The Sage 50-2010 train wreck

by admin on March 19, 2010

in Cloud Computing/SaaS

Kudos to AccountingWeb for rallying the troops over the latest in a long string of Sage release sagas impacting professionals trying to heft the latest Sage 50 release. Before going any further it is worth pointing out that the people who are most tech savvy tend to be the ones that have the most to say. Even so, there are lessons for anyone using software. In this post I’ll put forward the SaaS/cloud/on-demand response along with an analysis of why this is going to hurt Sage in the long run. From John Stokdyk’s post:

Slow performance:

Diagnosis: Sage’s support line told one member there is a bug in Sage 50 Accounts 2010 that decreases performance by 3-4 times if there are more than 10,000 customers. The limitation will apparently not be fixed until the next major release…

Remedy: According to user Trevor Green, who has had no problems with 2010 Client Manager, the performance issues are often down to individual set ups. “I have the program on my C: drive and the data on the server.”

Sage doesn’t scale, never has and unlikely it ever will as currently engineered.

SaaS applications HAVE to scale in order to manage both many thousands of customers plus peeks in demand.

Customers using SaaS applications do not have to concern themselves with setup because that’s the provider’s responsibility. Neither do they need to manage databases.

Data corruption: Two users started experiencing “split” errors where only one side of a transaction appeared in the journals. And some postings appeared in duplicate. One user found that four recurring entries had duplicated themselves and another found that a week after upgrading another 300+ lines of data had gone missing.

Diagnosis: Sage reports that “there has been no noticeable spike in data corruption reports” from the 2010 upgrade. The underlying factors are limitless, it added, making it impossible to identify a specific cause…

Remedy: Improve system and network performance (a considerable hidden cost of a potential upgrade). And having a small, manageable database (see above) will minimise the chances of packet loss on the network, added Sage.

Essentially Sage is saying that a) they don’t know what the problem is about and b) they’re acknowledging the scaling issue. After so many years in development, this has to be unacceptable as an explanation. The technical explanation sounds weak because if they are referring to issues around network performance then the system should have a method of retransmitting packets. Once again, SaaS providers do not have these issues.

Anti Virus issues: In some cases identified by Blencowe, anti-virus software (particularly Norton’s) slows Sage 50 Accounts.

Diagnosis - “Sage Accounts 2010 is not compatible with anti-virus software because Sage is written in a manner which makes it very difficult for anti-virus software to interograte it,” reported one of the affected users.

Remedy - Excluding the Sage Data files from anti-virus scans should help here and any server-based AV software should also avoid scanning Sage DTA files.

This has never been a reported issue for SaaS providers. They are handle security on behalf of customers.

John Stokdyk who wrote up the piece then goes on to provide an analysis of the problems this represents for Sage and in particular the potential for damaging the brand. He acknowledges that the sample size of those having issues is tiny. What we don’t know is how many issues related to 2010 release are being handled by Sage. What we do know is they claim to handle 22,000 support calls a DAY. This situation was beautifully summed up by one commenter who said:

…any company that prides itself in taking 22k support calls a day is deluded. The number of problems encountered with your software is NOT a badge of honour; more impressive would be ZERO support calls per day

Why on earth does anyone in the profession continue to put up with such poor offerings from Sage and yet they do year after year

Basically Sage should stick to marketing because they are simply not an IT company.

What was more interesting to me were the number of comments not only detailing specific additional issues, but saying to Sage: ‘We’re leaving.’ Ian Murray said:

I have used Sage software since 1987, but I will be dropping it totally…Reading the head of customer service comments, I feel that they have got out of the real world. They are so used to people upgrading like automatons.

It doesn’t matter whether customers are moving to a cloud solution or another on-premise offering, when customers tell you they’re voting with their wallets then you know there’s a problem. Like many other companies that have grown into a market leading position, Sage suffers the problem of believing it is invincible. History teaches us that is untrue. You only have to look back to the early 1990′s to see what happened to IBM. At one point there was a genuine prospect of the company being broken up into smaller pieces that could survive as independent units. It took a very strong CEO to solve IBM’s problems, reposition it and get it out of businesses that were causing issues.

I’ve said consistently over many years that Sage has structural problems that prevent it from making the right technology investments. I hear how it is investing in various new things but the reality is they are out of touch and managed by a team that cares more about the share price than the customer. There is a limit on forward moving R&D while the company continues to backfill existing applications. In this case you have to ask whether Sage’s Q&A processes are working. This is not an isolated incidence. Sage has a long history of delivering buggy software. One can only assume the company is gambling on only a few people making a huge fuss and that their incumbent status will keep them afloat. This is a dangerously flawed strategy that can only work for a limited period of time.

Media is now far more distributed and out of vendor control than at any time in the past. The fact I can write something of this kind and know it will reach a global audience over which Sage has no control should say something to the company. It astonishes me that with all its resources, Sage is losing out to a number of startup SaaS providers who are making hay at their expense. In demonstrating these issues, Sage is effectively making the cloud case for its competitors. Competitors need do nothing other than sit back and watch as the fundamental technical weaknesses in Sage’s core product work as a cancer that eats away at the business as a whole. Combine that with management issues and you have a recipe for certain decline. If Sage management cannot understand these problems or refuse to acknowledge their impact then the company – and by definition its customers – are in very deep trouble.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Geoff March 22, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Interesting.

Sounds like a heavy footprint problem. I found that with the Norton anti-virus products which is why I had to switch off of them. It kind of reminds me of the Media Player battles of a few years ago. Each program seemed to want to intrude all over my computer, trying to take over.

I think part of Sage’s challenge though is that, with all the different product groups, they are still running (more or less) in isolation. I feel like on some products they’ve done no meaningful upgrades since acquiring them! *cough* TIMBERLINE! *cough* Yet, the maintenance fees don’t reflect the level of ongoing investment (to my knowledge).

Upgrades are tough though. I’ve seen some weird stuff over the years. One version of a software works fine with, say, my inventory system and the next version comes along. Suddenly, I’m hooped!

Geoff March 23, 2010 at 1:41 am

Interesting.Sounds like a heavy footprint problem. I found that with the Norton anti-virus products which is why I had to switch off of them. It kind of reminds me of the Media Player battles of a few years ago. Each program seemed to want to intrude all over my computer, trying to take over.I think part of Sage's challenge though is that, with all the different product groups, they are still running (more or less) in isolation. I feel like on some products they've done no meaningful upgrades since acquiring them! *cough* TIMBERLINE! *cough* Yet, the maintenance fees don't reflect the level of ongoing investment (to my knowledge).Upgrades are tough though. I've seen some weird stuff over the years. One version of a software works fine with, say, my inventory system and the next version comes along. Suddenly, I'm hooped!

Geoff March 22, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Interesting.

Sounds like a heavy footprint problem. I found that with the Norton anti-virus products which is why I had to switch off of them. It kind of reminds me of the Media Player battles of a few years ago. Each program seemed to want to intrude all over my computer, trying to take over.

I think part of Sage's challenge though is that, with all the different product groups, they are still running (more or less) in isolation. I feel like on some products they've done no meaningful upgrades since acquiring them! *cough* TIMBERLINE! *cough* Yet, the maintenance fees don't reflect the level of ongoing investment (to my knowledge).

Upgrades are tough though. I've seen some weird stuff over the years. One version of a software works fine with, say, my inventory system and the next version comes along. Suddenly, I'm hooped!

Stuart Lynn March 24, 2010 at 10:04 am

Geoff,

Thought I’d take a minute to reach out on the subject of Timberline… actually there has been significant investment resulting is a brand new product due out very soon.

Regards

Stuart Lynn March 24, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Geoff, Thought I'd take a minute to reach out on the subject of Timberline… actually there has been significant investment resulting is a brand new product due out very soon.Regards

Stuart Lynn March 24, 2010 at 10:04 am

Geoff,

Thought I'd take a minute to reach out on the subject of Timberline… actually there has been significant investment resulting is a brand new product due out very soon.

Regards

Ralph Smith March 24, 2010 at 3:37 pm

After years of tidying the mess created by sage software and being forced to pay for a support contract basically because the software DID have bugsI now use Xero and have an easy life. We have saved €10K by not having to buy a new server when the server does go pop (soon id imagine) we will use a simple cheap networked file server.

The interesting thing about software is the buggier it is the more likely you are to get clients onto large support contracts. A piece of software which ‘just works’ wont generate much revenue in support

Ralph Smith March 24, 2010 at 6:37 pm

After years of tidying the mess created by sage software and being forced to pay for a support contract basically because the software DID have bugsI now use Xero and have an easy life. We have saved €10K by not having to buy a new server when the server does go pop (soon id imagine) we will use a simple cheap networked file server.The interesting thing about software is the buggier it is the more likely you are to get clients onto large support contracts. A piece of software which 'just works' wont generate much revenue in support

Ralph Smith March 24, 2010 at 3:37 pm

After years of tidying the mess created by sage software and being forced to pay for a support contract basically because the software DID have bugsI now use Xero and have an easy life. We have saved €10K by not having to buy a new server when the server does go pop (soon id imagine) we will use a simple cheap networked file server.

The interesting thing about software is the buggier it is the more likely you are to get clients onto large support contracts. A piece of software which 'just works' wont generate much revenue in support

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