There has been a discussion going on in the LinkedIN ACT! Fanatics Group for some time on how to find ACT! Consultants in international regions. The discussion can be seen here: Finding ACCs around the world...
There has been some good comments from Consultants, users and Sage staff. This has helped me to a few thoughts on what the problems are and I thought I would describe them here.
The first problem is regionalisation (at least the way Sage do it). This causes issues in the product design AND in the support of users and channel. While this does work in the ERP world, that Sage comes from and where every country/region needs different handling, it actually harms the proper selling and supporting of CRM.
ERP users (even in small multi-nationals) don't usually spread usage of their accounting system across country boarders. However, CRM users regularly do and even those based in one country will travel and want access to their data. There are many areas of the product that are designed with North American defaults that don't work as well for others – multi-currency, scheduling for different time zones, phone formatting and country codes to name a few.
From the support point of view (especially the channel support), this is left to the individual Regional Operating Companies ... and they simply don't have the resources or budget to provide this for Sage ACT! at the same level as North America. It is this area that has caused some regions (eg Asia) to drop ACT! altogether.
I offered to help Sage with training and support ACT! resellers in Asia, but was told they weren’t interested.
Sage has a corporate marketing team that directs all the OpCos about the logos, colours, etc ... they need to implement a similar method to ensure that ACT! (and probably other CRM solutions) have a similar global uniformity in dealing with their partners and users.
Responsibility with Authority
The second problem that is endemic across Sage is that those given responsibility for an area or project rarely (if ever) also have the necessary authority to make changes... and those with the authority rarely understand the product.
Over the past years, I have spoken to many staff who agree with many of these issues… but the regional staff tell me it’s corporate and those with global responsibilities tell me that decisions are made by the regions.
The third issue is the lack of public communication on ACT!'s road-map from management since David van Toor left. I highlighted this in this post: Better handling of rapidly updating environment (yet to get a response from Sage). If you haven't added a Kudo to that post, please do.
Even the Press has Noticed
You'll see that I'm not the only one who sees some of these issues ... read this ZDNet article:
ZDNet - Sage Summit 2011: CRM at a Crossroads
This is a mostly positive article, but his conclusion that says corporate needs to "rejigger its thinking" in how they handle their CRM products is spot on.
Should anyone at Sage Group Inc. or the ACT! team wish to discuss any of these points, I’d be more than happy to talk and help to come up with a way to address them. Like you, my aim is to provide the best experience for users and partners with their investment in Sage ACT!