Problems with Sage Mobile for ACT! (new ACT! Mobile Live)

Part 3 of The Seven Day Blogging Challenge - Write a blog post on the same topic as one my most popular posts

Well, the most popular posts previously have been:

So I thought I would do another on mobile CRM with Sage ACT!.

I have always supported ACT! as a mobile product … both with sync to laptops and remote offices and with sync to PDAs and smartphones. Over the years, I have purchased new devices along this path to use, test and support other users:

  • An HP95LX in 1992 for ACT! for HP95
  • Apple Newton in 1995 for ACT! for Newton
  • Handheld PC running Windows CE in 1997 for ACT! for Windows CE
  • Palm M505 in 2002 for ACT! for Palm OS
  • Blackberry in 2000 here I used Companion Link
  • Another Blackberry in 2003 using Handheld Contact
  • Since then, I have used various devices using Blackberry, iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Windows Mobile operating systems.

I believe in the benefits of being able to access and enter my ACT! data wherever I am and understand the problems that mobile users have.

Since 2003, I have been using Handheld Contact. But I have still tested other products to be satisfied that no other product is better for me to switch to.

Despite ACT! for Palm being the best PDA/smartphone solution for ACT!, the ACT! developers have concentrated on products linking to the native address books and losing much of the functionality that real ACT! users should want. Without this, they may as well be using Outlook for their CRM.

They have had “ACT! Mobile Live” in beta and release for around three years and recently renamed it as “Sage Mobile for ACT!”. It still has many of the bugs and issues I reported in the first beta.

So I thought I’d let you know why I really don’t think users should consider it for their use.

  • The country code is not supported in phone fields - this means:
    • You can't dial international numbers
    • You can dial any numbers when travelling overseas
    • You can't enter contacts with international numbers
    • It causes problems if also using ACT! for dialling/faxing with other services
  • If sync's with Exchange, Outlook or Google, changes to the outlook profile will either delete records from the ACT! database or duplicate them ... results can be inconsistent
  • Some activity types are incorrectly handled causing data changes back in ACT!
  • Some activity time-zones cause activities to move
  • No formatting of fields
  • Not a multiuser service... so can't work with web or hosted environments
  • No tracking of History on calls, emails and sms made from the phone

There are a number of other bugs and functional omissions but as the challenge (as mentioned top of this post) is for a limited number of words, I’ll do a longer post on this later.

Considering Handheld Contact is only $50 more, I think the choice is a no-brainer

How Are Product Management Decisions Made?

Part 2 of The Seven Day Blogging Challenge - Answer one question I think people visiting my blog may have.

Recently I have been trying to explain to users in a couple of forums why the feature they want might not be likely to make it into the product. For a couple of examples of this, see:

So I thought I might try and explain simply how I see the product management decision process. However, please note that I’m not actually privy to the process used by Sage (or any other company other than my own) and am only going by the experiences of what I’ve seen and heard.
Update: Members of the Sage team have confirmed that “this is directionally close” to the process as used

First, all the requests are split into two areas:

  • Bug Fixes and improvements – defects where the product does not perform as designed or intended as well as compatibility with other new systems and usability
  • New Features and Enhancements – functional improvements to the actual design of the product

For each of these, a priority must be allocated. The priority would depend on a number of factors:

  • How many users would be affected by the bug or benefitted from the enhancement
  • If it’s a bug, it is data damaging or prevents the use of a primary function of the product
  • Also for bugs, can the issue be replicated in-house to determine the cause
  • For enhancements, would it just be a nice-to-have for current users or would it sell more product by being part of the decision making points of potential users
  • Is there a competitive need for the request – are other products in the market doing it
  • Are there manual workarounds or third-party products that could deal with the request now
  • How will the request integrate or interfere with current code and user interface design
  • How they fit into market trends/visions that they want to focus on
  • Usability and compatibility with adjacent products

Then, for each, a time-frame and cost must be determined. For this, a specification document must be created with much thought being given to looking at all the possible scenarios, data types and values that are considered likely. This is done by consulting users and developers for their input.

Finally they can decide which to approve now, delay for a future version or discard. Obviously, the higher the priority, the higher the allowable cost would be for it to be approved.

So, in order to have the best chance of getting your requests addressed, you should try and put it in terms to answer as many of the points mentioned.

I would write more, but the challenge limits us to 400 words….

The Seven Day Blogging Challenge – Part 1

Twitter contact, Andrew Emmett, is doing a Seven Day Blogging Challenge. He challenged other bloggers to join him and I have decided to accept.

Here are the 7 topics that Andrew has challenged us to write about.

Starting Saturday I will write one blog post a day, each with 300 to 400 words about:
  1. What the purpose of my website is, who I am and why my blog is unique.
  2. Answer one question I think people visiting my blog may have.
  3. Write a blog post on the same topic as one my most popular posts.
  4. Share a photo I took this week and tell you about it.
  5. Embed a legal YouTube clip that I either found today or created myself. Then tell everyone about the clip and related information.
  6. Create a blog post on a subject I’ve never blogged about here before.
  7. Share hints or details of what I intend to write about in the future.

This experiment promises to be an interesting diversion for the norm and I do hope I can think of some useful and interesting items for you on each of these topics.

One of the opportunities this challenge presents to me is the requirement to write a piece every day and to make it a specific length. As  those who read this blog would know, my posts tend to be of a technical nature and I haven’t thought about the length of each article or have a set time that I must post. I write when I think of something deserving of a post and as long as I need to properly explain each topic. I also tend to use the articles as a permanent knowledge base on items I get asked rather than the typical “web log” style of most blogs.

The general aim of this site is to help ACT! users, resellers and consultants get the most from the product. Unlike other ACT! related blogs, I have tried not to simply create content of a marketing or promotional nature. I love ACT! and have have dedicated the past 23 years to the product – but I also experience many of the frustrations that users feel when certain functions don’t operate as well as they should or where the Product Management and development teams have missed the mark and I try to warn users of these also. Hopefully, this “warts and all” approach helps us all use ACT! better and encourages Sage to continue to improve it.

Now that I’ve completed Part 1, I need to think of a question you might have for Part 2.
Any suggestions you might add to the comments area would be most welcome.

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How should ACT! resellers/VARs deal with Microsoft install issues?

I'm sure this must be a question concerning every ACT! consultant/reseller ... but, which a number of them have asked my opinion on this, I've not seen any public discussion on it. I'd also be interested in the views of end-users as to what they believe would be fair.

windowsThe last time I was shown the figures, around 80% of install support incidents by Sage North America were not due to ACT! code, but were related to Microsoft issues - in the operating system, .Net Framework, SQL Server or Office. Note: If someone at Sage has a more current figure, please let me know

I’m not sure how long ago this happened, but I recently noticed that Sage Australia (and I assume similar in other regions) excludes many areas that fail from their install warranty. While the box says that install issues are covered under a 30-day warranty, it then refers you to the website for Getting Started Support – Free for 30 Days where you can see the majority of install issues that sometimes plague users are specifically exempted.

On one level, this is understandable, because it is sort of unfair that Sage should be responsible for supporting and repairing issues with products and components produced by Microsoft. On the other hand, it could be argued that Sage chose to use those technologies as a basis of the product and that they should provide that support.

The big problem that this raises is how should a Consultant/VAR handle this support? If you are installing a product that costs $300-500 and an OS, SQL or .Net issue requires 4-8 hours of work to resolve, how can you justify charging the user for this time?

  • If the installer doesn’t charge, then they lose money to sell the product
  • To charge may make a user feel less than happy at having to pay 4x the cost of the product
  • Telling a non-technical user to deal with Microsoft, may also not be the best for customer satisfaction

Is a notice to users, in advance, that such a charge may be necessary the right choice? Would this tend to scare off some potential users?

Obviously this would be different for larger user sites where they would be more aware of the complexities of commercial software as well as being able to spread the cost over a larger number of seats.

As I’ve said, I’d really like the thoughts of users, resellers and even Sage staff on this topic. Please post any thoughts you might have to the comments as I think the sharing of ideas is likely to help everyone come to an amicable solution to this problem.


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GL Computing wins @ExpertsExchange Titan award – 3rd time!

Experts-Exchange Titan 2010 

For the 3rd consecutive year, GL computing has earned a spot as a Top Expert in the 7th Annual Expert Awards.

From a competitive field of over 30,000 qualified experts worldwide, GL Computing's Mike Lazarus has been awarded the:

TitanTitan Award - 2010

From Experts-Exchange: “Thank you for sharing your unparalleled, inconceivable, and brilliant knowledge with the members of Experts Exchange, without you Experts Exchange would not be the #1 IT resource in the web.”

Mike has won the Titan Award in 2008, 2009 and is the only Experts-Exchange Certified ACT! Sage

It is truly gratifying to have received this award, along with those others I’ve been honoured with recently.

Sadly, I still get no acknowledgement from Sage for the effort I put in to support users - including over 9,400 posts to their own ACT! Community Site and hosting the ACT! Fanatics Group.