by Ash Nallawalla
CRM Manager, Macromedia Asia-Pacific
They all do a good job of displaying records and are integrated with Microsoft Office. This means that Word or Outlook are used through the product’s interface, sometimes with more or fewer controls and there is no need to open Outlook separately. ACT! offers its own basic word processor and email client, so you need not own Office. It can also use Outlook Express as an email client. Documents created with Word are saved as normal documents, but are linked to the individual’s record. Legrand uses Word only for mail merge, while ContactTracker also enables you to create standard documents. Only ACT! lists the documents relating to each contact.
Scores: ACT! 4/5, ContactTracker 3/5, Legrand 2/5.
ACT!: A comprehensive wizard enables you to choose what data you wish to synchronise, how (by email, shared network folder or modem) and set up a schedule.
ContactTracker: If you have an infra-red port on your computer, you can exchange phone book and SMS data with your mobile phone. Version 1.1 will contain full database replication and synchronisation, even over the Internet, and a feature that enables users to display key information from an external package (typically an accounting package) "live" in the ContactTracker window. So, as well as seeing your contact details, you can also see things like the amount of money they owe you, and what transactions they have performed this week/month/year etc. Finally, another enhancement is the addition of the ability to deliver SMSs via the Internet.
ACT! and ContactTracker: You can modify the supplied stages or add new ones to suit your needs. You can also create a graphical representation of the number of sales opportunities at each stage in the cycle, using a sales pipeline.
Score: 3/5 each.
Legrand: In addition to the preceding features, its numerous tabs and fields offer a multi-faceted view of an opportunity in one screen. It offers a better view than the others because you can filter the records by many fields.
ACT!: Being individual-centric, there is no organisational view of the records, so I couldn’t look up easily, for example, all the individuals who work for a company. You can define an unlimited number of custom fields and rename 15 user fields. You can also redesign the layout of the screen. Keyword searching is available and if you know how to use Boolean operators, you can build your own query.
ContactTracker: I could view both companies and individuals. This is the only program in the trio that can handle Unicode text such as Chinese, which may be relevant to some. You can define an unlimited number of user fields.
Legrand: I could view both companies and individuals. There are 19 user fields and you can also rename most of the existing fields to suit your needs. You can assign keywords to records for ease of retrieval. I liked the simplicity of its plain-text search dialogs. You can also see detailed accounting information about a record, such as the payments received to date.
Legrand leads here. ContactTracker and Legrand let you capture the campaign name, target audience, start and end dates, Legrand then leaves the others behind by offering a rich set of fields, such as campaign cost, estimated revenue, objective, targets, respondents, tasks, notes, sales opportunities and so on. ACT! does not offer any intrinsic way to track a campaign, although you could attach a spreadsheet.
Scores: ACT! 0/5, Contact Tracker 3/5, Legrand 5/5.
All these programs successfully imported and exported delimited files but it is handy if you don’t need to use that intermediate step. So what else do you get?
ACT!: You can import another ACT! database, dBASE III-V, Outlook data (2000 or XP), Palm Desktop, and Symantec Q&A 4.0 to 5.0. You can export only to ACT! or a delimited file. Importing Outlook contacts was a breeze, so I imported a Q&A database of some 6000 names. It was slow, but it worked.
ContactTracker: You can import from dBASE, Tracker, ACT!, Goldmine, Maximizer, Access, or SQL Server. You can export only to dBASE or a delimited file. It ships with Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Edition (MSDE) - which is a restricted version of SQL Server. For performance reasons, you should use MSDE or SQL Server if you are running it in a multi-user or networked environment. I confirmed this with an Access database containing 60,000 records in multiple tables. I set up an import map, hit the button and waited – I waited over six hours and the program was still absorbing the data. I aborted the transfer, but it had ingested about 20,000 records. Another impressive feature is the ability to import text that requires special handling. For instance, if you are importing a list of full names, you can choose to place the first word in the field into your First Name field.
Legrand: Supported import formats include Microsoft Outlook, FinancePlus, MYOB, Pastel, and Sybiz (Quickbooks is on its way). I only have Outlook and it imported my contacts successfully.
ACT!: This veteran is extremely well supported by way of third-party books, certified consultants, trainers, and user groups.
ContactTracker: This program was launched in August 2002, but there is a growing number of trainers. An ACT! add-in is available from the web site and soon you should see sync tools for Palm and Pocket PC, and other add-ins from third parties.
Legrand: There are over 80 certified business partners. Add-ins will soon appear for Computer Telephony Interface (CTI), Products Module (for quoting), and PDA/Handheld synchronisation.
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