Getting ACT! on your phone

A comparison of various PDA links for ACT! by Sage

This is an excerpt of the PDF: Getting ACT! on your phone

Mobility has been one of the great driving forces behind the use of ACT!. From the ability to sync to laptops (originally supported with ACT! 2.0 for DOS) to PDAs (since the HP95LX version in 1992) and even Web versions, people have found the need to provide access to remote users and to staff on the road to be an essential aspect to their management of customer relationships and of their staff.

I previously described many of the options for remote access of ACT! by Sage in the post:
Supporting Remote Users with ACT! by Sage

With the high uptake of "smart phones", there are now a wide variety of options available depending on your needs and I thought it would be useful to take a look at these and compare them.

The contents of this document are the result of over 60 separate installs in various configurations over a two month period.

Disclosure: I have been using Handheld Contact (on both Blackberry and iPhone) since switching from CompanionLink nearly ten years ago. I also support Handheld Contact resellers and users in Asia Pacific. However, I shall endeavour to provide an accurate an un-biased analysis of all the products.

 

The products included in this evaluation:

Testing environment:

  • Windows XP Professional SP3 (with all updates) on domain
  • Office 2007 SP2 (with all updates)
  • Exchange 2003 6.5 SP2 (with all updates)
  • Blackberry Pearl 8100 with OS 4.5.0.102 via BES
  • iPhone 3GS 32GB with OS 3.1.3 via Exchange OWA
  • HTC Touch Duel with Windows Mobile 6 Professional via ActiveSync 4.5
  • All regional settings set to Australia, Sydney

Areas included in evaluation:

  • Supported ACT! versions
    • Method of sync
    • USB
    • Wireless via sync server
    • Via other software such as Outlook, Exchange, Google Apps
  • What ACT! data is supported
    • Contact fields
      • number of fields
      • data types and formatting
      • pull downs
      • field level security
    • Activities
      • linking to correct contacts (or multiple contacts)
      • clearing activities
      • viewing and scheduling for other users
      • custom activities
    • Notes / Histories
      • viewing
      • creating on the road (including from emails, phone calls and SMS)
      • linking to multiple contacts
    • Sales Opportunities - viewing and creating
    • International issues - date and phone number formats
  • Other functions
  • Administration
    • Ease of setup and implementation
    • Ability to control what each user has access to
    • Data reliability
    • Security
  • Support issues

 

Conclusions

After doing far more testing that I had planned for this document, my recommendation for the best product is Handheld Contact Professional for the following reasons:

  • It is by far the easiest and fastest product to setup and implement and it's just as easy for a single user setup on a local PC as for a 100+ user setup on a network using a computer dedicated to Handheld Contact
  • It is the easiest product to administer and maintain without technical skills
  • It provides the most "ACT!-like" experience on the phones it supports
  • It is a fully integrated application with Contacts, Activities and Notes/Histories in the one interface
  • Using its own application means that recording of emails, sms and call history can be automatically tracked and synced back to ACT!
  • It is one of only three products I couldn't cause to duplicate data in the ACT! database - the others being Handheld Contact Basic and 123 Synchronizer
  • It is one of only two products that operate using a Windows service, which I think is important for network security. The other being ACT! Mobile Live

* A useful point to note for the future: Handheld Contact is working to incorporate the full Sales Opportunity tables as well as those of Accounts Master! towards the end of this year. That will mean Handheld Contact Professional users will be able to view the sales history with their customers, but also to be able to create invoices from the road. Accounts Master! will integrate many accounting/ERP systems into ACT! and Handheld Contact.

It's only negatives are that it's limited to specific devices (Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Mobile Professional) and that the amount of data it requires means that on Blackberry there is a lower contact limit... although this limit is about to be significantly raised in an expected upgrade

My 2nd choice was, to be honest, a surprise to me. I hadn't played with 123 Synchronizer before and was surprised how solid it appeared. If you are using devices that are not supported by Handheld Contact Professional or if your business wants their ACT! data to synchronise with Outlook/Exchange, then this is the way to go.

  • It is the only product other than Handheld Contact where I didn't manage to cause to duplicate data in the ACT! database
  • While it didn't run as a service, it does have the option to be called from a command line and run without requiring a user account to be logged into Windows.

The only negatives I found are that it can be quite complex to set up in some configurations - I recommend using an ACT! Consultant - but check that they have done implementations of this product first. Also that it relies on Outlook/Exchange and possibly another product if you want wireless - while this would suit most users, you should check this before selecting it.

If you are running ACT! versions prior to Sage or using a device not supported by Handheld Contact and also not using Outlook, then Companionlink is the choice. But be careful to keep good backups in case of duplication issues. Doublelook really needs to have the option to run as a service to be really considered as an “Enterprise” product.

The free links should really be treated as a one-way option (from ACT! to the phone). The ability to cause problems in ACT! going both ways makes this a poor choice

Regarding ACT! Mobile Live, having supported ACT! since 1987, it really pains me to say I would not advise users to consider this as a realistic option under any circumstances. It has been 20 months since Sage first publically announced the beta of this product. They would be doing a favour to their users and VARs if they either started from scratch or dropped it and purchased one of the other products.

For full details, please see: