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Re: Comparable program to ACT! -- ACT! is perfect for single-user
On Fri, 2004-01-09 at 19:57, Stephen D. Reindl wrote:
> 1 user, me.
Then ACT! is a most excellent, single-user CRM system. If you like it,
and it works for you (i.e. makes you productivity), then by all means,
buy it. Don't let this "anything but X" prevent you from doing so if it
means you _can_ and _do_ get your work done.
Same deal with Access, it is a most excellent, single-user spreadsheet
aka "flat file database" (_not_ a "true database") with a "forms"
interface (that makes it "appear" to be a "database" ;-).
The "problem" is when people think "fat" is good for multiple people.
That's were ACT!, Access and countless other "Microsoft/partner"
solutions just "suck," technically speaking, for enterprises. I would
guess that 25% of IT waste is due to the support (e.g., resolving,
fixing/repairing, etc...) of Access "peer-to-peer" database
If you are talking multiple user, you need a "real" back-end. And then
there are the "custom" v. "general" issues to discuss.
> It is the Contact management software of choice for the real estate
> industry. Some agents use a real estate specific program, but to get the
> basics and a few add-ons you're in the range of $1000. I can upgrade my
> version 2.11 ACT! to version 6 for $129.
You mean the "shrink wrapped software of choice" for <insert industry>?
Many companies decide that the cost of "one-size fits all, shrink
wrapped" software is not worth it. Worse yet, many companies do not
realize this until they've tried to by 5x as much "industry-specific"
add-on versions for their "shrink wrapped" solution.
That's when the realized it would have not only saved them software
cost-wise to go with a "custom" ERP and/or CRM solution, but _massively_
in training, support, etc... while getting a piece of software that does
_exactly_ what they need for their industry.
I've seen ACT! used in all sorts of industries, both "raw" and in
"mega-add-on" land. And I've been there, consulting and _ripping_out_
ACT! because it was costing the company far more money in lost
productivity. Often because users simply could not collaborate because
they were not using the same fields, options, features, etc... Some of
it was training, but some of it was simply because ACT! is "generic
Add in the "fat client" issues and it's why most companies finally
choose to invest in building a custom ERP/CRM solution, tailored to
> I hate to RTFM. I don't think in a 1 user environment any of these
> issues need to be addressed. I don't consider web based CRM to be
> viable. Most of my work is done in a vehicle, with a mobile phone and a
Exactomundo. Because only _you_ need to decide on what fields you are
going to use, what options, etc... You know this for you. And that's
why it works very well for yourself.
I'm not talking about "training" in "how do I use this software" type
sense. I'm talking about "training" in "if you need to enter an X type
of client (industry/company-specific), _these_ are the _specific_ fields
you enter into ACT!" You must "collaborate" _all_ of your users on the
"same page." Otherwise they will be entering the _same_ data in
_different_ fields rather quickly.
ACT! is a _very_ generic CRM solution, one where different users _will_
enter the _same_ information into _different_ screens, fields, etc...
Soon you _will_ have a bloated database of redundant information that
you cannot search, let alone is a major issue in size
(being a fat client solution). I have seen this with ACT! over and over
and over again. 100MB+ over a year or two, and _no_one_ accesses
_anyone_elses_ data because they simply don't understand how they
entered it under other records (let alone the whole searching issue ;-).
That's the problem with "one-size fits all, shrink wrapped" solution.
The problem isn't "training" how to use the software. Anyone can teach
themselves rather easily. It's "training" _everyone_ to enter the
_same_ data in the _same_ fields, options, etc... That takes time,
planning, procedures, definitions, etc... -- all of which are _specific_
to your industry and/or company.
In such cases, the "cost" of doing this is as much as taking a
"framework" for a "real" CRM system, and customizing it for your
specific needs. Heck, it's really just an extension of what you need to
do for the "training."
Give you an example: A head hunter company.
The "easy part" is the Name, Address, etc... Although "versioning" or
"histories" of records are one issue that ACT! does a very _poor_ job of
(which is an issue with Access itself, as it lacks "transactions").
But where do I store resumes? salary histories? How do I differentiate
between "clients" (people who are going to hire people) and
"contractors" (people who are to be hired)? How do I differentiate
between contractors who are "placed" (i.e. we are paid a one-time fee
for placement at a permanent position) or "on-contract" (i.e. paid by
us, as we are then paid by the clients)?
_That_ is what I'm talking about when I say "planning." I walked into a
very small shop that was only about 15 head hunters. All of them used
ACT!. They _all_ put different things in different fields, _no_
standardization. They had at least 75 custom fields that they needed.
The work to "plan" that into an "unified collaboration" was easily as
much as building a custom CRM system.
So that's what they did. They hired us not just to "build" the CRM
system, but we basically spent 80% of our time just "documenting" their
processes, their requirements, etc... Now we could have built them a
custom ACT! Add-on, or even just came up with "procedures" on how to
standardize this. But then we'd have to support ACT!, their Windows
versions, upgrades, etc... making modifications every few months!
No, we sold them a "black box" (Linux-based, of course) that they
pointed their web browser at. It was a box that would last at least 3
years without an issue, had an agent for their backup solution, and we
could remotely administer via SSH.
Once we understood their "processes" and how their industry and business
worked, building the CRM solution from an existing CRM framework was
very, very easy. If anything, we weren't "software engineers." We were
"process analysts." We just documented their processes, and gave them
software that was custom for it.
They did not get a "contact manager." They got a "here's what you do
today 'dashboard'" which they could "drill down" into all sorts of
detail. From contacts to searching resume banks to getting reports on
head hunter progress to placement/contractor rates, dates, etc... Most
importantly, a "generic contact manager" _forces_ you to set "manual
reminders" for your business. We could _automatically_ set them for all
sorts of stuff.
Reminders to call clients a few days after a placement/contractor
started to check on them. Reminders to check when a contract would end,
need to be re-negotiated, etc... These are literally _hundreds_ of
reminders that would have to be _manually_ set in ACT!, taking literally
hours a week, possibly over a hour per day! They were _automatically_
set in our system!
> I probably should have been clearer here. I'm going to use ACT! unless
> someone can point me to similar open source application for Linux.
That's like saying you will use MS Access until someone points you
to a similar open source application for Linux. I'm basically saying
you _will_ have a difficult time finding it. Unlike the PC "shrink
wrapped" world, UNIX solutions are generally tailored towards
"multiuser." There is typically no "single user" solution equivalent in
the open source world. UNIX has always been a "timeshare" concept.
Single user is a concept leftover in the PC world from its
"pre-networking" days. The whole concept of a "fat client" is a "we
slapped networking on to our platform" issue. Network filesystems are
for storing files and individual data, _not_ for collaboration or shared
So what you have to decide is if it is worth the bother to setup a
"multiuser capable" CRM solution, using the most excellent and advanced
set of solutions available for Linux (or even Windows, Mac, etc... with
a Linux/Open Source back-end), or if you'd just rather stick with a
"single user" PC shrink wrapped solution?
In your case, I think ACT! is quite fine for your use. Don't let anyone
guilt you into thinking otherwise either. But if you start "sharing"
ACT! with more than one person, I _highly_ recommend you look at using a
"real" CRM back-end, built for multiple users.
E.g., Access was _never_ designed for multiple users. It was "hacked"
to work that way, and does quite poorly. [ I'm pretty sure ACT! uses
Access .mdb as its "back-end" -- of which, it does _not_ qualify as a
"back-end" in the real-world sense. ]
Bryan J. Smith, E.I. mailto:email@example.com
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