It’s been a couple months since the dust settled on Sage Summit 2016 in Chicago, an event billed as the largest gathering for small and medium businesses in the world. Sage didn’t disappoint, as more than 15,000 attendees were wowed by another line of A-list keynotes, learning sessions, and, of course, some fun, too!
I’ve had some time to collect my thoughts, so let’s dive right in!
Partner Summit Day
The official dates of Sage Summit were Tuesday, July 26 through Thursday, July 28. However, just as Sage did last year in New Orleans, the conference was kicked off a day early with “Partner Summit Day.”
So, on Monday, July 25, Sage invited over 2,000 partners, accountants, and bookkeepers (including CPAs just like me!) to preview future Sage plans so we’d then be able to better inform our customers. Before getting into the specifics of Sage, when in Chicago, why not tap into one of the city’s more legendary iconic celebrities? Sage kicked things off with none other than Coach Mike Ditka!
Coach Ditka was all about inspiring the crowd, and wanted to be sure to let everyone know that if we all worked as a team, we could accomplish anything. That’s pretty much how the whole day went with the overall theme of partnering together to accomplish all we could to build our businesses while also building the businesses of our customers.
Sage CEO Stephen Kelly then took the stage. His theme was all about partners, and that Sage is continuing to transform itself into a partner-centric organization, with customers being at the heart of sage – something both Sage and its partners have in common. He made it a point to not only call out traditional types of partners such as VARs, system integrators, and ISVs, but to also mention accountants and bookkeepers as important partners in the growth of Sage. Specifically, he mentioned the fact that there are more than 100,000 accountants in the Sage Accountants Network program worldwide. This gives me a little insight into how important and how much of a focus accountants are in the plans of Sage. That’s a good thing. It’s nice to know we are important and Sage counts on us.
Sage has made a huge effort in reaching out to partners, and a whole day devoted to partners was just one more example of it. During the morning keynotes, we were informed (in detail) of specific road maps and other plans for each Sage solution. The roadmaps were actually a surprise to me. I was really glad to see them. I find knowing where Sage is headed not only helps my customers but it helps me plan for the future of my own firm. While I snapped several pictures of various roadmaps, I’ve included only one here.
Jennifer Warawa, formerly head of the Sage Accountants Network here in North America and now EVP Product Marketing for The Sage Group plc, took time to thoughtfully and methodically outline the road aps with Nick Goode, EVP Product Management for Sage Group plc.
One of the more exciting developments on the road map was plans for Sage One, Sage 50, and Office 365 to work together. While I have used Google apps in the past, I am an all-in Office 365 user. So this was exciting for me to see. As you can see, there are lots of plans for the future, so it will be interesting to put these items in use as they are rolled out and blog about them.
Afternoon Session for Accountants
After lunch, accountants were split off from partners for an entire afternoon session devoted to us. The session was kicked off with “The Future of the Accounting Profession: Transform and Grow with Sage” keynote from The Future of the Professions co-author Daniel Susskind. Susskind proceeded to wow the crowd for an hour with a presentation that blew our minds.
Real quick, let me summarize: In today’s accounting professional world (and other professions that run the gamut), there are murmurs that technology will someday replace people. This is true for many professions, and is the basis of Susskind’s book.
The verdict? Not entirely true. It’s not so much a question of being replaced by technology, as it’s that we need to keep up with technology in order to not be left behind. Technology can’t replace the human experience or the human insights that are paramount when it comes to partnering with your clients for success. It was an hour well spent. It looks like Susskind will be doing more with Sage in the coming months, including an October 18 webinar, “The Workforce of the Future.”
After the keynote, there was a panel discussion with various types of accounting professionals. One topic near and dear to my heart was a debate on pricing as it correlates to how tech is going to change the future of the accounting profession. We all know by now – or should know – about the debate regarding hourly billing versus pricing and the role technology plays. These are the types of thought-provoking conversations I absolutely love at conferences like this, and Sage Summit was chock full of them.
Day 1 Recap
After a night of some authentic deep dish Chicago pizza (conferences are as much about food as they are about learning and networking, am I right? J), Stephen Kelly kicked off Sage Summit with … a drum line?
It was an amazing, energetic way to kick things off for sure!
After Stephen Kelly’s opening remarks, Sir Richard Branson took the stage in a Q&A with Stephen Kelly. It was an interesting and inspirational conversation for sure, with my favorite quote from Branson being the following very sound advice: “Screw it, let’s do it!” In other words, over analyzing things at times can be counterproductive, so taking the plunge and trying something out is very often the best way to learn (and grow!). That being said, I’m an accountant – Sir Richard Branson has more money than I do. But as an entrepreneur myself, I get the point.
Next up was a video montage on Sage’s sponsorship for the Invictus Games. I love, love, LOVE all of the philanthropic work that Sage has made a priority recently. If you know me, you know volunteering is important to me, and Sage is doing a great job of recognizing the need for volunteer work in our communities.
With the launch of the Sage Foundation at Sage Summit last year, Sage has committed to do more than any other global organization I can think of in helping local communities. One way is through the Invictus Games, which Sage is helping to sponsor for years to come. Having some of the competitors come up on stage for a panel discussion on what it means to fight through life’s adversities was an absolute highlight of Sage Summit for me!