Sage Group (FTSE: SGE.L), founded in 1981 in the UK, is one of the five largest ERP accounting software publishers globally with generating $1.4 billion in annual revenue with over 13,000 employees in 23 countries supporting millions of customers in the entry-level accounting and SMB and SME ERP segments. Sage Group has long dominated the accounting software market in the UK but it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that they became a truly global player in the midmarket ERP space having made considerable acquisitions in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s.
Sage first came to the US market with the acquisition of DAC-Easy accounting software in 1991. No longer sold, Sage continues to support loyal Dac-Easy which was first launched in 1985. This was not a major entry into the US ERP market however. Sage acquired State of the Art (SOTA) in 1998. SOTA was the publisher of MAS 90 (now Sage 100), MAS 500 (now Sage 500), and BusinessWorks (which SOTA acquired from Manzanita Software in 1995).
Other noteworthy acquisitions globally included:
• Ciel in France (1992)
• Tetra in the UK – now Sage Line 500 (1999)
• Peachtree now Sage 50 US (1999)
• Best Software HR/Payroll/Fixed Assets (2000)
• MIP non-profit sold to Abila (2001)
• Interact Commerce Act and Saleslogix (2001)
• Haitek Solutions Envision ERP for Sage 500 (2001)
• CPASoftware (2002)
• Timberline construction software (2003)
• Softline Business Vision, Pascal, and AccountMate (2004)
• Grupo SP in Spain (2004)
• Accpac now Sage 300 which included SBT Pro (2004)
• Master Builder construction software (2006)
• Adonix now Sage X3 (2006)
• Verus now Sage Payments (2006)
• Emdeon previously Sage Healthcare (2006)
• Intacct Cloud Accounting (2017)
These acquisitions are maybe half of all transactions Sage has made to expand globally. Having set their sites on acquiring the market leading accounting products in each major geographical market, Sage made efforts to expand into various niche industry segments. They have since divested of their CPA practice management, healthcare and non-profit businesses to CCH (now ProSystem fx Practice Management), Vista Equity Partners (who later divested to Vitera and then to Greenway Health), and Abila respectively. Sage also divested AccountMate from the Softline acquisition keeping BusinessVision and Pascal. Sage immediately sold Datafaction (a vertical for the entertainment industry) back to its original founder shortly after acquiring it from Softline as well. Sage Pro (formerly SBT Pro) is no longer available having been sunset by Sage in 2014.
Sage entered the CRM market acquiring Interact Commerce which virtually created the CRM market segment with ACT! and then Saleslogix but has since divested ACT! to SwiftPage and Saleslogix to Infor choosing instead to focus on Sage CRM which came to the company through the 2003 acquisition of eWare in Dublin, Ireland. While Sage continues to promote Sage CRM heavily as the embedded CRM option for it’s products, it also promotes integration to Salesforce.com for most of its strategic ERP products. In fact, Sage’s partnership with Salesforce.com has expanded to include Sage Live, a brand new ERP system developed by Sage on the Force.com platform. Manufacturing functionality is available for Sage Live through a third party relationship with KeyedIn – formed by several former Epicor (Platinum) employees.
Sage acquired Platinum for Windows (PFW) from rival Epicor in 2001 and then acquired Batchmaster PFW in 2002 from eWorkplace Solutions uniting the two co-dependent products for the first time in their long history. Batchmaster PFW was developed initially by Pacific Micro Software Engineering (Pacific Micro) founded by Randy Peck in 1981 as a paint formulation application in dBase II. The product was released for DOS in 1988 and integrated with Platinum for DOS in 1992 and then to Platinum for Windows in 1999. Batchmaster was acquired by eWorkplace Solutions founded by Dr. Sahib A Dudani in 2000. Batchmaster Software continues to develop process manufacturing software as a division of eWorkplace Solutions under the Batchmaster brand with versions for Sage 300 (Accpac), SAP Business One, Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains), Sage 100 (MAS 90), and QuickBooks. These versions are from eWorkplace’s Batchmaster Enterprise product (formerly Optipro) which are similar, but not the same as the original Batchmaster product.
Sage One was launched in 2009 but under a different name from a different company. Sage One originated from the Softline acquisition with a little-known product called Sage Pastel My Business Online which Sage rebranded and relaunched in 2014 as Sage One. Developed in South Africa specifically for South African businesses, it was expanded to the UK market and then to the US and Canada and has grown to more than 100,000 subscriptions in 2015 becoming a leading option for businesses considering entry-level accounting software.
Sage acquired little known Haitek Solutions in March 2001. Haitek was a long-time manufacturing and ERP developer in Northeast Ohio having written Envision ERP for Sage 500 (formerly MAS 500). Note: Launched initially as Acuity Financials by State of the Art, the product went through a flurry of rebrands including Best Enterprise Suite, Sage Enterprise Suite, MAS 500, and Sage MAS 500 before becoming Sage 500. This should not be confused with Sage Line 500 or Sage 500 UK which is the former Tetra product.
e2b teknologies traces its roots to Haitek with the same executive management team and approximately 15 of the original employees still on staff. This was Haitek’s second ERP product (it’s first was Shop-IV which integrated with Thoroughbred Software’s Solution-IV accounting) in the early to mid 1990s.
An interesting aside – e2b teknologies wrote several pieces of software (including EDI) in the mid 1990s for Datalogix, the previous owner of a process manufacturing ERP system called Computer Integrated Manufacturing for Process or CIMPRO. Datalogix was part of Oracle at the time but later sold Cimpro to MAI Software to focus on the Datalogix Global Enterprise Manufacturing Management System (GEMMS) process manufacturing software which we understand has become a central part of the Oracle Process Manufacturing which is now part of ORacle eBusiness Suite. Cimpro was then subsequently sold to Adonix in 2002 and lives on today as the Sage X3 process manufacturing system.
Sage X3 is one of the key strategic global ERP products from Sage designed for larger wholesale distribution, discrete manufacturing, and process manufacturing businesses. Sage continues to make considerable investments in Sage X3 to expand core functionality and to keep the product current with modern technologies.
Sage could easily trace its roots back earlier than 1981 (as they do publicly). Several products acquired by Sage through the years date back much earlier. For example, Sage 300 (formerly Accpac) got its start as EasyBusiness Systems developed for the CP/M operating system in 1976 by the Basic Software Group and distributed by Information Unlimited Software. This was ported to MS-DOS and the IBM-PC in 1983. The product was renamed Accpac Plus in 1987 and became the standard for mid-market accounting in Canada. Accpac stood for “A Complete and Comprehensive Program for Accounting Control.” Accpac Plus was officially discontinued by Sage in 2006. Interestly, a company called Softrax continues to support Accpac Plus customers on a derivative product they offer called Adagio. Several former Accpac products seem to have been all but forgotten about including BPI Accounting which was an early product for the Apple and IBM personal computers marketed in the 1980s. Originally BPI Systems accounting, Computer Associates acquired it in 1987 and marketed it as Accpac Easy for a short period of time. It was discontinued by Sage in 2008.
Another entry-level accounting application is available from Sage for customers primarily in the Canadian market. Called Sage 50 Canadian Edition (or Canada), this is the former Simply Accounting product developed initially by Bedford Software in 1985. Computer Associates acquired Simply Accounting in 1996 merging it into it’s Accpac International division in 1998. Accpac (CA) acquired SBT Accounting in 2000. Sage then acquired these three products in 2004 from Computer Associates.
But perhaps the oldest product in Sage’s portfolio is Timberline, founded in Oregon in 1971 by John Gorman. Master Builder was founed by Dan Smith around 1980. Sage 300 Contractor (Master Builder) and Sage 300 Construction & Real Estate or CRE (Timberline) are also still available and core to Sage’s business.