Tech Profile: Sage One
What is Sage One, and how did you and your team get started in this field?
Sage One is a business simplification tool for entrepreneurs. Sage has decades of experience in building solutions for small businesses, but we’ve found in recent years that so-called “micro-businesses” are underserved. By spending countless hours with owners of these very small businesses, we found they could benefit greatly from using one complete tool to help run their businesses rather than the many disconnected tools they use today. So we built a web-based solution for invoicing, cash management, project and task tracking, contact management and collaboration. The strong positive reaction we’ve had since we launched just a few months ago completely validates the approach we’re taking.
How should small agencies and entrepreneurs utilize Sage One to create better end-results for their clients and simplify their businesses?
Sage One is all about simplification and organization. Most entrepreneurs and freelancers are passionate about serving their clients and finding new ones, but not so much about the mechanics of running their firms. While this is the right focus, it can lead to disorganization and inefficiency. These business owners can benefit greatly by using not just parts of Sage One, but all of it. Each individual component of Sage One provides benefit, but when used together, they help streamline workflows, organize records and keep agency owners and their teams in sync.
What trends and changes in the market led you to realize that Sage One would fill a void? Describe the void.
In recent years, small business owners have sought to gain the benefits of cloud solutions that had previously been reserved for larger enterprises. The number of SMBs who say they expect to implement at least one cloud service within the next three years grew by 10 points from 2011 to 2012. Many startup and small vendors have built specialized tools for specific business needs, but there has been a clear lack of a more complete solution. In fact, 66 percent of business owners with fewer than 10 employees use three or more apps to manage their business. At the same time, owners of very small businesses have demonstrated a desire for much simpler alternatives to traditional desktop business software. Sage One is specifically designed to fill this void with a solution that is simple and complete.
What tools and features does Sage One have? What apps does it replace?
Sage One can generate and send invoices, track income and expenses, print reports, track projects and tasks, manage contacts and enable team collaboration. For a large number of entrepreneurs with basic bookkeeping needs, it can replace their existing accounting software or manual records. It can also replace the spreadsheets and paper often used to organize projects and tasks (Our research shows that 47 percent of very small businesses use paper or spreadsheets to manage projects). Many business owners also manually create and send invoices, so Sage One provides an easier, more professional alternative. And since Sage One offers the ability to share and assign tasks, send reminders and exchange project-related messages, it can be used as a more organized alternative to email for these tasks.
Does Sage One allow businesses to white label their invoices or add their own branding elements?
Sage One includes several invoice templates to choose from, as well as the ability to add a business logo.
What size business is the ideal candidate for Sage One?
While Sage One is ideal for businesses of fewer than 10 employees, we’ve found that its suitability has more to do with the complexity of a business’ processes than with the number of employees. If a business owner needs to better organize and automate business processes like simple project tracking, invoicing for work and tracking income and expenses, Sage One is likely an ideal solution, even if they have 10 or 15 employees. Conversely, if there is a small firm of one or two employees with more specialized or complex project management or accounting needs, a more advanced Sage solution may be a better fit.
The explosion of ecommerce and the virtual business model has made it easier than ever for anyone with a laptop to start a business. In what ways has the speed and ease of the Internet made things more challenging for today’s entrepreneurs?
Technology and accessibility can present as many challenges as opportunities. Today, there are innumerable apps to download, blogs to read and social networks to join — many of which have the potential to drive business and make it easier to run a business. But they can also consume a great amount of time and create more distraction than benefit. The expectation of accessibility and quick response created by the Internet can sometimes challenge business owners to meet their customers’ service expectations.
To benefit from the vast resources the Internet provides to small business owners, they need to clearly define a short list of goals before looking for solutions. They should also consider simplifying their toolset as much as possible, and using tools that help them present a professional and organized face to their customers.
How do you see online tools for small businesses evolving in the next three to five years?
Business owners will begin to get over the “experimentation” phase, in which they sampled from an ever-changing selection of technology solutions. They will increasingly look for style and simplicity over buzz-worthiness and variety. Unimposing apps that can help get the job done quickly will win the day.
More of the small business offices will move to mobile devices. This doesn’t only mean business can be done “anywhere, any time.” It also means “front office” applications will become simpler, and business intelligence will become more consumable and practical.
The line between software and service will fade. In the past, small business owners could choose to buy a service plan with their software purchase. Today, most software-as-a-service applications include help, but that’s usually just to point you in the right direction and help fix things that go wrong. In the near future, business owners will expect their productivity apps to be tightly coupled with advice to help them run a smarter business. Features and knowledge will become equal parts of the offering.
Mike Savory has been with Sage for 19 years, having previously worked on the Sage Timeslips and Sage 50 product lines. He was involved in the launch of Sage One, a web-based accounting and business management application for entrepreneurs and freelancers. Mike now manages product management for Sage One, with responsibilities including product planning, market research and user experience.
 eWeek, April 6, 2012
 Sage survey of 250 businesses with 0-9 employees, Feb 2012
Tarah Benner is the associate editor of The Agency Post, where she edits content, researches new technology and writes on industry trends. She's a runner, rower and avid blogger who enjoys curling up on the couch with good pizza and a movie. Her experience includes copywriting, content marketing, digital publishing and writing for the web. You can connect with her on Twitter @TarahBenner or on LinkedIn.