ACT! 6.0

For those familiar with it, ACT! — the contact management application from Best Software — conjures up the picture of a remote salesperson, perhapsworking at home, trying to keep track of leads and phone calls. Thatpicture is accurate, according to ACT! division general manager Greg Head. But Head told CRM Buyer Magazine that the application increasingly can be found on the PCs of corporate employees in large enterprises, too — and not all of them are salespeople.

“The reality is that a large portion of our customer base — somewherejust under half — is comprised of not salespeople but others with arelationship focus, such as PR people, CPAs, accounts receivablestaffers,” he said.

In the Back Door

How does Head think that such a relatively small application has workedits way into so many enterprise departments? Word-of-mouth fromindividual employees is the company’s main channel into the enterprise,he said. When one department worker uses the calendaring, contact andcommunication application to advantage, others tend to want it, too.

“About thirty percent of our sales are to corporate customers that buy morethan five copies at a time,” said Head. Company spokesperson KristinaFrankel added that Best Software has nearly doubled the number of itscorporate accounts in three years, from 7,000 to 13,000.

Customers who have used ACT! and another of Best Software’sofferings — SalesLogix — tend to be loyal and strong supporters, Aberdeen Group research director Karen Smith told CRM Buyer.

Outlook Integration Leads Upgrade

ACT! 6.0, which retails for US$199, was released in August of this year.The main attraction of the new release is a new e-mail client and improved integration with Microsoft Outlook. The e-mail function stands alone or integrates with Outlook, Outlook Express, SMTP/POP3 (Internet Mail) and Lotus Notes e-mail folders from within ACT!

Tracking the history of e-mail correspondence is acritical part of contact management, the company said, so three historyoptions are available when sending messages from ACT! or Outlook.

In addition to such traditional e-mail history options asincluding the subject line only in the notes section or attaching thefull e-mail to the contact record, users now have the option to attachthe subject plus the text of the message as a note. Thisoption, said the vendor, is especially useful to corporate customerswith large workgroups working from a single database.

Additional new e-mail features include the ability to send and receiveHTML messages from ACT! and to instantly add new contactsto any ACT! database, as well as the ability to access both ACT! and Outlookaddress books, regardless of which application the user is currently running.

Remote User Support

The product links with Peachtree and QuickBooks accounting programs,both popular with small businesses. And version 6.0 includes Web access for remote or home workers.

For mobile workers who use handhelds instead of a laptop, the ACT! licenseincludes a free copy of ACT! Link 2.0 that synchs the desktop versionwith the Palm version and allows users to download up to 10 notes orcontact histories to the Palm device. Head said the company is workingon a similar link to Pocket PC, due later this year.

Small Footprint Appeals

ACT! has a great deal of functionality notincluded in small applications, such as address books and calendaringsoftware, but it dodges the negative aura associated with enterprise software, Head noted, including sales force automation programs that include similar functions along with more powerful features.

This appeals to smaller firms that have few if any dedicated IT people and companies that simply shy away from enterprise software due to its reputation for huge projectdelays and cost overruns. They are willing to do without all the bellsand whistles of enterprise apps to avoid the possible pitfalls.

“This application appeals to a lot of companies because they don’t wantall that high-end complexity,” he said. “We’re dealing with the backlashof the high-end CRM packages overselling monster software.”

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