An Independent HRMS Software Review
Built almost exclusively for the small to medium-sized organization, Sage HRMS (formerly known as Sage Abra) is a complete suite of HR applications designed to optimize the entire employment lifecycle; of which the system includes core HR/Payroll, limited talent management, workforce management, and learning management capabilities. While only 10% of the company's annual revenues come from HR & Payroll, the Sage solution has nevertheless carved out a sizeable piece of the HR software market share, even competing well against the likes of the Big 3—Oracle, SAP and Infor—at least in the SMB market.
Growth By Acquisition
Based out of Newcastle upon Tyne in the United Kingdom, Sage was founded in 1981 by Graham Wylie, David Goldman, and Paul Muller with a basic accounting software focus. Today the company has grown into one of the world's largest suppliers of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software and a global powerhouse in the business applications industry writ large. In fact, Sage has application software solutions in all major enterprise software categories as well as a host of industry-specific solutions; of which the company's 230+ products can be divided into the broad categories of: HR/Payroll; Accounting; Payment Processing (including E-business); Customer Relationship Management (CRM); Financials; Business Intelligence & Forecasting; Job costing; and the overarching umbrella of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). These diversified business software offerings allow the company to reach over 6M customers in 160 countries and employ slightly less than 13.5K staff in 23+ countries. Still, as a testament to the roots of the company, the market's sense of Sage Group plc is that they are an accounting software company first (in fact, 55% of annual revenues come from this sector); and everything else second.
In large part this disparity between the company's "accounting side" versus the rest of Sage's business software offerings can trace back to its early 1980s inception. After a slow start that was focused on organically growing the business, Sage Group plc began a host of acquisitions that stretched across the company's solutions and broadly brought additional solutions to each one of the firm's software areas. This growth by acquisition strategy, albeit aggressive, has certainly helped better position the brand in the ERP, CRM, and HCM software markets, but the company's purchases to date do not reflect an overwhelming interest in these solutions.
Indeed (especially as it pertains to HR/Payroll), even though Sage has produced a number of solutions that are geared towards the HR software industry, out of the company's sizeable base of acquisitions thus far, only 7 have been dedicated to HR and/or payroll solutions: the 2007 acquisition of Malaysia-based Creative (a leading and localized Asian provider of payroll and human resource management software solutions); the 2007 acquisition of UK-based KCS (a supplier of personnel, payroll and time & attendance solutions); the 2007 acquisition of UK-based Snowdrop (an SME HR and payroll specialist); the 2004 acquisition of U.S.-based Federal Liaison Services (a single source provider of employer payroll and tax filing solutions); the 2000 acquisition of U.S.-based Best Software (an asset management software firm that included SMB resources for HR human resources and payroll); the the 1998 acquisition of Germany-based HR Management Software GmbH; and the 1991 acquisition of U.S.-based Abra Cadabra Software. Sage also bought out Adonix Group in 2006 which brought a sizeable ERP offering into the fold, but the HRMS that was part of Adonix at the time (Meta4) was conspicuously left out of the sale.
Of course acquisitions have only taken the company so far, and other factors have likewise contributed to the company's market share and placement.
Alliances & Extended Solutions
For one, Sage Group plc specifically puts their stamp of approval on certain solutions that Sage HRMS customers commonly use to solve unique business issues (and optimize the performance of their Sage HRMS software implementations). These solutions are called Endorsed Solutions and include: Cornerstone OnDemand's Talent Management (offering a best-of-breed talent management suite that includes Learning, Performance, Compensation, and Succession Management capabilities); Delphia Consulting's HR Actions (offering a web-based workflow solution for MSS and ESS that is fully customizable, driven by defined business rules, and fashioned by interactive fields); VineyardSoft's KnowledgeSync (offering form production/delivery automation, workflow triggers, activity monitoring, business process management); Visibility Software's Cyber Recruiter (offering a process-oriented recruiting system for creating requisitions, posting positions, filtering applications, and simplifying the recruitment process with built-in workflows); CompuPay (offering outsourced payroll, tax filing, web reporting, time clock systems, and employee benefit programs); and Sage Payroll PayCard (offering payroll debit cards). Other than these solutions, Sage further designates certain 3rd-party offerings as Certified (i.e. tested/verified by Sage) and Sage (i.e. products developed by, and as complement to, Sage). Customers can access these through The Sage Partner Solution Source, an online marketplace of partner solutions (of which 25 are currently dedicated to Sage HRMS).
The Customer Experience
Sage set a strategic goal to improve the customer experience. To this end, the company increased typical customer outreach programs such surveys and feedback mechanisms, and also introduced something atypical called the Sage Advisor program—an application monitoring service that detects what users are and are not using within their Sage software so that Sage can make in-product recommendations and respond or optimize the application software pursuant to how its being used in the real world. This service is not yet available with Sage HRMS software, but still represents some unique thinking from Sage.
Of course, customers can also improve the Sage HRMS product and experience by submitting feedback and getting involved in new feature development—a process that Sage takes extremely seriously; going so far as to embed feedback mechanisms in the products along with openly soliciting customer issues and requests. While obviously this plays well to the idea of engaging customers, Sage also uses this input to ensure their products are up-to-date and offer the features that users need most. In fact, the latest release of Sage HRMS 2012 has a staggering 70 improvements which were driven by customer interactions. Next, we look at that release in more granular detail.
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