Skip to main content
Sage Advice

When Microsoft bought Great Plains Software in the US, and Denmark’s Navision, last year, I predicted that Sage, one of the UK’s few software success stories was about to join a growing list of endangered species, leaving me to speculate whether the company would outlive my daughter’s hamster, Eric.

Both Sage and of course Eric are still alive and well and my most recent meeting with Microsoft’s Simon Edwards in the Wimbledon Village Starbucks, convinced me that Sage may survive Eric by a couple of years at least.

There’s no doubt, that Microsoft is serious about its plans for a Web Services business platform on which a host of third-party ‘Biz Apps’ can “Add value”. The best analogy that came into my mind was the Lotus 1-2-3 ‘add-in’ manager in the eighties. Lotus 1-2-3 was of course the de-facto industry standard before Microsoft started experimenting with its own applications and having edited the Lotus buyers guide at the time, I vaguely recall some two hundred or more applications that could be attached to what was after all, ‘The’ PC platform at the time.

Last week, Sage announced pre-tax profits up 14 % to £74.3 million on revenues - up 4% cent to £281.1 million. Bearing in mind that a healthy proportion of Sage’s revenue is service revenue, showing double digit profitability at all in the current economic climate has to be seen as a good result, particularly if the competition on the radar happens to be Microsoft.

Microsoft is however biding its time. Buying Navision and Great Plains Software were only a first step in a bid to dominate the next generation of small business applications and Microsoft, which is reportedly spending $2 billion a year on developing this market, can afford to wait until the time and the technology are right for it to strike. When it does, it will be the software equivalent of parking an aircraft carrier across Sage’s doorstep.

Let’s be honest. The UK software industry is disappearing fast and last year, I was an advisor to a company that tried to sell itself to both Sage and Microsoft. It had undeniably better software than both but that didn’t prevent the company disappearing and being sold for a fraction of its true intellectual property value. Like the light bulb that runs forever or the car that runs on water, there was no place for it and the venture capitalists take one look at the competition and are never seen again.

Sage are rather larger and more successful than most but these two qualities have never been enough to save British companies in the last twenty years. After all, if Microsoft shows an interest in your market, whether it be flight simulation software of accountancy software, the inevitable is only a matter of time, a Hamster’s lifetime even...!


Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.

In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …

The Big Steal

I’m not here to predict the future;” quipped the novelist, Ray Bradbury. “I’m here to prevent it.” And the future looks much like one where giant corporations who hold the most data, the fastest servers, and the greatest processing power will drive all economic growth into the second half of the century.

We live in an unprecedented time. This in the sense that nobody knows what the world will look like in twenty years; one where making confident forecasts in the face of new technologies becomes a real challenge. Before this decade is over, business leaders will face regular and complex decisions about protecting their critical information and systems as more of the existing solutions they have relied upon are exposed as inadequate.

The few real certainties we have available surround the uninterrupted march of Moore’s Law - the notion that the number of transistors in the top-of-the-line processors doubles approximately every two years - and the unpredictability of human nature. Exper…