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Sage Group plc Company Viability Review

Sage HRMS is a product of Sage North America; one of 4 subsidiary units of the Sage Group plc (other units include Sage North/South Europe and Sage AAMEA which serves the area of Australia, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa). With 30+ years within the enterprise software industry, the Sage Group, is a viable and stalwart competitor. Indeed, gathering over 6M customers with business software solutions that serve tens of millions of employees has led the company to a presence in 160+ countries; a place on the London Stock Exchange (and member of the FTSE 100); about 13,400 employees; a rank as the 4th largest ERP software company in the world; an ecosystem of over 28,000 business partners; and a revenue stream of just over $2 billion per annum. For its part, the North American subsidiary is responsible for roughly 4000 employees; just over 3M customers; 5000 business partners; and revenues approaching $1 billion—easily making it the top performing unit of the Sage Group plc.

That said, the company owes the bulk of its success and size to its acquisition strategy and not organic growth—a fact that has both propelled the company and created lasting issues. Specifically, Sage Group plc has been increasingly seen by many as simply a software aggregator; consistently adding business software solutions to the fold with little regard to their place in the overall strategy. Whether intended or not, this acquisitions strategy of sorts has limited the appeal of the Sage product line. Customers have begun a slow but steady march towards those vendors that provide a stronger, simpler, and more cohesive offering—a fact that has unfortunately left Sage behind. Further, the market's push towards Software-as-a-Service deployment options has largely left Sage flat-footed and losing additional ground to smaller but more innovative software vendors able to cater to this growing demographic.

Add to these issues a global economic downturn that except for SaaS solutions, spared few, and along with talent volatility issues in Sage's C-Suite, it's no surprise that the prior 2 years have found Sage Group below 2009 revenues and struggling to get back on top. Yet trying is exactly what the company is now doing—investing in R&D, striving for unification between poorly joined software products, and harkening back to the company's earliest stages of "organic growth" as a strategy. Ironically, given the length of time that it has taken Sage Group to realize some of these issues and start production for certain lines, the company may well have to turn back to its M&A roots (purchasing a host of solutions to drive Sage deep into the cloud). However, until then, if Sage Group can stick with the priorities CEO Guy Berruyer set in early 2011 (i.e. improve organic growth, profit margins, web strategies, and re-engage opportunities) the company could wind up just fine. The business software market has changed and it appears as though Sage is finally on board with these paradigm shifts—a welcome transition even if they are a bit late to the game.

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