The latest version of the popular ACT CRM application sees enhanced Outlook integration and the ability to automate common business processes. ACT users can also take advantage of new online services, including enhanced support for mobiles through ACT Mobile Live and online marketing via ACT E-marketing. An already very accomplished desktop CRM tool, this release has enough in it to attract new buyers and tempt existing customers to upgrade.
Better Outlook integration; Smart Tasks for business process automation; optional ACT Mobile Live, ACT E-marketing and Sage Business Information Services for ACT.
Steep learning curve; additional cost of optional services.
Windows PC with a 1.8GHz processor or faster, 1GB RAM and 2GB free disk space. Support for 32-bit versions of Windows XP and 32/64bit versions of Windows Vista, Windows 7 plus Windows Server 2003/2008/2008 R2; Office integration requires Office 2003 or later
ACT is the leader in small business customer relationship management, and is a well established solution used by over three million customers worldwide.
Now owned by Sage, the latest release, Sage ACT 2011, sees the expected bug fixes and performance enhancements together with new process automation facilities, plus optional add-on services designed to appeal to new buyers and upgraders alike.
ACT is marketed primarily as a sales tool. Think of it as an electronic personal assistant, able to track all your customer communication and business transactions.
Like a good PA, this latest version can prompt you to follow up sales leads, help manage marketing campaigns and generally stay on top of what's going on, even when out of the office.
As such it can be used as a primary business tool across a broad spectrum of small to medium-sized businesses.
One of the key selling points of ACT has always been its ability to run on just about any desktop. All you need is a Windows PC with XP onwards. Installation on our test PC took just a few minutes using an integrated setup program to handle everything involved, including installation of SQL Server Express to manage the data.
The use of SQL Server may seem a little over the top, but it makes ACT responsive and reliable, plus there's no need for any database expertise or a dedicated server. Indeed, for our tests we hosted the database on the same Windows PC as the application itself, and were able to share it with other clients over the network.
Up to 10 users can be supported by the basic ACT Pro edition (each user requires their own copy) or more if you go for Premium edition (£295 ex VAT per user), typically hosted on a server, which also adds browser-based access, enhanced security and advanced data sharing.
Another big plus is close integration with Microsoft Office, so that rather than force people to use ACT to manage customer contacts, write letters, send emails and so on, Outlook and Word can be used instead.
This is an important option given the popularity of Outlook, and enhanced support for the Microsoft client is a key feature of this new release. In fact, now it really doesn't matter which platform you're using.
Similar claims have been made in the past, but this time Sage seems to have it cracked, and we had no problems accessing contact and calendar information from either app, with changes reliably synchronised behind the scenes.