data scientists are male and mostly in the western world.
Aside from AI, Christoph is excited about conversational AI, the IoT need to be context aware and understand feelings. Blockchain technology for a decentralised database was another area of interest.
Kriti asked Christoph about the elephant in the room: will AI take our jobs?
Christoph responded stating there have been lots of different studies suggesting that this happens in five years, 100 years or never. It’s very hard as humans to anticipate the future.
Rt Honourable Matt Hancock
MP and Ex Cobol Programmer
Matt talked about the government’s ambition to be the world’s leading digital economy with cost reduction in storing data to almost zero being the biggest change since the printing press.
UK tech sector is currently worth £160bn. The government want every business to be a digital business. They are investing over 1bn to make HMRC the best digital service online.
After the keynotes on both days there was an opportunity to network and meet the dozens of exhibitors who work around the Sage ecosystem – I’ve made lots of new connections and you’ll see some new packages appearing on the Octopus Blue website soon…watch this space!