Sage fires up product line

Small business IT specialist Sage is looking to reignite its love affair with
accountants by revamping its software product line for the profession.

With the introduction of new applications for accounting practices, and
client information held around a hub, the FTSE100 software company is hoping to
encourage a sceptical profession into using its products within their own
Sage Practice Manager provides a single view of client information, while Time
and Fees is Sage’s new fee recording product. Both applications work with
Practice Hub, which synchronises client data and launches all applications.

It also announced Sage Hosted Solutions, which allows practices and their
clients to share information in real-time over the internet.

Line 50 has been trialled online with a number of firms, and is set to launch
in 2006. Users will be charged a monthly fee currently set at £44 for Line 50
Accountant. Sage confirmed there will be an initial one-year contract, then a
monthly rolling licence.

But there is plenty of work for Sage to do to convince firms to use its

practice-related software.

The unveiling of its new product line, during ther company’s first conference
solely for accounting practices, came just minutes after Sage UK and Ireland
chief executive Paul Stobart apologised for the company’s ‘complacent’ treatment
of the profession in recent years.

He added that practices played a vital role in recommending software to SMEs,
and Sage ‘suffers’ if it failed to manage its relationship with them.

However, Matthew Lee, managing partner at Bishop Fleming, thought that Sage
had ‘no option’ in practice software investment following its inability to get
its disparate accountant’s products to work together.

‘Its original [acquisition] strategy was not a bad one, if the products
worked properly,’ he said.

Lee said that his own company’s attempts at working with clients’ accounts
online failed to take off.

‘We fiddled around with hosted software, but clients still like having
software on their desktop.’

Neil Hayes, a partner at Rayner Essex, said accounting firms would ‘just wait
and see’ if Sage would back up its words with real improvements.

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