Handheld Contact to put ACT! on your iPhone

With Handheld Contact for iPhone you'll be able to wirelessly sync your ACT! Contacts, Calendar, Activities, Notes, Histories and more.

Update: Handheld Contact for iPhone is now available to select users in beta with expected release in April 2010. To obtain this version now, please contact GL Computing.

If you haven’t yet purchased an iPhone, you might read this article on why I prefer Blackberry over iPhone for business users

Here are some samples of how it’s expected to look:


Preview of Handheld Contact for iPhone


The History of ACT! – updated July 2013

A couple of users asked me about the history of ACT!, so I thought I'd post what I could remember:
  • 1986 Conductor Software (Mike Muhney and Pat Sullivan) developed QuotePro in Lotus Symphony. When this failed to be successful, they came up with another idea...
  • 1987 ACT! for DOS 1.0 (April 1st) - previously codenamed “YES!” – a recursive acronym for "Yes, Everybody Sells!". ACT! was also originally an acronym - first for "Activity Control Technology" and later "Automated Contact Tracking", before becoming just "ACT!"
  • 1988 Conductor Software renamed to Contact Software International on the advice of marketing gurus and authors, Jack Trout and Al Ries. They were also helped, in the early days by PR “Top Guns”, Regis McKenna - where Steve Jobs turned to for help for his fledgling company called Apple
  • 1990 ACT! for DOS 2.0 (August) - first version with network support
  • 1991 ACT! for Windows 1.0 - CodeBase IV engine compatible with dBase
  • 1992 ACT! for Windows 2.0 - Added network support for the Windows product
  • 1992 ACT! for HP95LX - the first mobile version for PDAs
  • 1992 ACT!PAK! - first add-on for ACT! developed by Oakhurst Systems
  • 1992 1st ACT! - cut down version for OEMs and single users.
  • 1993 Symantec purchased Contact Software International
  • 1993 First On-line support forums on CompuServe
  • 1993 ACT! for MAC - compatible database with 2.0 for Windows
  • 1995 ACT! for Newton
  • 1995 ACT! Mobile Link - two way sync for remote users
  • 1996 ACT! for Lotus Notes - later sold to original developers, ErgoTech
  • 1996 ACT! 3.0 (November) - Win95 product with added back-wards compatibility to run on Win 3.1
  • 1997 Symantec adds support for ACT! in WinFax Pro
  • 1997 ACT! PalmPilot Link (later ACT! Palm Link)
  • 1997 ACT! for Windows CE (July)
  • 1998 ACT! 4.0 - Added support for Windows 98 and Office 98
  • 1998 ACT! for Psion by Advansys 
  • 1998 WiredContact makes ACT! available via web browser and hosting
  • 1999 Symantec sold ACT! to SalesLogix (later Interact Commerce Corporation) - headed by Pat Sullivan, original co-founder of ACT!
  • 2000 ACT! 2000 (5.0) - Windows XP support added
  • 2002 QuickBooks Link for ACT! - the first accounting link FOR ACT!. Developed by Terry McKiernan of PinPointTools
  • 2002 Interact Commerce Purchased by Sage Group Plc (Best Software in North America)
  • 2002 ACT! 6.0 (later ACT! 2004) – Office 2003 support added
  • 2002 ACT! for Palm OS
  • 2003 Handheld Contact adds support for ACT! on Blackberry
  • 2003 ACT! for Web 1.0 for ACT! 6.0 - originally by dbDynamics
  • 2004 ACT! by Sage 2005 (7.0) - Complete re-write with .Net 1.x and MS SQL 2000
  • 2005 ACT! by Sage 2006 (8.0)
  • 2006 ACT! by Sage 2007 (9.0) - Changed to .Net 2.0 and MS SQL 2005
  • 2007 ACT! by Sage 2008 (10.0) - MS Vista and Office 2007 support. 10.02 added ability to add custom sub-tables via the SDK.
  • 2008 Launch of Community.act.com site (January) – Much improved communication between senior management and users
  • 2008 ACT! by Sage 2009 (11.0) – New Dashboard. Significantly improved Outlook integration and major improvements in stability, reliability, ease of install and speed. Added Vista x64 support and Safari for MAC users. Also free plug-in to provide links to Social Media such as LinkedIN
  • 2009 ACT! by Sage 2009 (11.1) – Added Relationship Tab. Expected in March?
  • 2009 Handheld Contact adds support for iOS – iPhone (iPad later)
  • 2009 ACT! by Sage 2010 (12.0) – eMarketing plus ability to set database currency
  • 2010 Sage ACT! 2011 (13.0) – Rename of product, Smart Tasks, sync of contacts and activities with Outlook
  • 2011 Sage ACT! 2012 (14.0) – Google contacts, activity sync and History, Scratchpad, Universal Search
  • 2012 Handheld Contact adds support for Android phones and tablets
  • 2012 Sage ACT! 2013 (15.0) – Social Updates and Smart Tasks improvements
  • 2013 Sage ACT! 2013 (15.1) – Adds support for later operating systems, Office and browser versions
  • 2013 Handheld Contact adds support for Blackberry V10 phones
  • 2013 Sage sells ACT! and SalesLogix to Swiftpage
  • 2013 Act! 2014 (post soon to this blog) – Re-branding, many productivity and administration enhancements to desktop, user/layout administration via Premium Web, Mobile web improvements

I don't know how useful this is to anyone, but was kind of nostalgic digging up my memories.

2008 Product Of The Year Awards From Customer Interaction Solutions Magazine for ACT! by Sage And Sage SalesLogix

Sage North America announced on December 22nd that Technology Marketing Corporation (TMC®)’s Customer Interaction Solutions® magazine (www.cismag.com) has named Sage SalesLogix v7.5 and ACT! by Sage 2009 (11.0) as 2008 Product of the Year Award winners.

The Sage CRM Solutions were cited for outstanding innovation and will be featured in the January 2009 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions magazine.

“For eleven years, Customer Interaction Solutions has recognized companies that demonstrate excellence in technological advancement and application refinements,” said Nadji Tehrani, Executive Group Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Customer Interaction Solutions. “I am pleased to honor Sage for its commitment to quality and delivering return on investment for its customers.”

Two tips for keeping Blackberry devices updated

Here are two useful links I find useful for keeping the operating systems on Blackberry devices updated:

Display LinkedIN, Google Maps and others in Tabs or Outlook in Dashboard

For ACT! 2008 users (10.02 or 10.03) or ACT! 2009 users (11.0 or 11.1) with LinkedIN accounts (if you don't have one, get one as it's free), I posted two useful freebie plug-ins to the ACT! Fanatics Group:
  1. WebContext Browser - Displays LinkedIn profiles in a tab, it can also display Google maps, Plaxo Lookup, Jigsaw lookup, US WhitePages Reverse Telephone lookup, WhitePages Reverse Address lookup, and Yelp. Can be customised to add other sites.
  2. Outlook inside ACT! Dashboard - Shows customisable Outlook Inbox and Calendar and Contact folders inside of an ACT! Dashboard. You can use them as you would from Outlook
Very worth-while functions for any user to add to the product. For developers, source-code is available if you want to modify it.

Quotes and Apostrophes turning to question marks in ACT! email merge

I have been asked by a couple of ACT! by Sage users why some characters (eg apostrophes and quotes) used in Word ADT templates become question marks when emailed.

The reason is that Word, by default, changes these to better looking characters that are not legitimate for normal HTML needed for email.

To fix this, in Word 2003:
  1. Go the "Tools" menu and select "Auto Correct"
  2. Select the "Format as You Type" Tab.
  3. Under the "Replace As You Type" heading uncheck: "Straight Quotes" with "Smart Quotes" and "Symbol Characters (--) with symbols"

To fix this, in Word 2007:
  1. Click the Microsoft Office Button Button image, and then click "Word Options".
  2. Click "Proofing", and then click "AutoCorrect Options".
  3. In the AutoCorrect dialog box, do the following:
    • Click the "AutoFormat As You Type" tab, and under "Replace as you type", clear the "Straight quotes" with “smart quotes” check box.
    • Click the "AutoFormat" tab, and under Replace, select or clear the "Straight quotes" with “smart quotes” check box.
You may then need to retype any quotes or apostrophes in the templates

ACT! Add-on - Knowledgebase and on-line support

In conjunction with CRMAddon Factory, GL Computing is now offering an on-line knowledge base and support system as well as a live chat for a number of our add-on products.

Currently supported are all CRMAddon products (including itImport, itDial, itTables, etc) and Handheld Contact

The support page is at http://www.crmaddon.com/support

You can also try the live online support chat to ask any questions by clicking on the button below - there are support staff in Australia, United States and Germany to try and support you when you need it.

Please let us know how we can assist you.

Updated - Sage to discontinue ACT! for Palm OS®

I guess, seeing this report, you can understand why:

The latest version, ACT! for Palm OS 3.0, is compatible with ACT! by Sage 2008 (10.0) and ACT! by Sage Premium 2008 (10.0). Compatible versions of this product will not be developed for ACT! by Sage 2009 (11.0), ACT! by Sage Premium 2009 (11.0), or for subsequent releases of ACT!. A letter will be sent to all ACT! for Palm OS customers in mid-December to communicate the discontinuation.

Customers who have upgraded or decide to upgrade to ACT! 2009 may access their ACT! data using ACT! Link for Palm OS which is included with their purchase of ACT!. ACT! Link for Palm OS works with built-in applications that run on the Palm OS. Not all features in ACT! for Palm OS are available in ACT! Link for Palm OS.

Support for current versions will expire next November - http://www.act.com/support/obs/
*at least in North America, might be different in other regions

I don't see much of an issue with this ... the Palm OS market has become so small and even most of their devices are based on Windows Mobile now.

With most new users wanting wireless sync, Handheld Contact has become the product for people who want the type of functionality previously in ACT! for Palm OS (and much more).

While HHC isn't on the Palm OS, it is on Windows Mobile and the two big players in the smart phone market - Blackberry and iPhone.

Wed Feb 11th - There will be no more PalmOS devices released by Palm. They're focused on webOS and Windows Mobile.

Sage repositions ACT! - moves from CRM group to Value group

I was aware of Sage's decision to move ACT! from David van Toor's CRM division to Sam Hunter's Value Business.

van Toor presently has North American management responsibility for the Sage North America CRM line which until now have included: Saleslogix, SageCRM and ACT!.

The responsibility for the ACT! product line will now be transitioned to Sam Hunter as per this announcement which was posted on David Van Toor’s blog at the Sage Community Forum for Act!.

What Does moving ACT! to Value Products Mean?

On the surface this may appear to be only an offloading of responsibilities from one busy general manager to another. However Sam Hunter is the GM who supervises the Value Business line at Sage North America.

According to Wayne Schultz, "The Value Business line is widely understood to include those products that are not strategic to Sage North America and therefore would not typically be first in line for research and development or marketing resources.

"We don’t think this signals that ACT! is being downplayed by Sage in any way. It almost certainly will continue to be funded and developed. Rather what is more likely is that instead of receiving further development efforts to integrate ACT! to existing Sage ERP systems it will continue as a standalone CRM product sold primarily through resellers and retail."

But, the big question is what this means to the CRM 2010 project?

The plan of CRM 2010 is to drive interoperability between ACT! and Sage CRM and Sage SalesLogix. This was to enable:
• Users in separate departments to use different products, yet interact through synchronized or shared databases
• A seamless transition from ACT! to Sage CRM or Sage SalesLogix, without requiring a one-way, one-time migration of data


Is it possible that this move signifies a change in this strategy? I guess we'll have to wait for more information to come from Sage on this matter.

All in all, I think ACT! suffers when it's managed in the same way as the big CRM solutions... so it will be interesting to see how Sam Hunter addresses this market. I think we all wish him well.

Question for ACT! by Sage users with QuickBooks - Updated

GL Computing is in the process of creating new ACT! by Sage integration link for accounting systems. We're most likely going to start with ACT! 2009 and QuickBooks 2008/09 versions unless there is a significant demand for earlier version support.

It's currently targeted for release in Q2 2009, will support international QuickBooks users and add many functions not available in other accounting links for ACT!. More info on these soon.

However, as the different countries/editions use different SDKs to access the data, not all flavours will be in the first release. We want to start with the most popular and then continue to add support for other versions as demanded.

After the QuickBooks versions are covered, we intend to also add other accounting products.

So, the question:
What versions/editions of QB would you like to see supported in the first release?
What do you use or think is popular in your area?

Please state - Country, Version, Edition.

EG: Australia, 2008/09, Enterprise

Feel free to ask any questions or make any comments on the idea or suggested features you'd like us to consider for initial or later versions.

Update: See Accounts Master!

Identifying specific areas where improvement is necessary.

The two common methods seem to be either creating surveys (for customers and staff) or setting up Web 2.0 forums for users to post and discuss issues collectively.

The benefit for surveys is that you get to ask the questions that you want to focus on and that you don't have the risk of wide-spread dissatisfaction being made public. However, with forums, you have the possibilities of finding issues that you may not have previously been aware of.

Which ever method (or combination) you choose, none of them matter if they aren't followed up and/or don't have real buy-in and commitment from senior management, down.

Sage has recently adopted BOTH approaches for their ACT! product. There is now a survey that is automatically fired up 60-days after installation of the current products and David van Toor (GM of Sage CRM for North America) has also implemented a Community site incorporating both management blogs and peer-supported forums with an entry in the Forrester Research Groundswell Award

He decided to address a problem that had been compounding for a few years... the perception that no-one at the company was listening. He set up a Community Site for people to air their issues and, hopefully assist each other.

At first, there was a lot of negative comments due largely from the pent up frustrations that could finally vent. But, to many long-time users' surprise and contrary to the original stated goal of just being a peer-assisted community, the involvement from the staff was extraordinary... with senior management and support staff taking a fully active roll. Even David personally emailed or called a large number of those most upset to organise solutions for them, myself included.

Not only that, but the proof that they actually listened and followed up was evident in the expanding of the beta programs culminating in the vastly improved release last September and the planned 11.1 releases due early 2009.

Consequently, the general attitude in the forums has become positive, friendly and has even been the reason for a number of users who had switched to a competitor over the past years to return.

To contrast this, I worked for a company some years ago, where the owner spent a large amount on management consultants, didn't implement any of their ideas... then blamed them for not achieving a return.

The point of this is that it is important for a company to not only actively listen to their users, but also to be seen to listen and, most importantly, to be seen to follow up on any identified issues.

How many of you actively try to find out how your customers perceive your products and service? How many of you reward your staff based on positive client experiences in addition to actual sales?

In these tough financial times, do you think that price is the only thing clients will use to decide on their suppliers, or will good service and reliability ensure a level of loyalty to enable you not just to survive but also thrive in the market?

New Handheld Contact releases - console and clients

Now available - new releases for desktop console and both clients. The major change is support for ACT!'s Custom Activity Types. After updating, you will need to re-send all data to the device

As soon as it's available, you will be able to download the new console from http://www.glcomputing.com.au/downloads/1 and the new clients by pointing device browser to www.HandheldContact.com/ota

Below are the detailed release notes:

Desktop Console Version
  • Added support for custom activity and history types. Previously, any custom types were synced to the handheld with the label "custom" rather than the label used in ACT!. Now, the correct label will appear on the handheld as it does in ACT!.
  • Added an additional default mapped field. Now, "Personal email" is automatically mapped and synced.
  • Added 64-bit OS support.
  • Improved add user wizard by detecting if the ACT! account selected is either "restricted' or "browse". Handheld Contact requires an ACT! account that's capable of modifying records.
  • Improved installation wizard to prevent non-admin users from installing Handheld Contact.
  • Fixed a rare display issue that made it seem as if multiple auto-sync groups were selected for a user when in fact only their own auto-sync group was selected.
  • Fixed a bug that prevented inactive activities from syncing. Now, both active and inactive activities within the syncing scope will be synced.
  • Fixed a bug that may have caused syncing problems when the Edit Time of a Contact or Activity was blank. This problem was isolated to the German version of Handheld Contact.
BlackBerry Version
  • Added support for syncing Custom Types for Histories, Activities, and Priorities. Previously, only default History, Activity, and Priority types were synced with their correct labels. Now, all custom History, Activity, or Priority types will display in Handheld Contact as they do in ACT!
  • Added support for requiring certain fields to be filled in before saving. Previously, fields considered mandatory in ACT! were not mandatory on the BlackBerry. Now, the rules outlined in ACT! will be followed by the BlackBerry.
  • Added a preference to default the Scheduled With field to be with My Record when creating a new activity. The option to default to the selected contact is still available as well.
  • Added support for the "Personal Email" field by default.
  • Reorganized the task details view by placing the "Regarding" field higher up.
  • Fixed a syncing problem whereby if the Regarding field in a new task was left blank it would appear in ACT! as "NULL". Now, if the Regarding field is blank, it'll also be blank in ACT! after syncing.
  • Fixed a problem that disabled the Save menu item when using the View Contact function. Now, after using the View Contact function and returning to the original screen, the Save menu item will work as expected.
  • Removed the ability to change the Activity type of a Cleared Activity. In ACT! you cannot change the Activity Type of a Cleared Activity and now Handheld Contact also follows this rule.
More information at the GL Computing Handheld Contact page

Why Handheld Contact for ACT! and PDAs

Last week, I was asked by a user why I preferred Handheld Contact over other PDA solutions for ACT!, so I came up with this list of some of the advantages:
  • No need to set up on each user’s PC – faster installation and implementation. Install on the server and just send a link to install remotely on the devices
  • Central administration – including profiles for administering multiple users and the ability to delete the database from a device remotely
  • Only solution that supports – Terminal services, Citrix, Web
  • Syncs wirelessly up to every 15 minutes
  • Uses its own database, so no sudden duplication of the database as happens in most of the link products or those that send to the built-in PIM on the phone.
  • Automatically send important contacts based on activities scheduled or dynamic groups even if not part of the originally selected contacts
  • Record Calls, Emails and SMS made from HHC on the device and sends to ACT!’s history
  • Up to 76 ACT! fields (26 standard and 50 user-definable)
  • Pop-ups (pull-downs) optionally sent to better support data entry
  • Adding activities on the device sync correctly to the right contact
  • Ability to create activities WITH multiple contacts
  • View and Schedule activities for other ACT! users
  • Support ACT!’s Custom Activity Types

Quite simply, it's the most feature-rich PDA solution for ACT! and requires less support than any other software product I have used.

More info and trial download available from www.GLComputing.com.au/HHC

Update 20th May 2010: Also see A comparison of different PDA links for ACT! by Sage

The new, Bold, ACT! 2009 - special for Australia

As a special promotion for the launch of ACT! 2009 - Sage Australia and GL Computing, together with Optus Business Direct, have put together a fantastic opportunity for new and upgrading users in Australia to get ACT! 2009 with Handheld Contact and a Blackberry Bold at a special price.

For more information, see this Sage end-user email

The play for CRM in the mid-market

It's interesting to see some of the big boys (including Microsoft) throw their hats into the front-office and chase the mid-market CRM clients over the past 5 years or so.

On one hand, you have products from the likes of Sage who's CRM products started at the low end with ACT! and moved up with SalesLogix and Sage CRM (Microsoft is also at this level with BCM and MS CRM). They need to achieve better scalability and develop an understanding of longer, more complex sales cycles.

On the other hand, Seibel, SAP, Oracle and others who come from the world of large data warehouse implementations are trying to move down-stream to meet a price point of the sites smaller than they have historically developed.

It seems to me that those who started at the bottom typically have better usability in the interface for those working on the "coal face", but those starting at the top can drive business with superior scalability and management reporting... but both need to learn from the other to get the mix right for the market they are all chasing.

One can see Sage's direction in their 2010 White Paper, which shows that they are finally planning to integrate their offerings and embrase Web 2.0 technologies.

Interested to hears other's views on this and, if you agree with my analysis, who do you think is winning and why?

Sept 11th, Customer Service and CRM

A colleague was telling me how friendly the staff were at an airport on a recent trip, which reminded me of Sept 11th 2001. I was on one of the last flights to land in the US on that day - on my way to an ACT! Conference that I ended up being unable to get to. I was stranded in San Francisco for 10 days, calling United Airlines each day to see if I could get a flight to the conference or back to Sydney.

One of the lasting memories of that time was how, in stark contrast to the expected reaction, how friendly the Americans I met were at that time. They went out of their way to help and seemed genuinely apologetic for the inconvenience... saying things like "I had such a great time when in Australia and we're so sorry your trip has been affected like this".

I was really amazed how friendly and polite the airline staff were despite the understandable stress.

All of this really reduced my stress and confusion at being stranded alone in San Fran ... in fact, I even managed to relax enough to do some site-seeing, catch a few bands and generally enjoy a rare (albeit enforced) holiday.

I say all this because I find that people, especially airline staff, aren't usually that helpful and friendly... and it made me realise that if phone/email support people were, not only better technically trained, but also better trained in service and empathy, the users who deal with them are happier and actually put less aggression on the support person - it's a win/win.

When I worked at Digital, in the early 80s, all engineers were given service oriented training on top of their technical training and were also judged on this in surveys that were completed by their customers.

One of the core points of the CRM is that "everyone sells"... let me repeat that "everyone sells". Not just the sales and marketing people, but the receptionists, the tech support staff, the product teams, everyone!

From that realisation, the first point to understand that is that when someone calls tech support, a good operator can not only relieve their immediate problem, but also (in a non-aggressive sales way) recommend upgrades, addons or even (for the right client) an up sell to a bigger product.

The second point is that it expands the value of the CRM product and makes it imperative to be able to share information on customers across all groups in a company.

CRM should be the centre of the corporate infrastructure. The customer database is the most valuable asset that any business has. The ability to integrate this with mobile users, with support, with accounting, as well as sales and marketing should be primary considerations when users select a CRM product.

CRM is about managing the relationship with the customer, not just getting a sale.

From Sage’s point of view, this is a message they should get out to their user-base. It will create additional sales within current customers – and it’s always cheaper to get additional sales from a happy client than to get new clients. Obviously, they need to make sure the customers are happy - with the products, support and other deliverables.

Mike Lazarus
ACT! Evangelist
GL Computing, Australia

BTW: “Everyone sells” was a quote I stole from Mike Muhney – one of the co-founders of ACT!

My new blog

Well, after having been asked by many people over some time, I've finally decided to create a blog.

It might be a while before I post my first real items as I take the time to discover the features that I can use to customise this system. I'm not typically the most prolific writer, but once I figure out the functions that I want to use, I aim to keep it updated pertty regularly.

I hope to keep ACT! users and resellers updated with information on ACT! (including any bugs I find) and CRM generally.

I should get back to you soon.

Mike Lazarus
ACT! Evangelist
GL Computing, Aust

GL Computing Blog - http://glcomputing.blogspot.com/
Follow me on Twitter - http://twitter.com/GLComputing
Join the LinkedIN ACT! Fanatics Group - http://www.linkedin.com/e/gis/49896