Time for the Sixth ACT
Contact management application, ACT is getting an update for the first time in two years.
The new version -- ACT 6.0 -- started shipping today and offers a variety of new features including a new email client, enhanced integration with Microsoft Outlook, new active libraries, new contact activity lookups, new calendar pop ups and task totals, advanced alarms, new Internet services, and annual event tracking functions.
Although the previous version of the product has an email client built-in, the latest release sports a completely revamped email application that works with Lotus Notes, Outlook or Outlook Express and Internet mail.
The new email client lets users create, send and received graphical HTML and includes 10 predesigned templates for birthdays, newsletters, and prospecting, according to ACT's senior product manager Paul Selby, who admits that the previous email client was "just not powerful enough" to be useable.
An early user of the product agrees. "The HTML capabilities are what it need five years ago," says David Hartmann, IT and systems manager at Montgomery& Graham, an insurance brokerage in Portland, Oregon, that has been beta testing Act 6.0 for more than two months.
Hartmann, whose 7-person firm has been using Act 3.0 and Act 4.0 over the last seven years, says he has been eagerly awaiting this release. "This is not just a contact management package," Hartmann says. "It has become an important tool for us to run quotes, do sales and marketing, create requests for proposals and do in house correspondence."
The improved integration with Outlook and Microsoft Excel streamlines the process of working with multiple applications. Version 6.0 lets users access up to three ACT Address Books from within Outlook for easy email; send e-mails from Outlook while creating histories in ACT; send and receive attachments to any ACT contact; import Outlook's Contact folder from local folders or network folders and link calendar items, tasks, notes and journal entries to the appropriate ACT contact record."We have created a marriage between Microsoft Office, ScanSoft's PaperPort and ACT," Hartmann says. "With the new version we can do everything from within ACT. That saves so much time. It might seem like only click time but that adds up for 17 users over the course of several months."
For example, Hartmann says that previously in order to do a request for proposal it was a 30 minute process that included scanning of a document and sending it to 50 insurance carriers via fax. New mail merge features and integration with Outlook and broadcast fax software means task has been cut done to 10 minutes. "That give us a lot more time to be making deals and not pushing paper," Hartmann says.
New active libraries let users attach, view, and edit documents, graphics, and spreadsheets right from any contact record. Enhanced alarm functionality allows for alarms to be monitored even when ACT is not running; see more information on each on-screen alarm including activity types and activity details; customize alarm notifications by on choosing sounds, flashing screens or system tray notification.
"The alarms are key for us," says Hartmann. "We run our business on the promise of speed and service. The new alarm functionality lets us automate process and use the alarms to ensure that we notify ourselves to things that need to happen. In fact, we have penalties in place for people that are not using alarms."
In addition, there is a feature that makes it easier to track annual events and take action against them, by making all of the fields searchable. Users can also search for modified and unmodified contacts in the database over a date range, Selby says. That means that users can look up all customers that haven't been called in a month and reconnect with them by sending an email or letter.
ACT 6.0 is now shipping for $199.95. Existing users can upgrade for $99.95 and corporate pricing is available. A $149.95 QuickBooks Link add-on package puts a QuickBooks information tab within ACT. An add-on for Best Software's Mas90 and Mas200 are also available. A version called ACT WebAccess, that allows ACT users to get to all of the products features and functions from any Web browser is available at a cost of $199 to $349.