Sage Group is pushing on with its integration program with the release a new set of connectors to integrate its front-office CRM products with its back-office financial systems.
For the mid-market, it has launched integration solutions to connect Sage Financials Mid Market Solution (MMS) to Sage SalesLogix and Sage CRM Mid Market Edition; Sage Line 200/500 to Sage SalesLogix; and Sage's multinational accounting product ACCPAC Advantage Series to Sage CRM Mid Market Edition. For the small business end of the market, it has released integration solutions to connect Sage Instant Accounts, Sage Line 50 and Sage Mid Market Solution (MMS) to ACT! Professional and ACT!
Sage is one of the heavyweights in the SMB market but a weakness has been the lack of a clearly articulated integration strategy to bring its multiple point products together. It has been tackling this in a low profile fashion over the last two years and these releases are part of that developing integration strategy.
Its integration solutions are based around the Sage Application Integration Server and the connectors build on this technology base. "We have had point-to-point integration for years," said Gerry Carr, director of CRM Solutions at Sage, "but [going forward] rather than create a spaghetti junction we took a hub-and-spoke approach, where the hub is the AIS, and this is the technology behind the integration strategy. The applications are the spokes to the AIS hub." The integration solutions allow for realtime bi-directional communication, although they can be configured for read-only access if required.
According to Richard Bee, director of CRM, the Sage approach allows small and mid-sized business to benefit from seamless integration between back- and front-office systems, something that has been has previously only been feasible for large enterprises. "The business benefit is that it allows users to have a single view of their customers," said Bee. "It is an opportunity for customers to get a single view and allow access through their CRM system to their financial system to give the sales force an idea of credit worthiness or days outstanding."
At the moment Sage's solutions only provide for data integration, not process or workflow level integration. Carr said this is because its customers are only just starting to integrate front- and back-office applications, and as yet have no need of the more advanced levels. It is something Sage will be monitoring, but in the meantime if customers do require higher-level solutions, it is something its partner network is able to provide. However, for the small and lower end of the mid-market, which are Sage's sweet spots, integration is still in its early days, according to Carr, as many organisations do not even have a CRM implementation. Getting CRM in place and then integrating it with back-office applications is the battleground.
In contrast to its nearest rival Microsoft Business Solutions, Sage's integration strategy appears to be limited in scope, but it is more open than MBS's in that it does not tie its applications to an infrastructure stack. It might lack the vision of MBS but that is a benefit as far as Sage is concerned. "The difference [between MBS and Sage] is that Sage delivers its products, and without fanfare," said Carr. "We are bringing out products and technology that help deliver value today. We will pass on the vision and deliver on value."