The Act! CRM 19.2 update is now available

Act-newlogo

Swiftpage has, today, released version 19.2 of Act!.

You can get the downloads from: https://www.act.com/resources/downloads
Note: International people use the links under the US section because, at least under the Australian section, there is nothing about version 19 at all.

Here are some of the improvements according to documents I’ve seen. I’ll be doing some testing over the next week or two and will post my findings.

Compatibility

Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Certification

Provides compatibility with the latest Windows Server operating system.

  • Windows Server 2016 has passed our internal certification for use with Act! v19.2.
  • This release resolves fundamental defects to ensure compatibility and includes an update to InstallShield for a more stable installation on later operating systems.
Microsoft SQL Server 2016 Certification

Adds compatibility with SQL Server 2016 for customers who like to stay updated with the latest SQL database technology.

  • SQL Server 2016 has passed our internal certification for use with Act! v19.2.
  • The Act! installation process now detects an ‘ACT7’ instance created using SQL Server 2016 Express or Standard editions.
  • Important: Act! v19.2 will continue to ship with and install SQL Server 2014 by default. Customers wishing to use SQL Server 2016 must either manually create an ACT7 instance before installing Act!, or upgrade the default SQL Server 2014 instance following their Act! installation.
  • Customers wishing to use SQL Server 2016 Standard Edition must own the applicable licenses required to conform to Microsoft’s licensing requirements.
Update to InstallShield 2016

Provides a more stable installation platform with later operating systems.

  • The Act! installer package has been updated to the current InstallShield version, giving improved native support for the latest Windows operating systems.
  • This upgrade also helps us to make future installer-related improvements, and more easily add support for new and updated operating systems in later Act! releases.
Improved Google Chrome user experience

Provides improvements for web customers using the Google Chrome browser to access their database.

  • Important: While this release provides an improved experience for users of Chrome for Mac, full certification of this browser is not included in Act! v19.2. This certification will be completed in a later Act! release.
  • Act! v19.2 resolves 30+ specific issues affecting the Chrome browser
  • This includes 15 areas where unnecessary full-screen refreshes were affecting performance and customer experience.
  • Further details of the specific issues resolved are included below.

Web Client Improvements

New web client rich text (RTF) controls

Provides web users with improved formatting controls when entering free text.

  • New rich text (RTF) controls added to the Details sections on Notes, Histories, Activities and Relationships dialogues.
  • Includes additional web-friendly fonts and an improved selection of font sizes.
  • New options for strikethrough formatting, text background colours, and bullet points.
  • Addresses some in-market issues affecting the previous rich text controls.

Act! eMarketing Improvements

Improved Act! eMarketing Call List

Improves the performance and usability of the Act! eMarketing Call List feature for both desktop and web client users.

  • New date range filter for campaigns, so users can focus on just the results they need, and quickly follow up.
  • Downloaded campaign lists are cached, giving an improved performance as users navigate to and from the Act! eMarketing view.

Commercial Improvements

New Welcome Page views based on product tier and subscription

Allows more targeted messaging to better support and nurture different customer segments.

  • Includes new Welcome Page views for customers using:
    • Act! Pro
    • Act! Premium with no subscription
    • Act! Premium Cloud paid accounts

Integrations and Web API

New Act! Companion features

New mobile functionality gives users even more power to manage their activities on the move.
Schedule activities from within Act! Companion

  • Clear (Complete) activities
  • Update activities
  • Schedule follow-ups
  • Cache server URL and database name (Remember me feature)
On-going improvements to the Act! Web API

Swiftpage continues to improve the performance, stability and functionality of the Web API, enhancing the power of both Swiftpage and partner driven integrations.

  • An updated Web API version is available alongside Act! v19.2.

Outright Purchases of #ActCRM v19.0 Punished by @Swiftpage

Dollar fireSwiftpage seems desperate for cash.

Having gone through all the capital they raised from selling SalesLogix, much of it wasted by the Ogdon’s on the shockingly poor “Essentials” project, I hear (from two sources) that Swiftpage has been making losses for the past few months.

Maybe this is the reason that Bob Ogdon’s sons, Mike and Dan, are no longer collecting their pay and have left the company this month?

The lack of understanding of the Act! product and its user base combined with their cash shortage has led them to inflict a bizarre punishment on those who choose to buy outright rather than succumb to their subscription model where they can keep getting revenue without delivering anything useful – As they have just done with v19.1

Beginning with Act! v19.1, this punishment takes the form of the entitlement for Act! Premium being enforced at the .x version level (e.g. 19.0, 19.1, 19.2, etc.).

You can see the message with the new 19.1 updates here:
https://www.act.com/resources/downloads/act!-premium-v19-downloads

19.1 Downloads licenses

It carries this warning: Note: This update requires an active Act! Premium subscription or Business Care plan. Business Care customers will require a new serial number.

So, only those covered by a current subscription will get the update and those only on Business Care will have the additional effort of having to replace all their serial numbers.

That is, if your support for an outright purchase ends with 19.0, you won’t get the in-line updates from 19.1. This is especially silly as the there is nothing new in 19.1 except 70-odd bug fixes, and most of those are just fixes to the dialogue boxes truncating text as can be seen here: http://kb.act.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/36573

I’d also point out that the 19.1 Updates are only listed in the US/CA area and not in the international sections. But then, quite a few updates fail to get posted to the international sections.

Rumour has it that they’ll also be doing this tortuous killing of the reputation of Act! for Pro users from v20, onwards and charging extra for in-line bug fixes.

One hopes they might change their mind on this, but if previous incomprehensible decisions are to go by, they will have completely driven the product into the ground by then. I do pity their users as well as their, soon to be poorer, investors.

Act! Premium for Web and IIS Security – Special Offer!

My next article will cover some serious security vulnerabilities in IIS that nearly all Act! Premium for Web sites I’ve looked at in the past week are open to, including Swiftpage’s Premium Cloud on servers like hosted6.act.com

Should anyone who is hosting APFW systems for themselves or others want me to test your system for these vulnerabilities and, if found, fix this security flaw on their systems before I post them publicly, I can do this remotely at $150 per server. Drop me an email via http://about.me/GLComputing 

No charge if the systems are not exposed to these issues

So you’ve nothing to lose!

Is @Swiftpage the worst vendor for support of #ActCRM? (updated 21Mar17)

Lorcan Malone and Rachel Collie pulled my certification for not removing a tweet within 5 minutes, as I said in the post: Don’t trust @Swiftpage contracts including subscriptions. Other than the breach of their own contract, not once has anyone at Swiftpage asked what led me to the conclusion of that tweet that Swiftpage provided the worst support for Act! of any vendor in my 30 years of supporting the product.

However, I thought it worth identifying some of the issues that lead undeniably to that conclusion. Most of these are related to Australian and New Zealand issues, so your results may vary.

One of the early moves by Bob Ogden was to close the Australian support office, leaving the local users without any direct support. This was replaced by a call centre out of Malaysia.

After many complaints about the quality of support from the off-shore call centre in Malaysia, we were promised by Ogden, Malone and Collie that a new Australian support office would be created. These lies became evident as such when the call centre in India was created.

But the Indian call centre doesn’t, even now, provide support for AEM or SPEM. Meaning that Australian or New Zealand businesses have to resort to calling the US whenever support is required on those Swiftpage products.

Ogden, Malone and Collie have also made a great number of promises to have local “micro-sites” built because the US site no longer has support details for Australian and New Zealand users.

This not only creates challenges for local users but the lack of communication with Swiftpage has led to many little issues within the product itself.

While these are relatively minor issues, they do serve well to illustrate the lack of interest that Swiftpage has in the product or, at least, in this region. I had passed all of these onto Swiftpage during the v18 beta and to Michael Bryant of Act Today during the v19 beta as Michael told me he would pass them on.

I will be doing a future blog article containing more serious bugs and issues.

Act! Premium for Web Unsupported Browsers:

If you attempt to open Act! Premium for Web with an unsupported browser, you’ll get this dialogue:

Act19-UnsupportedBrowser

Clicking on the “Tell Me More” link, will take you to the Act! Supported Browsers page.

You’ll note that this page gives the supported browsers for Act! v17, and isn’t even correct for that version.

It does this on act! versions from v17 to v19.1

 

Australia and New Zealand Welcome Page

Act19-Welcome

After logging into Act! Premium for Web Australian version, you get to this page.

This is a 404 error looking for this URL:
https://www.act.com/inproduct/au/v19/welcome-web

The product group and the web design group at Swiftpage, under Lorcan Malone, have no idea what each other is doing.

Edit: It appears that Swiftpage has partially fixed this one issue by redirecting the AU page to the US one … which, while at least looks better than the 404 Welcome Screen, gives US numbers for support and US resource links.

This shows that, while my asking internally over two years had no effect, making these issues public is the only way Swiftpage will act on them.

Some Other Incorrect Links

  • Help | About | Tech Support - Goes to US site
  • Help | Service and Support | Contact Info - Goes to US site
  • Welcome Screen - Have questions? - Both links go to US site
  • Welcome - Live Demo - US time frame
  • Windows version - All Programs > Act! Connect Link > Act! Connect Link on the Web - Goes to US site with no info on Act! Connect Link

The reality is that the entire process of development, all the way through QA, has such little control and care built in that they can’t even get these simple things right.

Even the recently released v19.1 is basically a set of fixes for display issues that were in v19.

This lack of attention to detail can be shown throughout the product. Many of the other bugs I’ll be posting show that the poor quality control has more serious consequences than the display issues they targeted in v19.1

Don’t trust @Swiftpage contracts including subscriptions.

If you’re thinking of signing any contract with Swiftpage, especially of their atrociously slow joke of a cloud platform, don’t.

Swiftpage do not believe that written contracts need to be kept. Let me give a couple of examples of this.

The first is the Act! Certified Consultants Contract. That they cancelled after 30 years of passionate support for the product.

This is the one I signed:
http://www.slideshare.net/GLComputing/swiftpages-australian-act-certified-consultants-agreement-with-me

Note specifically this section that they pulled my certification under - Section 5.0.2:

Section 5.02 Termination for, and Examples of, Material Breach. Either Party may terminate this Agreement, or Consultant’s authorization for a particular Product, at any time during the Term for material breach by the other Party upon thirty (30) days’ written notice specifying the breach, which termination shall be effective at the end of the thirty (30) day period unless the breach has earlier been cured. Notwithstanding the foregoing, for any material breach of the proprietary rights of a Party, that Party may immediately terminate this Agreement without notice. Without limiting the generality of the term “material breach,” as used herein it shall include, in addition to the breaches specified in Section 2.05, 2.06, and 3.03 above, a Party’s failure to pay any amount due to the other Party, any threat made by one Party to an employee of the other, any threat made to a Customer, and unlawful or unethical business practices.

Here is their termination letter: http://www.slideshare.net/GLComputing/acc-termination-mike-lazarus-110116

Lorcan Malone, via Rachel Collie (who had been trying to get me dumped from the ACC program for a year and had directly cost me multiple contracts) actually gave me 5 minutes as opposed to the 30 days required under the terms of the contract.

I pointed this out to them in my reply: http://www.slideshare.net/GLComputing/reply-to-swiftpage-termination

Even after pointing their flaw out to them, their conclusion was that I lacked the funds to take it to court and fight them, so they simply didn’t care about their breech.

To show how little that Swiftpage staff even care about internal contracts (such as non-disclosure), one of them forwarded me emails between Swiftpage and Michael Bryant of Act Today, where Mr Bryant informed Swiftpage that I “never added any value”. I assume he didn’t see the nearly 15,000 support posts on the Act! Community site (which Swiftpage have now banned me from) or the dozens of other forums where I have been supporting act! for free over the decades.

Together with these comments by Bryant, can you possibly trust organisations like Swiftpage or Act Today to keep your data secure when they care so little about their own data security?

To Cloud your #CRM or Not to Cloud. For that is the question

Cloud Computing

How to make users feel that using cloud can like trekking through a Brazilian jungle.

I’m guessing that many you might be aware of the issue with Amazon’s S3 cloud storage service which led to massive outages across the internet.

So far, Amazon has not given an indication as to the cause.

 

The only news on their site at this time is that the problems have been resolved: https://status.aws.amazon.com/
Amazon

But why did it take down so much of the internet?

Yes, many applications were down for some hours. Buffer, Slack, Trello, and a great many more were unusable (or barely usable) during the time that Amazon had their outage.

According to the Synergy Research Group’s 2017 report, Amazon Web Services owns more than a whopping 40 percent share of the global public cloud services market.Other providers, such as Google, Microsoft and IBM are small players by comparison.

So maybe you can understand that when Amazon coughs, we all get colds.

What does this have to do with CRM?

Remember: There is no cloud, it’s just someone else’s computer

More and more, the major (and not so major) CRM providers have been pushing users to move their data to the vendors’ cloud systems. Even Swiftpage has been doing this with Act!.

Of course, there is a big advantage to the vendor to push for these subscriptions – They don’t have to add any real value to the product in order to keep getting your money. A case in point for this is the lack of any new serious functionality in Act! v19. Something I blogged about, here: What’s coming in Act! v19 – Good, bad or very ugly?

Although, more recently, the vendors have even put their on-premises products on the subscription model (Microsoft’s Office 365 and Swiftpage’s Act! are examples of this strategy to get users paying every year. They’ve both overly inflated the pricing of the “outright purchase” or “perpetual” licenses. They’ve also come down hard on the users who would consider buying outright, by making some features only available on subscription and (as Swiftpage says they’ll be doing for Act!) refusing to provide bug-fix updates within the version you purchased.

What are the advantages and disadvantages to you?

 

Advantages of cloud implementations:

  • No need for server hardware CAPEX
  • The IT costs can be reduced
  • Maintenance, upgrades and support are handled by the vendor
    • This can be an issue when they update their version and break things that you use
  • Can be easier to access from anywhere – This requires extra work for on-premises
  • You, or your IT, are responsible for security if you make it available externally.
  • There used to be a reduced upfront cost for the cloud, when compared to on-premises. But, with more vendors moving their on-premises versions to subscription, this is nolonger an advantage

 

Advantages of on-premises implementations:

  • Retain 100% ownership of your data
    • How well do you trust the vendor to stay in business?
    • What happens to your data if they close?
  • Retain 100% of the integrity of your data
  • Retain 100% of the security of your data
  • Less susceptible to external connectivity
    • Not all areas have great internet access
    • Because Handheld Contact for Act! stores the data on the device, I regard it as the best solution for Act! users with iPhones, iPads, Androids or Blackberrys
  • Less susceptible to an issue like the recent Amazon one
  • Sometimes greater functionality is available in the desktop version
  • Often a wider range of integration possibilities
  • Ability to customise your CRM solution with add-ons or custom written code that might not be possible in a cloud version
 

How about a hybrid solution?

One of the areas that Act! does best at, is the hybrid solution of using both delivery systems.

This can be a useful compromise:

  • You still need your own IT – In-house or out-sourced
  • You might still be susceptible to the security issues above … at both sides.
  • You can pull your data out in any way you choose
  • You are not constrained by internet access and can use the data via an app on your phone or laptop even when out of range.
  • Access to both sets of integration and customisation options.
  • You’d barely notice an outage from Amazon or the software vendor
 

After all this, what’s best for you?

And that’s really the question to ask. Each person will have a quite different view on this.

  • You need to properly document your needs. This article might help: What’s the best CRM?
  • You should try to find a VAR or Consultant who’s unbiased in this area so they can look at YOUR needs, rather than selling you something when there were better options. For some assistance in this area, read: How to pick the right CRM consultant for you

Please add a comment to this post with any thoughts you might have on the subject.