Time to admit it. Bring back an annual upgrade and monthly service packs.
First some background.
Sage began issuing quarterly product updates with version
4.30 4.4 of Sage ERP MAS 90 and 200.
These updates contained feature enhancements (mostly folded in Extended Solutions which Sage used to sell but had since open sourced). Rather than increasing the version number the product update would add a corresponding Product Update version to the end of the customer’s version – for example Version 4.4 with Product Update 1 was 188.8.131.52.
Prior to version
4.30 4.4 Sage issued monthly bundles of program patches that they labeled as Service Updates. These were self-installable bundles of fixes which in turn had replaced the old method of requiring customers (or more likely their VARS) to install fixes individually.
The Service Updates rarely included additional features and instead focussed on stabilizing the existing code.
In theory these Product Updates would make customers happier as they introduced new features in each release and replaced the prior practice of annual upgrades and monthly service packs (primarily bug fixes).
Unfortunately from my vantage point quarterly Product Updates didn’t make most users’ live’s easier.
Here are my personal reasons that Sage 100 ERP (Formerly Sage ERP MAS 90 and 200) Product Updates are a flop:
1. It’s difficult to remember a dizzying array of “new” features. Especially to remember when they were added and at which product update releases.
The idea of adding features quarterly sounds great when written on a whiteboard in a conference room in Irvine. Unfortunately for most users it did not translate into extra value – primarily because (a) Sage ERP 100 upgrades aren’t generally self-installable and (b) company’s did not usually want to pay for multiple upgrades within the same year which (c) potentially interrupt their business with down time and additional training.
2. Hot Fix’s (one off program patches) are amateur hour – it’s too easy to miss one or two on a new install or upgrade. The bundle of self-install fixes need to make a return on a regular monthly basis. In the interim you can still include hot fixes.
3. Customers have shown reluctance to upgrade on any more than an annual basis. Sage has had some troubles releasing stable product updates – which means customers will sit on the upgrades during the year until such time as they are sure the bugs are largely erased.
Customers with third party enhancements such as Job Ops, Bar Coding, Warehouse Management or EDI were almost always several releases behind as their third party developers buckled under the strain of trying to keep up with the myriad of Product Update releases.
4. Sage has not focussed on the area of greatest customer value. Sure there are customers who really love using Positive Pay as an update to the Bank Reconciliation. More customers however would appreciate better control over printers, less problems installing Paperless Office in Windows 7 or migrating Paperless.
5. Most importantly – with an annual release instead of quarterly Product Updates Sage can spend extra time debugging and testing the annual release which hopefully will produce a more stable product which customers will more willingly upgrade to on a regular basis.
I realize there were companies who realized great value from some (or perhaps all of the Product Updates). What I question is whether these companies were in the majority and whether even those companies were installing every Product Update.
Product Updates did add value. Customers enjoyed the features. My issue is that more than one Product Update per year is too many for most customers.
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