Until very recently, the accounting software industry was evenly split among the "big three" vendors: Sage broadly owned the U.K. market, Intuit the American, and MYOB the Australasian. Bit players rounded out the other countries not covered by these big three.
But in the past few years, several innovative new companies have been founded with the stated aim of disrupting these big vendors. Most notable among them is Xero, but similarly FreshBooks, Kashflow, FreeAgent and others had a crack at the problem space.
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All of these vendors were, to a greater or lesser extent, emulating Salesforce’s cloud-based model—in particular, the approach of building a vibrant ecosystem of third-party vendors that leverage the platform software. This is a valuable strategy and one that drives real benefits to customers and vendors alike. It is, however, one that requires both a cultural mindset change and a technology one.
Building an ecosystem requires the platform vendor to embrace a broad API strategy. APIs, for those unaware, are the integration points between different software solutions. An abbreviation for application programming interface, APIs are the connection points between software, data, user interfaces and integration points.
Sage wants to build an ecosystem
Given the history of the accounting software industry, and the pressure incumbents such as Sage are under, it is interesting to see the company introduce a new offering aimed at building an ecosystem. The Sage Payments Developer Portal is designed to bring Sage, independent software vendors (ISVs) and different development partners together around, as the name implies, Sage’s payment offerings.
The new portal offers high-level API management capabilities and all of the things developers need: clarity, documentation and consistency. It is interesting, therefore, that Sage leveraged one of the better-known names in the API management space (and a company that not only recently listed on the public stock market, but was also subsequently acquired by Google): Apigee.
As an aside, it is interesting to see this story come out so close to Apigee’s acquisition by Google. It seems to me the company is keen to assert a degree of independence from Google, but maybe that’s just my perception.
By foregoing the orthodox “build it here” approach and instead consolidating the backend development infrastructure and user interface into a single platform, Sage has created an environment where partners and developers can more readily build and connect apps. In particular, the Apigee platform allows Sage to do the following:
- Track, collect and analyze data with the ability to define reporting metrics
- Reach multiple business types that are a part of the existing developer community
- Drive awareness of completed integrations, join developer forums and promote apps within the community
- Seamlessly integrate with Sage solutions and existing system platforms, enabling a comprehensive payment suite and increasing speed to market
The results would seem to speak for themselves.
This is a good story for Apigee. After all, Sage arguably has the skills and resource to manage its own API platform. It’s also a good story for Sage, which is showing a proof point that they can innovate. Apigee commented on this theme:
“At Apigee, we believe APIs are changing financial services. The Sage Payments Developer Portal is an excellent example of the industry’s digital transformation, and we are proud to help Sage open their APIs to partners and developers. By creating a new digital ecosystem, Sage can help fuel long-term payment innovation," said Ed Anuff, senior vice president of strategy at Apigee.
Most of all, however, it is a win for all of those small software vendors and developers that can now build stuff integrated into Sage rather than having to try and go it alone. Better together and all that.
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