NEW ORLEANS – Business software vendor Sage Plc used its annual Summit user conference on Tuesday to take its flagship enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite for the midmarket – Sage X3 – to the cloud.

Formerly known as Sage ERP X3, the cloud version of X3 will be available as a service in the cloud in Canada and the U.S. beginning July 31. Sage has over 5,100 worldwide customers for X3 with over 236,000 users. The product is growing at 30 per cent in North America, with 500 new customers in fiscal 2014. It’s used in a broad cross-section of industries from product manufacturing and distribution to business services, typically by companies with more than 100 employees and $10 million in revenue.

Bill Rietz, vice-president of product management with Sage North America, told ITBusiness.ca that the cloud version of X3 shares 99.9 per cent of its codebase with the on-premise edition, and Sage will continue to support both for the foreseeable future. With one in five of customers saying they’re looking to go cloud first though, Sage wanted to offer X3 customers the opportunity to stay with Sage.

“Many customers are looking for greater simplicity and a simpler user experience, and less of a burden for IT managing disparate systems with security and compliance requirements,” said Rietz. “They want a flexible solution that meets core business needs and is adaptable to market changes.”

X3 in the cloud offers support to manage financials, distribution, manufacturing or global operations, and customers benefit from upgrades and support as part of their subscription. The solution is built to run on Amazon Web Services in a single tenant model, so it can be hosted in an AWS Canadian data centre for Canadian customers concerned about data residency. It can also be hosted in a private cloud or by a Sage partner.

And with the common codebase, Rietz said customers can easily revert to an on-premise implementation with all their data if they decide to leave the cloud in the future.

“They don’t need to fear being tied into the cloud if their business needs change,” said Rietz.

X3’s sweet spot, said Rietz, is midmarket businesses that have more corporate needs such as multi-company accounting and reporting, or multiple distribution warehouses in different countries. Their existing systems are stretched and they’re having to aggregate data, processes and infrastructure across different systems. The three key drivers are business inefficiencies, losing insight into operations and losing agility and responsiveness.

One common business case is for the marketing organization, said Rietz. With X3, they can easily get a more accurate view of current inventory in the supply chain and where it is, as well as their pricing flexibility, so they can structure the best promotion to drive greater sales.

“By having an integrated view, the sales and marketing team is able to make more intelligence decisions,” he said. “That information was all in disparate systems before.”

X3 in the cloud comes with a native iOS app, with an Android app coming soon. It also includes the ability to develop web apps for specific business cases.

For most customers, Rietz said the choice between cloud and in premise will come down to what they’re looking for: do they want a solution that’s easily to deploy, will always be on the latest version and doesn’t need to be supported by the IT team for security and patching – that’s the cloud. If they don’t need to upgrade as often, want to heavily customize the platform or have highly sensitive data, the on premise solution may make more sense.

“Our intent for the future us to ensure whether the customer wants on premise or cloud, the functionality meets their needs,” said Rietz.

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