Act! Version 20 – What You Need To Know

Act! v20 - Evolved

This month, Act! Version 20 comes to the market. If you are an existing user, should you upgrade to the new version? It all depends on your technical needs. Here are some reasons why the new version will make your business life more comfortable. It is a combination of improving reliability, enabling mobile work and bringing marketing and sales closer together.

Tip: Most of these improvements are only applicable to Premium Subscription users.




1) Track Your Business Results Easily With Act! Insight

Act! v20 Insight SalesAct! v20 Insight Key

Producing complex business reports each month is a huge pain for many in the sales. What if you could quickly check on the status of your sales pipeline each day? That’s what you can accomplish using Act! Insight. At a glance, this new feature offers the ability to see reports on sales by product, forecasted sales and won vs lost sales.

Tip: If you manage a sales team or own a business, Act! Insight is especially useful. The “Business Health” summary gives you precise data on your company’s operations and health. Make it a daily habit to check on these metrics, and you will avoid nasty surprises at month end.

Tip: Many of the Insight graphs are improvements on the current Dashboard function. However, at this time I have been using both Views of data as I have built some Dashboards that I have not yet been able to replicate with Insight.

2) Speak Your Notes and Listen for Answers By using Amazon Alexa

Survey after survey tells us that entering data into your CRM is a chore. That problem will start to come to an end because Act! will now support Amazon Alexa.

You might recall the scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, where they spend some time in 1986 San Francisco. Scotty, the chief engineer, has to use a PC and he picks up the mouse and tries speaking into it – “Hello Computer.”

Having picked up flip-phones, tablets and other devices from this program, it does seem natural for us to continue to realise the best ideas of their writing team.

Introduced in 2014, the Amazon Echo device is the primary to interact with Alexa, a voice-activated assistant. While you may not have an Amazon Echo in your office yet, the device offers exciting potential – the ability to ask for reports and add data by speaking will save you plenty of time. It’s true there are some limitations with voice recognition (e.g. ensuring control over confidential client data). However, the technology is likely to be a godsend for those who hate to type or merely prefer to speak. If you were already interested in voice recognition, now you will have an opportunity to use the technology for business.

Tip: A current list of commands available can be accessed at this Knowledgebase Article:
What commands are available for use with the Act! Premium skill for Amazon Alexa?

Tip: At this time, this function is not supported in Australia / New Zealand. I am still trying to determine the reason for this and an estimate of when it will be.

Tip: If you decide to invest in Amazon Alexa, you can use it for much more than Act!. You can use it to play music, check bank account balances (depends on whether you have a bank).

3) Improved Mobile Experience – Act! Mobile Companion

Act! Companion - MapsAct! Companion - InsightIn the past, mobile apps were not that powerful. You had to open up your computer to do real work. Act!’s improved mobile app, Act! Companion, is available for Android and iOS, is starting to address that problem. You can quickly schedule follow up appointments with prospects and log your calls easier.

You can now call and email contacts directly through the Act! Companion. That means no more time copying and pasting phone numbers from emails on your phone. Even better, Act! Companion gives you your recent history directly on the mobile app. That means you can prepare better for sales meetings faster and stay coordinated with others in your company. Act! Companion also has map support so you can get to your appointments on time.

Note: Act! Companion is included with the subscription version of the product. If you are on the fence about whether to sign up for the subscription version, it’s worth it to get Act! Companion.

4) Improved E-commerce Integration

Does your company run an e-commerce store? If so, many of the operational processes are likely automated such as shipping and generating invoices. In the midst of that automation, there are three reasons why integrating Act! with your e-commerce provider is a smart idea. First, this integration gives your sales staff the ability to lavish extra attention on high-value customers. Second, you can use e-commerce data such as a customer’s purchase history to inform your Act! marketing campaigns. Third, you can use that data to carry out analyse your business operations (e.g. avoid running out of popular items and better understand your margins).

Act! supports integration with a variety of the most popular e-commerce platforms: BigCommerce, Ecwid, Etsy, Shopify, Volusion, and WooCommerce. Additionally, it can also bring in sales history from many common accounts products.

5) Improving Act!’s Subscription Product

As with other software products, the subscription version of Act! continues to improve. For example, the mobile app – Act! Companion – is included in the subscription, as is Act! Insight. If you have not already switched to a subscription license, the improvements offered through version 20 are an excellent reason to switch now. If you use the subscription version of Act! in conjunction with a cloud offering, you do not have to worry about losing your data due to a computer failure – it is all stored on secure servers.

Tip: Switching to a subscription license means that you will receive a steady stream of updates

6) Improved Microsoft Outlook integration

Microsoft Outlook remains one of the world’s most popular email applications. If you are comfortable using Outlook, rest assured that Act! continues to improve its Outlook integration. For you, that means a more stable experience and reduced issues. You can focus on selling instead of keeping your software operational. Whether you use Microsoft Office 2010, 2013 or 2016, Act! is compatible with each version.

I have personally found that the Outlook integration in v20 is more stable than it has been for some time. Swiftpage has also stated that some Outlook integration improvements are being worked on and scheduled to be included in v20.1.

What if your company uses G Suite, Google’s professional set of services for calendar, email and other applications? Don’t worry. Act! integrates with Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Contacts. For more information on the Google integration, see this article:
How to set preferences for Google and Gmail Integration in Act!

7) Optimised Emarketing Workflow

Act! v20 EmarketingAct! v20 Emarketing Call List






Act! users who are leveraging the power of Act! Emarketing can now manage campaigns through an intuitive, optimised workflow within Act!. Users can quickly and easily execute campaigns and track results from five newly designed views – Overview, Options, Create, Send and Track with full-screen Call Lists – all fully integrated within Act!

8) Better working experience for Apple users

Apple users are used to a seamless user experience. Act! version 20 delivers on that expectation by adding support for the Chrome for Mac web browser. As a result, you now have more flexibility to use Act! on your Apple computer. Apple users also have the option to use the Act! Companion on iOS devices like the iPhone. Version 20 also delivers a better Act! / Office for Mac integration.

Note: This still requires a local or cloud-based Window server

9) Dozens of “under the hood” quality improvements

Any piece of complex software accumulates bugs over time. The important question is what efforts are carried out to solve those problems. Mail merge, reports, company views and errors with contacts are just a few of the fixes that will make Act! version 20 easier to use. All told, these improvements save you time. To receive a steady stream of updates, make sure you sign up for the subscription version of Act!.

Resource: Curious to know more about all the technical fixed that went into Act! version 20? Read What's new in Act! v20 for further details.

Planning Your Next Move With Act!

The latest version of Act! brings a variety of new analytics and automation features to the table. Like any piece of software, you may not use every feature every day. Instead, ask yourself a different question: what if I could make my week 5% more productive by using this software? For your field staff, the improved Act! Companion app may mean the difference between staying late at the office on a Friday and getting home on time.

To find out if Act! version 20 is right for your business, contact me to request a free assessment. We will go through a few short questions and find out if it will add value to your business.

Click here to get in touch with me – Or post a comment to this article

CRM Benefits for Your Sales Professionals

Act! CRM for Sales ProfessionalsFor company owners and managers, an effective CRM program works wonders in helping you to measure and improve your business.

What about your sales staff? What benefit does it have for them? That is the question we will explore here. After all, if management fails to “sell” CRM to the staff, you will not get much benefit from using the CRM. To make that “internal sale,” here are the key CRM benefits for sales professionals.


1. More repeat orders and business from past customers

Asking a previous customer to buy again is much easier than attracting a new one. We all know that. However, most of us lack a systematic process to maintain relationships with past customers which means repeat sales are less likely. Adopting a CRM program makes it easier to manage customer relationships by providing you with notes, order activity and reminders to get in touch with past customers.

Tip: Use Act!’s Smart Task feature to remind you to get in touch with customers. Let’s take real estate as a quick example, Set a “time delay” on the Smart Task for 3-6 months after the sale. At that point, you will be reminded to get in contact with your customer. If they are satisfied, this is an excellent time to ask for a referral or surprise them with a gift.

2. Improve sales results on complex deals

Selling to a bank or another large company is often a long and drawn out process. I have seen cases where the buying process can take months or even more than a year. With millions of dollars in revenue at stake, staying involved is well worth the effort. Just think about how complicated the process can become! Each month, you may meet new people at your target company whom all have different interests and concerns. If you fail to keep those concerns straight, you are likely to ruffle feathers and lose the order.

Keep all your data, notes and observations in the CRM makes everything much easier in a complex sale. This same process also applies to high-value professional sales such as investment management, law and accounting. Attempting to keep all of that information clear in your head is asking for failure.

3. Spend more time with customers

Every month, your managers will probably ask you for reports and other data about your sales activities. Compiling these reports is a headache that nobody wants. You may not be able to eliminate reporting entirely, but you can cut it down substantially by using Act! once you have your desired reports in place.

Tip: If you save an hour per week from administration, that time savings will not automatically translate into higher income. To achieve that benefit, use that new time on high-value activities like prospecting for your dream clients.

4. Get better leads from the marketing department

Remember the classic sales movie “Glengarry Glen Ross?”

In the scene with Alec Baldwin’s characters, underperforming salesmen complain that “the leads are weak.” Baldwin’s character tears them apart for complaining about the leads. It may be one of the most iconic depictions of sales in pop culture. Too bad it is misleading!

In reality, the value of your leads may be weak! By keeping notes on your leads in Act!, you will be able to notice patterns. You may find that inbound leads who download a white paper are much more interested in hearing from you than any other type of lead. Once you understand that point, meet with your marketing colleagues to share your experiences, so they know what to continue.

Why do better leads matter? A higher quality lead is more likely to buy and become a long-term customer. Even better, you will reduce the pain and frustration of rejection dramatically. All of these benefits are possible by thoroughly using a CRM.

5. A full CRM keeps the sales manager away

Let’s face it: nobody likes to be nagged at the office or at home. If you are disciplined in keeping your deals up to date in the CRM, you will never hear another complaint from your manager again. That means less awkward conversations at the office for you. Isn’t that peace of mind alone worth 15 minutes a day to keep your CRM notes up to date?

Tip: If your company uses a “balanced scorecard” approach to performance reviews, check to see if consistent CRM use fits with that process.

6. You can make a better case for a pay increase

How can using your company CRM consistently help you to win a raise? Your manager may want to reward good performance. However, she needs to show a business case for that decision. Revenue numbers alone may be enough in some cases. Your request will be even more compelling if you can demonstrate that you are also keeping reliable records on your customers. Keeping those records demonstrates that you are committed to the CRM program. Showing you have a repeatable process to bring in new business – as documented by your actions in Act! – helps your manager understand that you can continue to develop stellar results.

Keep Growing: Our Two Recommended Sales Books

By the way, you do not have to stop with a CRM when it comes to helping your sales staff to improve. The following two books are industry classics for a reason – you can read them multiple times and profit each time. Each book is available in print, digital or audio format so even your field reps can access the books.

SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham.

Relying on a large scale research study into effective sales practices in B2B sales, this book explains a simple process you can use to make sales over and over again. By navigating the sales conversation through the “SPIN” process, your staff will be able to make more sales. What if your team does not have enough prospects? That is where our next title comes into the picture.

The Ultimate Selling Machine by Chet Holmes.

While much of the book is aimed at company owners and managers, your sales staff can also profit from reading this book. Holmes advocates focus in the prospecting process such as creating a list of your “Dream 20” clients and then pursuing them systematically. Holmes also shows how education based marketing plays a key role in attracting prospects to your organisation.

The Path To Low Stress Sales: 6 Reasons To Use a CRM like Act! In Your Business

Act-propel-productivityThink back to the start of your business. You may have been the only one generating sales, serving customers and keeping the books. Once your business achieves some growth, you will start to add a few sales staff. Now you have a problem. As a manager, you are a few steps removed from the sales process. How can you be sure your sales team are spending their time productively?

Whether you own the company or manage the sales department, you need high quality, timely information about the sales group. In my experience, using a CRM (customer relationship management) tool like Act! is critical to improving productivity, reliability and sales effectiveness in a growing business. Let’s start with the benefits for sales managers and company owners.

1. Never miss another customer opportunity

Following up with customer questions and inquiries is critical to close sales. If your sales staff are “managing” customer follow up from their inbox, you are likely losing sales opportunities. By using Act! to monitor and manage interactions with clients and prospects, you can keep your staff focused on the opportunities that matter. For example, you can track when a prospect’s contract with a competitor is set to expire. That tracking allows you to focus your resources on higher value sales opportunities. At a minimum, you should strive to follow up on leads within two business days to keep up with other companies:

Insight: According to – Kayak Online Marketing:
“The average company takes 44 hours to respond to leads.”

Applying Act! To Your Business: Finding the “hot leads” for your business makes the sales process much easier. I recommend using Act’s Intelligent Call Lists feature to identify these leads. Calling a lead who has opened your weekly email newsletter for the past three weeks within minutes of receiving it may be a great fit for your business.

2. Detect high-performance sales activities and stars

Almost every sales team has one or two stars – the professional who significantly outperforms everyone else. They could be the person who never seems to have a “bad month” or who brings in the most profitable deals. Detecting the patterns behind these issues is difficult if you lack a system to organise the information. By using Act!, you can more quickly identify the indicators associated with top performance. For example, you may find that top performers routinely hit an individual activity metric each day (e.g. ten outbound messages to prospects attracted through inbound marketing). You can detect some of these patterns by using Act! to supplement your observations. With these insights, you can improve the productivity of your current sales staff and improve training for new hires.

Management Tip: Create a top performers report in Act! That shows your most productive sales staff and related metrics (e.g. number of deals, days elapsed to close the deal, new vs existing account and other measures).

Act! v19 Dashboard

3. Reduce sales administration time

Let’s say that your sales staff spend 4-8 hours per week on administration today. That covers everything from keeping up with email, filing orders and interacting with others parts of your company. While necessary, those efforts take time away generating new sales opportunities. By using Act!, you can cut that administration time significantly. For example, you can integrate email to Act! so that lead files are updated more quickly. Every automation measure means more time is available to deepen client relationships and start new ones.

Save Time Using Act! – With the “Smart Tasks” feature, you can make sure that your sales staff never miss another follow up with a potential customer. That is critical because larger value sales require you to build trust over time.

4. Deepen relationships at larger firms

It is easier to sell more to existing customers than attract new customers. Despite that truth, many companies do not have a systematic approach to their sales. Let’s say you were doing business with a division of BHP or IBM. There’s a good chance that other parts of the organisation could benefit from your products. However, selling more to a large firm often involves extensive research to discover the decision makers, subject matter experts and political situation. Asking your sales staff to keep track of this data without Act! is asking for trouble.

If you serve large, complex customers (or if you want to expand to that segment), a fully implemented CRM solution is critical.

5. Save time on accounting and customer service

Closing a sale on the phone or in a meeting is exciting for sales professionals. To maintain an excellent customer experience, the subsequent steps of your business process need to function smoothly. For example, issuing an accurate, complete quote or invoice to the client makes a positive impression. By integrating Act! with your accounting system, your sales staff save time in producing invoices and quotes and your accounting team has less paperwork to process.

Tip: If your company uses Quickbooks, Xero, or MYOB, you can easily integrate Act! into your accounting systems.

6. Start using email marketing to improve the bottom line

“A June 2016 survey of US marketers conducted by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and Demand Metric found that email had a median ROI of 122%—more than four times higher than other marketing formats examined, including social media, direct mail and paid search.” - eMarketer

Email marketing remains one of the most effective marketing methods on the market. Why? It all comes back to permission. If your prospects and clients have signed up to receive marketing email, you have direct access to your customers. If you are new to email marketing, there is a learning curve to get started. However, it is well worth the effort because of the high ROI email marketing delivers.

Act! makes it easy to get started with email marketing by providing an easy to use editor and templates. That means you can get started without paying for expensive graphic design services.

How do you “sell” your sales staff on adopting Act! in their daily work? We will cover that question in our next article.

Working with Act! again

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It has been a few months since I last posted on the status of where I am with Swiftpage and the direction of the product. In that time, I have received numerous requests for an update.

After a call back in March from John Oechsle, Swiftpage's CEO, and Rowan Koons, SVP and GM, followed by four months of detail discussions on how to continually improve the product and user experience, we have reached an agreement for how I can best continue to serve Act! and the broader Act! Community.

Swiftpage has recognised my expertise and passion, and as part of this working together, Swiftpage has endorsed me as an “Act! Certified Expert, sanctioned by Swiftpage” as at 1 August 2017.

I have also been fortunate, during these conversations, to have had a look at the future direction of roadmap for Act!. This has made me more excited to be working with them to try and bring these to market for you.

My Current Focus

It does have elements of the position of "P.O.P.E" as originally suggested as a comment in this LinkedIn thread from four years ago - https://www.linkedin.com/groups/49896/49896-214593198 by Paul Marentette, of Uptime Solutions in Canada, and seconded by many others including Bob Ogdon, Chairman and Founder of Swiftpage.

We have highlighted the following ways to work together:

1. Initially examining areas of the current build (19.2 Update 3), with a focus on MS-Office integration and other areas that users might suggest.

2. Become active again in the Act! Community Site and my Linkedin Act! Fanatics Group. Not just in supporting users, as I have done for many years, but also creating an analysis of the posts to identify the areas that users have the most issues with (usability or flaws).

3. Assist Swiftpage in updating and enhancing Act! Knowledgebase articles.

4. Alpha and Beta testing v20 as soon as it is available.

After this, I hope to assist Swiftpage in improving Act! eMarketing, WebAPI, Mobile Companion, and other areas. I also intend to help them enhance their relationships with the Act! Certified Consultants and other resellers channel.

Help Me To Help You

I have some requests for you, the Act! Fanatic community (users and the resale channel alike):

1. I would like to examine any systems where Act! v19 is having issues with Outlook integration. At this time, I would be happy to take on about three sites per week.
NOTE: This is a NO CHARGE offer - No charge to the user or reseller.

2. Could you please post, as a comment to this blog article, or in the LinkedIn Group, or via private communication to me, any bugs or areas where you think I should allocate additional time. If I do not understand your point, I may contact you to see it remotely on your system.

3. Please also comment in the forums above with any subjects that I could generate a blog article that you think could improve your use of Act!. I do have some ideas that I have not seen done before, but I would still value your opinions.

The Future

This agreement is a great opportunity for me, for the product and for the community of users who have been behind the product for up to 30 years.

Those of you who know me know that I will throw everything I have into testing every function I can - as a user. I will work with other users in the forums, via email or phone, to find the issues that matter most in keeping you productive. Then I will work to try and replicate the issues so that I can report them accurately to QA and Development so they can work on fixing them.

Once this is underway, I hope to also have a small say in helping them prioritise their resources so that they can deliver the best possible solution for us all and make Act! as great a product as we all know it can be.

About four years ago, a user asked me what I would do if the vendor put me in charge of the product. At that time, I described a roadmap over two-three years that I thought would be necessary without the funds of an Apple or Google. I still believe that, over a similar time-frame, we can have a leading solution again.

Please feel free to post any questions or comments you have on this.

Regards,

Mike Lazarus
Act! Evangelist

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.

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.

 

A warning about uninstallers – this time the MS Office one

Warning-DangerA little warning ...

Due to an issue with an Office Runtime installation on a Windows 2012 R2 Server, I decided to use this official Microsoft tool to remove all traces of MS Office: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Uninstall-Office-2016-Office-2013-or-Office-365-from-a-PC-9dd49b83-264a-477a-8fcc-2fdf5dbf61d8

However, it not only removed all traces of the Office Runtime, it wiped many of the exe and dll files across many folders in the Program Files and Program Files(x86) folders as well as some in the Windows System folder.

I have no idea why and haven’t had the time to delve into it ... but it reminded me of when I found that the Act! Uninstaller for v9 would wipe files in other programs' folders and in the Windows folder itself if it didn’t see Act! in the default install folder.

I just thought I'd post this to remind people to backup systems before running uninstallers. In my case, I can rebuild the VM pretty quickly, but would be less happy if this happened on a client system where not everything was as easy to restore.

 

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What’s coming in Act! v19 – Good, bad or very ugly? #ActCRM

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As Swiftpage is expected to release Version 19 of Act! this week, I thought I’d post a summary of what to expect with this release.

Update 13th January 2016 with first look opinion on the Act! Companion.

64-bit MS-Office Compatibility

Microsoft OfficeAct! will now work with 64-bit versions of some Microsoft Office applications: 
Outlook, Word and Excel. While their marketing is making claims about Act! being “64-bit compatible”, it’s just the MS-Office integration that has changed.

It has taken a long time for Swiftpage to do this. However, I have found several disappointing bugs with the new version, with both 64-bit and 32-bit versions of Office 2016.

These include incorrect handling of international data and some functions just crash and kick you out of Act!

Swiftpage have decided they don’t want to hear about bugs I uncover, so I’m not aware if they even know about these, yet. I will provide more details in a future post.

At this time, I would avoid upgrading to version 19 if Office integration is important to you.

Act! Companion mobile app*

Act! Companion mobile app

I haven’t had access to this product to test, so I don’t know how reliable it is.
Certainly the functionality of it doesn’t come close to Handheld Contact.

Here’s a screen shot and summary from their marketing guff:

Act! Companion mobile app - screen shotStay connected to key Act! Premium details when on the move with Act! Companion — a native mobile app designed for your iPhone® or Android™

  • Contact, activities and history are available. Users get alerted when new contacts, activities or history items are created.
  • Capture notes during meetings
  • Email or call your Act! Premium contacts from the app
  • Do work in a social way with @mentions and simple text updates
  • Intelligent notifications sent directly to the home screen of your phone keep you on task and on time

They say it will support iOS versions 9.x and up, and Android Lollipop, KitKat, and Marshmallow

Their marketing acknowledges that this doesn’t have the functionality to replace their Act! Premium Mobile product.

Update after some testing:

  • When the Login fails, it gives no indication of why
  • The fields are not named the same as they are in Act!, causing confusion.
  • The buttons are very small and not easy to select
  • Search doesn’t seem to work
  • Most of my activities aren’t showing
  • Notifications don’t show enough detail to let you know what the activity actually is
  • The adding of History, add a To-Do with a Blank Regarding

I honestly can’t believe that anyone who uses Act! actually tested this in beta. It’s not release quality.

Additionally, It requires the v19 WebAPI, which has some serious security implications that I’ll be blogging on in the future. I don’t recommend installing or using the WebAPI at this time.

Note: This feature will only be available to Premium subscribers. Users of Pro won’t have it.

Act! Premium Contact Link*

I’m not sure why Swiftpage list this as a new feature.
This is NOT something new for v19 as it has already been available in v18 Premium

Act! Premium Contact in Outlook Act! Premium Contact in Outlook

The functions included are:

  • Create new Act! Premium contacts or edit existing ones. But it doesn’t correctly handle international data and only lets you add/edit a very small range of fields
  • You can schedule new activities with the contacts – But only if you are scheduling To-dos.
  • You can view some of the history of the contacts
  • Attach the text of an Outlook email to contacts – With less functionality than the normal Outlook integration.

While it does look pretty, it is at best a proof concept idea and not ready for prime time
It’s slow, clumsy and lacks functionality available in the standard Outlook integration for Act!.
I’d guess that no-one that really uses Act! had a hand in it’s design.
Which sadly seems common for functions that Swiftpage have been adding.

It requires the v18 or v19 WebAPI, which has some serious security implications that I’ll be blogging on in the future. I don’t recommend installing or using the WebAPI at this time.

Note: This feature is only be available to Premium subscribers. Users of Pro won’t have it.

Act! emarketing improvements

Swiftpage have made the following improvements to their Act! emarketing

  • Send Act! emarketing campaigns up to 5 times faster
  • Campaign management improvements:
    • Get instant feedback on your current Act! emarketing service level before sending email campaigns
    • Quickly and easily see email campaign history for a given contact
    • Don’t worry about accidental sends! A send confirmation dialog will now check to make sure you’re ready to send an email campaign
  • Enhanced send email campaign dialog - See live details about your contact limit, usage this month, and new recipients
  • Campaign history overwrite creates and updates one history entry

The Act! emarketing product still has a very long way to go in order to match competitive products like MailChimp (which can be integrated with Act!), or even their own (seemingly forgotten) Swiftpage emarketing for Act!.

The only reason to not consider a better emarketing system is if you’re only using Act! Premium Web.
The Act! emarketing product is the only one that currently works with the web version.

Customer-­driven feature enhancements

Swiftpage’s marketing lists a section called “Customer-­driven feature enhancements”. It’s a shame that they don’t listen to customers with their other features.

  • Refreshed standard reports with some minor improvements. There is hope that they’ll be adding integration with Microsoft’s Power BI sometime in the future to add the type of reporting functionality that users really need.
  • Added more functions to the Web and Cloud versions, that were previously only in the Windows desktop product:
    • Scan for duplicates
    • Formatting toolbar in the Layout Designer
  • Defects fixed. You can see an extensive list of fixes listed in this Act! Knowledgebase Article: What's new in Act! v19

Final Comment

All in all, it’s a pretty poor effort of an upgrade. More like an 18.5 than a v19. While there is an extensive list of bug-fixes, it seems the new functions have added plenty of bugs of their own.

I’d strongly advise holding off any upgrades unless you require integration with 64-bit Office. Sadly, those using Swiftpage’s Cloud product won’t have an option as their Cloud is likely to be updated on the first weekend after release.

Also, as I stated above, I’d avoid installing WebAPI, at least until Swiftpage chooses to address the security issues in it. They also really need to improve it’s functionality to be close to what’s been available for a long time with the Act! SDK such as UI modifications and the creation/using of custom tables.

I find it very saddening to see, after 30 years I have supported the product, that what is essentially a set of bug fixes is masquerading as a “new” version.