Insights 2010

Tammy Mathews, Bill Kizer & some short guy at Sage Insights 2010 ~ Denver, Colorado

Photograph Taken By Wayne Schulz

Like a lot of other Sage Partners, Employees & Exhibitors I just returned home from Sage’s Annual Partner Conference. It was held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver and I’m happy to report that I think this was the best Insights that I’ve attended.  It was refreshing, positive and had the feel of a large family reunion without the drunk uncle.

My only negative was the size of that damned convention center. I made the mistake of wearing new shoes to walk endlessly throughout the monolithic Center. It seemed to me that the halls were about 6 miles long and of course sessions covered every square foot available. At the end of the first day my feet were killing me, I developed blisters and I promise that I will never scoff at another woman when they complain about walking in heels. I think that I was the only person there who actually missed the Gaylord hotels, especially the Nashville property where everyone gets lost at least once and when you get lost in the Orlando Gaylord at least you had the alligators to keep you distracted while you wandered aimlessly. If my calculations are correct I walked a total of 493 miles in 4 days! Not really but it seemed that way.

Now that I’ve whined about the walking, let’s get to the good stuff. The keynotes were succinct. As usual Himanshu was dynamite. Tom Miller held his own even though he had to follow Himanshu. I always enjoy listening to Laurie Schultz. I especially enjoyed Sue Swenson’s opening day keynote.

The sessions that I attended seemed to be more relevant and timely. Ed Kless had a 3 part (that’s 3 straight hours) session titled “Firm Of The Future” and I don’t think that anyone left. There were more sessions on Social Media which seemed to be well attended. The Social Media Session that was moderated by Dennis Frahmann was phenomenal and I could have sat through another 2-3 hours. The panel was well picked and there were a lot of good questions. There were several hands on sessions that also looked packed.

Rob Johnson was giving out signed copies of his new book Kick Your Own Ass. I wrote about my misadventures with the book on the group website http://www.sage-li-group.com.

The difference in 2009 versus 2010 was papable, the chatter I heard was how far we’ve come as a company & how the future is looking brighter than ever. We’ve got a long ways to go, but it looks like we’re headed in the right direction.

I’ve included some of the comments that were posted in the Discussions area of Sage LinkedIn Partners, Employees & Alumni Community: :

Peter Wolf

    Peter Wolf, President at Azamba Consulting Group

    1. Content / conference itself: I’m finding that overall the mood is upbeat and positive. A lot of folks are seeing an uptick in prospect and client interest again – in some cases this is early stage proposals and in others this is signed orders.

    I feel that the Sage executives are an open, forthright group and they are keeping their committments to their three (?? is it more ??) key initiatives. Kudos to them all and to all the other Sage people that help make that possible.As anyone who has watched Seinfeld knows… anybody can MAKE committments – it’s keeping them… that’s the hard part. They seem to be doing a great job from what I can see. As always, it’s great to re-connect with people that we haven’t seen for a year and to put in some face time to all the new friends made via Social networking over the last 12 months. I tip my hat to Bill Kizer and crew for establishing this group – it really helps keep the conversations going (good and bad) throughout the year. 2. Venue / food / layout. These things never seem to bother me although I have found that they are typically a “common enemy” for a lot of people. 😉

    I have a booth (#520 – shameless plug) and appreciate that the booths are placed closer together than last year (where there was a football field separating one side from the other in any given row). It makes the flow seem more energetic which is great.

    John Hoyt

    John Hoyt, Partner, Hutchinson and Bloodgood LLP – Consulting Group Enterprise Solutions

    The Conference:
    Overall rating – Excellent.
    There was no special motivational speaker, which is great. They always have the same message, and the fact that we are at Insights means we are already motivated. Sage management motivating us is sufficient.The keynotes at all levels were concise and to the point, and I hope everyone else got the message as I did. The management team, at last, has a focus and are all on the same page. I support their efforts wholeheartedly!
    I took advantage of most of the sessions by Ed Kless, and these were invaluable to me. We cannot get too much of this information, but the interaction of the other people in these was key. I’m not convinced that updates on product roadmaps add much beyond the quarterly update presentations we get. I would like to see drilldown deeper into details that we cannot cover during those. I know there were sessions on BI and SQL, so these may be what I am looking for. The trade show was comprehensive, but I had a difficult time getting to everything. To exhibitors – I really don’t need gimmicks. Just present your product, so I can quickly understand what you have, and move on.The Venue:
    This layout and the logistics for me were far superior to the Gaylords. I want to escape to a separate hotel, where the facilities, food and drink are different, and probably better.

    I did not mind the food – it had more flavor and spice than in previous years. It’s never going to be haute cuisine, but that’s not why we’re here, and it is adequate. I would have liked champagne during the cocktail hours, but that’s just me!

    Wayne Schulz

    Wayne Schulz, Schulz Consulting http://www.s-consult.com

    I thought the numbers of people were down but those who attended were much more experienced and open about sharing.

    I’ve never been to a competitor’s conference but I’m pretty sure at those events that the regular folk like us don’t have a chance to talk to the top VP’s and President…… of course I couldn’t think of anything to actually talk to Jodi about other than how glad I was that we weren’t at the Gaylord Opryland this year (which was flooded in about 8 feet of water ) but I guess you have to start somewhere 😉

    Here’s what I’d like to see in future conferences:

    1. I guess we still need road map sessions – but it seems that new streets and highways get built faster than the maps can be updated …

    What I’d like to see is a session on “why we did this” where Sage product folks could explain the real rationale behind some of the product feature decisions.

    I saw a glimpse of this in the hands-on training classes and it was very helpful to understand the reason behind why a particular feature may or may not have been added.

    2. One Powerpoint Keynote/Session Rule…

    Sage Executives are best when they’re not on script. Skip the bulk of those Powerpoints — or mail them out after the conference.

    I realize you have to create some standard message type content for a keynote but I find myself listening most closely to the speaker when they’re not on a script.

    I think both Ed and Rob do this for their “classes” — which are really more like learning events….. the last time I went to Ed’s session he announced that he had 30 minutes of presentation (thankfully usually only one PPT) and then the class could vote on what they’d like to talk about (it’s always related to the overall theme of the session).

    I think it works — at the Firm of the Future there had to be 60 people who sat through 3 concurrent sessions without leaving. As best I could tell just about every single person in the room participated….

    Oh and for some reason these sessions also product almost zero rants about policy and/or Sage — nearly all the discussion is about how to improve…. there’s a big lesson in these session formats imho.

    3. Let the product people get more involved in keynotes. Scott Zandenberg (sp) was great (loved his opening cartoon about change in the install base). The hands-on classroom was excellent when they went off-script and talked about why a change was or wasn’t made to the product.

    My feedback to everyone at Sage was that I think most people realize that product and technology related issues are tough to change. The one thing I am looking for Sage to work hard to improve is communication — providing us with the type of product and Sage communications that increase our enthusiasm and confidence for the products.

    Hugh Johnson

    Hugh Johnson, VP Sales & Marketing at Suntico

    As a first-timer I was delighted to meet so many great people from Sage and the Sage partner community in North America. There seems to be a strong cooperative spirit among many of the partners which is impressive. Almost everyone I spoke to commented about a pick-up in business or at least in sales enquiries in 2010 which is very encouraging.

    As an exhibitor I did not get to go to many of the sessions but that is OK. I thought the exhibitors were well looked after, and there was plenty of productive trade-show time.

    I learned an awfull lot, made some excellent contacts, received some very generous offers of assisitance and as a result I am refining my market entry strategy for the US.

    I loved Denver.

    Gary Feldman

    Gary Feldman, President at I-Business Network, LLC and Owner, I-Business Network, LLC

    Insights was and remains one of the best events of its kind, especially for a software company in the market Sage serves.
    1. The content was as informative and substantive as ever. I really appreciated the number and quality of the external experts (the CRM road ahead was especially good). The keynotes and other presenters are packing a lot of content (even Himansu) into a small amount of time. Tom Miller was a perfect example of too much information in too little time. The one area for improvement is the motivational aspect of the conference as a sales event. Sage could punch up the energy level with a master of ceremony that can ignite the energy at the begining of the conference. The painters and singers was an attempt at this. A truly dynamic presence could invigorate during the show and beyond.2. The Denver convention center is a fabulous facility. The Wells Fargo auditorium is really nice (although the seats are a little cramped). The tradeshow layout was good although I beleive the Sage booth should be in front of the door as the main attraction. I think half way between the narrow isles and football field seperation would allow for more traffic and better visibility.

    I do like the Gaylord combined facility and hotel as it allows you to go back to the room during short breaks. Not all Gaylords were equal and the DC facility was beautiful, but more cramped than the others. I hope we have the problem of too many people for the small hallways!

    Although the number of people was down, the quality of the conversations was up this year. Well worth the time to increase our knowledge and social capital.

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