Best Software Updates ACT!
Earlier this week Best Software unveiled ACT! 2005, the latest version of the original desktop contact manager. The product has been reprogrammed over the past three years to a more modern software architecture, and to work better with larger and more sophisticated contact databases. And, in response to customer feedback, much of the traditional look and feel has been preserved and contact databases from earlier versions will still function.
The new look may be a preview of the "common desktop" Best announced it would apply to all its business software products, although the full concept has not yet been rolled out to the entire product line. As to functionality, ACT! 2005 adds improved duplicate record merging, enhanced capability to customize data fields and tab views, and a pipeline view of sales opportunities.
ACT! 2005 also represents the first version of the 17-year old software package to support a relational database structure. ACT! 2005 supports Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine, which means that ACT! can retain 45,000 customer records. "Not that [everyone] would have a 43,000-entry database, but if you had a group of people you might, and the speed of the application has increased," says Ron Verni, president and CEO of Best Software. Thus, the new, higher-end ACT! 2005 Premium for Workgroups supports Microsoft SQL Server Standard Edition--and up to 100,000 client records. No information was available on support for other database platforms, despite Best's stated plan to reduce reliance on Microsoft software architecture.
Third-party add-on developers also turned out to support the release of ACT! 2005. At launch, nearly 20 plug-ins from companies like ESRI and Resource Dynamics were available to expand ACT!'s marketing, contact management, call resolution, and marketing fulfillment capabilities.
ACT! has long been considered a category leader even though its feature set and price tag were smaller than some close competitors, such as GoldMine and Maximizer. The Premium version represents an attempt to secure a larger chunk of the more sophisticated market, at a price that remains competitive with on-demand solutions. "ACT! 2005's workgroup edition will be good competition for Salesforce.com, as the ACT! workgroup edition will be a less costly option for workgroups with light needs," says Wendy Close, CRM research director at Gartner.
ACT! 2005 retails for about $230 per user. ACT! 2005 Premium for Workgroups sells for about $400 per seat.
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