Q&A: Alan Laing, EVP, partners & alliances, Sage

Sage logo

We’ve been hearing a lot about Sage’s transformation, and getting rid of a lot of the complexity associated with doing business with Sage. Can you tell us what this means for Sage’s partner programme?

We launched what was the Global Partner Programme in October 2015 – it’s now called the Sage Partner Programme – for our global products: Sage One, Sage Live and Sage X3.

What we’re announcing this week is that we’re expanding the Sage Partner Programme for all products, all partner types, and all countries. However, we will implement it on a country-by- county basis, beginning at the start of our fiscal year in October.

The reason we’re doing it that way is that our own internal IT systems need to be adapted to implement the programme, as each country is operating under different systems today.

In the UK we will start implementing it probably in Q2 next year, and with Jacqueline [de Rojas] coming in as the new MD, we’ll work together to get that as quickly as possible. It all has to be implemented in FY17.

What has partner feedback been like?

The partners know a lot about it already and they are overwhelmingly positive. They key thing is we’re creating a lot of assets to help partners drive demand, to help grow their business. A lot of that is centred around cloud, but not all of it, because we have made the big comment that there’s to be no forced migration.

If you’re a partner that only sells on-premise, fine. But we are offering incentives in the partner programme to get our partners to move to cloud, because that’s where the market is going. But we’re not going to force them.

I would imagine with such a large installed SMB base that many of your partners are yet to make the transition to cloud?

All we’re saying is that, ‘guys, the market is going in this direction; you can come with us if you want to, and we’re encouraging you to do so.’

So what are you offering as an incentive to move to cloud?

We’re offering additional discounts to go to a cloud solution, because we understand if you are a partner with a traditional, on-premise business model, your business model needs time to adapt to the cloud. Your revenue is annual, you don’t get this big upfront fee, so the transition is going to cost you money. So we’re going to help you by giving you additional incentives to move to cloud.

What does your channel look like in the UK?

We think we can grow our business in the UK very significantly. The UK is one of our smaller partner countries; we’ve got as greater direct presence in the UK, which means there’s opportunity. I’m tasked with growing our partner ecosystem and revenues so I think there’s an opportunity for our partners in the UK to grow faster, and we may have to find net new partners to help us.

For example, the Office 365 partnership – there’s an opportunity there for Microsoft partners. We’re on record as saying we want to grow our partner revenues to 45 per cent, but it doesn’t have to stop at 45 per cent. And I think there’s a good opportunity for partners to implement their solutions with all the ISVs we’re bringing in, which enables the partner to add services, to add differentiation.

So partner recruitment is on the agenda?

We see a need for new partners around cloud solutions, so some of the born-in- the-cloud partners, we’d like to attract across to Sage. Some of our partners will say, ‘well, we’re not very happy about that.’ Our message to them is, we continue to be loyal, but we need to grow.

Any plans to work with any distributors on recruitment?

We do. We’ll be making some announcements very shortly.

Finally, then, what’s your core message to partners?

We are investing significantly in growing our channel business, and this is a great time to be a Sage partner. You see the vision, we’ve set out a roadmap, and we’ve made it easier to do business with – though we’ve still got a lot to do – to remove complexity and be transparent, and there’ll be a lot more focus on vertical markets and that’s a big opportunity for everybody.

Christine Horton

Christine has been a tech journalist for over 20 years, 10 of which she spent exclusively covering the IT Channel. From 2006-2009 she worked as the editor of Channel Business, before moving on to ChannelPro where she was editor and, latterly, senior editor.

Since 2016, she has been a freelance writer, editor, and copywriter and continues to cover the channel in addition to broader IT themes. Additionally, she provides media training explaining what the channel is and why it’s important to businesses.