Sage Software expanded the reach of its ACT! product line with the release of ACT! Premium for Web 2005. The software will provide real-time online access to customer information for professionals and workgroups, both onsite and in the field. ACT! Premium for Web 2005 serves as the online access component, integrating with ACT! Premium for Workgroups 2005 as the offline client to create a seamless interface.
The ACT! family of products helps salespeople and marketers manage business relationships, track opportunities, and develop them into successful sales by simplifying and refining all aspects of communication and contact management. ACT! helps workers manage documents, campaigns, appointments, and communications; automates elements of the sales cycle and ties them to more tightly to forecasting and opportunity tracking engines; and speeds data access through search functions and better organization.
According to Joe Bergera, senior vice president and general manager of contact manager solutions for Sage Software, ACT! Premium for Web 2005 was developed to provide lower TCO than hosted products while granting greater user productivity and flexibility of deployment. Sage claims this new product can deliver up to 60 percent lower TCO than Salseforce.com Professional edition. "Real-time, centralized customer data lets users access information however they wish, whether they're running ACT! on the Web, their desktops, or from remote locations, allowing a true work-as-desired environment," Bergera says.
The software may appear to be an add-on for the workgroups product that puts ACT! onto PocketPC, Palm, and BlackBerry devices, but the lack of surprises is exactly what Sage intended, according to Larry Ritter, vice president of product management. "When we demo the Web product, and customers say that it looks just like the PC version, we think to ourselves, 'mission accomplished,'" Ritter says. "The feature differences are very small, which is good, but the impact of having seamless access to ACT! on mobile devices is large."
ACT! remains squarely aimed at SMBs, according to Ritter, as both the workgroup product and the Web product support up to 50 users per server. However, he notes, the product has seen notable uptake in divisions and departments of larger companies, where ACT! is used for personal productivity among a focused group of users. "Many users of ACT! are experienced, high-value workers who have been using it for several years and are very familiar," Ritter says. "Often, their companies will sponsor the use of ACT! and extend it to other users."
According to Liz Herbert, analyst for Forrester Research, ACT! Premium for Web 2005 will help improve data access and efficiency, and agrees that it can work well for distributed organizations. However, she says, scalability remains an issue. "Act is often the first CRM or SFA tool a company implements. Individual reps have often gone out and bought it for personal use, and it has been assimilated by their company, even where it's not the corporate standard," Herbert says. "It's a popular solution based on cost, but it does have an upper limit of usability." When a company approaches that limit, she continues, the advantage becomes less attractive.
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