I am feeling more positive for the direction of Sage ACT! at this time than I have been for a few years. Those of you who have seen some of my posts in the LinkedIN ACT! Fanatics Group will know that I have had some issues over the past 5 years with the way that Sage management has been developing the product and especially with their head-in-the-sand approach in avoiding any communication with the users.
ACT! is still one of the best and most loved products in its class. Its millions of users worldwide depend on its operation and ease-of-use to run and grow their businesses by maintaining and tracking the relationships we have with our contacts.
Well, last year, there was a change at the top and Dan Wilzoch took over as General Manager for the product. My conversations with him have so far been quite positive. The best sign that this is a positive change, is that, while there has been a loss of a number of staff who really knew the product and the needs of it’s users … this time they have promoted one of the ACT! stars, Benjamin Lederer, to the position of Product Manager.
For those who don’t know Ben, he’s been with Sage since 2005 (and Symantec before that) in a variety of technical, development and product management roles. I have spoken to him many times and I can tell you he knows the product. He talks to those that deal with the users and he understands how to make the technology work. I have had situations where I had explained a bug to a number of Sage staff and nothing was done. A 10 minute call from Ben for me to explain the cause I had identified and he had it fixed quickly in a patch.
His first responsibility as Product Manager will be ACT! 2013 Service Pack 1 – due January 8th.
The best thing about the management change, so far, has been that Ben has already been communicating the intended road map publicly …
For Service Pack 1, Ben has stated the following:
- Microsoft Windows 8 and IE10 certification.
Note: IE10 works in 2 modes, Regular and Metro.In Metro (the full-screen app), Microsoft has not included ActiveX controls, so ACT! won’t have word processing or reports in that mode
- Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2011 and Windows Server Server 2012
This includes improving the APFW installer to work in SBS environments. This will have a positive effect on any deployment that has existing 64 bit web services (SharePoint, Exchange) and reduce the setup problems after ACT! is installed
- Microsoft Office version 15 (2013)
Note: This will be unofficial support at first. They have removed the code that would prevent you from using this product. It will still require Office to be installed in 32bit as Microsoft still hasn’t added the ActiveX controls to the 64bit version. But, this really doesn’t make a difference unless needing spreadsheets larger than 3GB and Microsoft recommends the 32bit install as I posted in a comment to this blog article
Microsoft has added a new feature in Outlook that will create some problems. Now you can reply to emails within the preview pane. Actions performed in the preview pane do not trigger any add-ons. The Microsoft third party developer groups are looking for ways around this, but as of now no workarounds are available. If you use Outlook the way you always have, we suspect there will be no problems. If you use the preview pane to reply to messages history will not be recorded.
- Other Enhancements
- All record type checkboxes are now checked by default in the Copy/Move Data wizard
- Database Startup view preference can now be any relevant view
- Significant changes to the social media integration – see the Screencast demo Ben posted here
- Over 25 customer reported bug fixes
This is a big improvement on the previous management who didn’t add Office 2010 support till the next paid upgrade rather than patching it in the current build.
There are still a number of issues with international data (phone numbers, dates and currency) both in the core product and in Premium Web. I have suggested to Ben that he calls me so I can properly explain these. Hopefully he’ll take me up on the offer as soon as he has time.
I will be posting some articles soon on mobility and social media for ACT! users as well as data security and a look at how hosted or SaaS. I think these are areas that are becoming more important to all of us.
Please add a comment to this article if there’s any topic you’d like me to address in a future article or if there are specific areas you think Sage needs to improve in the product. But remember that not all feature requests can be added as I explain in the article: How Are Product Management Decisions Made?
Well, that’s all for now … I hope you all have a successful 2013 and that Sage ACT! continues to help grow your business.