20 years of Sage X3 image with photos of Ian Bromley, Inixion’s MD, from 1999 and 2019

20 years ago, our founder and managing director, Ian Bromley, first met the ‘X3’ product and embarked on a two-decade long journey of living and breathing everything that is X3. Read his story of how he first discovered the product, established the first X3 implementation team in the UK and went on to work on over 100 X3 projects. He ultimately established one of the leading Sage X3 partners that now operates globally from their base in the UK.

In 1999 the news was filled with the predictions of the cataclysmic disaster that was going to change the world; created decades before by computer programmers keen to ensure that memory and storage space was optimised by only storing dates in DDMMYY format and omitting the 2 digits of the century.

The Millennium Bug

Those of you in the industry then will remember it was a crazy time – massive projects were initiated to update systems, test year-end roll-overs and plan for dealing with massive system issues as the new year arrived on the 1st January 2000.

No major systems crashed, no planes dropped from the sky, no hospitals stopped working, and life continued with nothing more than a nonchalant nod to the impending disaster that never arrived…..

Meanwhile, the ERP marketplace was languishing in a text based ‘green screen’ world, with vendors desperate to make their decades old accounting and inventory application a bit ‘sexier’ in the new Microsoft Windows based world.  ‘Screen scraping’ was the way to do it! Take your fixed layout text-based system and graft it into a ‘window’, giving the user none of the benefits of true windows technology, and label your product as using a GUI (Graphical User Interface) client! Surely the queue of prospects would arrive at your door the moment you launched your new ‘Windows’ version of your software?  Another nonchalant nod – this time by the prospects and customers that didn’t get too excited or convinced by this attempt to change the ERP game.

Whilst the world wasn’t crashing into post Millennium doom, in some darkened offices in Paris, a team of developers at a company called Adonix, took a different approach to ‘new ERP’. Instead of layering a GUI on top of decades old technology, a new ERP system was being born. Ideas from previous systems were taken, and a new development environment was created to enable a best-in-class solution to be built; which supported latest technologies, delivered object-based functionality and most importantly created an ERP system with leading edge technology and a rich user experience.

Adonix X3 was born!

Meanwhile back in the UK, Ian Bromley was working in a software company managing numerous ERP implementations as a Project Manager. That business decided that with the turn of the millennium, text-based ERP systems were at the end of their life and they needed a new solution to sell. Ian led a team who were given the task to source a new solution.

The first and last product that was reviewed was X3. ‘The technology was jaw dropping’ Ian recounts; seeing a product that was designed from the ground up with a single approach to all screens and functionality that was ‘generic’ across the solution, meant that the user experience that X3 delivered was game changing.

The logical building block approach that had been taken by the Adonix product developers was the game changer. New functions could be created with zero lines of code, significant processes could be changed with a few lines of code that interacted with the standard system, tables and screens through the application were fully user definable.

Adonix X3 was quickly selected as the new system. Ian proceeded to build the first partner based X3 team in the UK and started rolling out the solution to UK based customers. At this point in time the product was labelled as version 1.30.

Ian adds:‘We built a great team, with an enormous amount of help from the Adonix team, some of whom are still heavily involved in the ongoing development of the X3 product, currently working for the Sage development team. The product was not fully Anglicised at the time, with a mixture of French and American English, but the teams worked together to make the product ready for the UK market’.

The X3 team at that first UK partner grew over the next 6 years, rolling out numerous X3 solutions to customers in a wide range of industries.

‘What is great about the X3 product, even back then, is that you can apply it to the market either in a horizontal or vertical manner. The product can fit numerous industries but could be configured easily if you wanted to establish a vertical solution’, explains Ian.

The Sage relationship

In late 2005, Sage acquired Adonix, and X3 became known as Sage Adonix X3 (the first of many name changes for the product over the coming years!).

Ian explained that ‘it was a combination of the fact that X3 was now owned by one of the largest global software companies and my passion for the product, that made me decide to form Inixion; a business that was to be, and still is, totally focused on the Sage X3 product.’

The UK base of customers was growing, and Ian wanted to capitalise on the impending growth of the product that was inevitable under the leadership of Sage.

Inixion is formed

Inixion was formed in 2006, the product was then called Sage ERP X3, and Inixion became a Sage partner.

On building Inixion, Ian explains; ‘One of the challenges of building a professional services business around a product that was relatively new in the UK was finding people with the right level of experience to join the team. We were a start-up business and could not afford to bankroll bringing in people and training them up – so we had to seek out people that were already experienced in the product – which is something that we still do to this day. A prerequisite for joining our implementation or support team is at least 4 years’ experience of Sage X3’

Since 2006 the Sage X3 product has moved through several versions, 3 new user interfaces, has become a truly global solution, and has grown to be used in over 6,000 businesses around the world.

Sage have invested a huge amount of money in the ongoing development of Sage X3 over the past decade, and the product continues to flourish with ever growing functionality and leading-edge technology.

Sage Business Cloud

In October 2017, Sage launched the ‘Sage Business Cloud’, which was a collection of solutions that were built for the emerging cloud based market, and Sage X3 was part of this solution – showing that some of the methodology employed back in the late 1990’s that was used to build the product, allowed Sage to move the product to being delivered over a cloud based infrastructure.

As part of the Sage Business Cloud, Sage X3 was renamed ‘Sage Business Cloud Enterprise Management’, which quickly became abbreviated to Sage Enterprise Management or ‘EM’.

Sage EM was now a cloud enabled product, delivered purely via a HMTL5 browser client: a long journey from where this blog started with the impending demise of text based ‘green screen’ solutions.

In October 2019, after a lot of feedback from partners and the community, Sage reverted the name back to Sage X3. ‘I was pleased that the original name of the product came back’, Ian said, ‘Having been on the X3 journey for 20 years, the name has history and I think it is important not to lose the link to the journey that started all those years ago in Paris. The Sage X3 customers, partners and Sage themselves owe a lot to that development team who had the vision to go back to basics and develop a new solution- in fact a new environment- that would change the game in the ERP marketplace. ‘

The next 20 years

Ian and Inixion are excited about what the next 20 years will bring for the Sage X3 product; looking forward to working with many more customers around the world, as well as with Sage, to share knowledge and experience to enable the solution to continue to deliver world class functionality. As we move to the world of cloud based technology, where we stop talking about Sage X3 the ‘Product’ and, potentially, start talking about Sage X3 the ‘Service’.