Forerunner to CRM gets overhaul

Best Software has overhauled its Act contact management software and has added a second version with more scalability and...

Best Software has overhauled its Act contact management software and has added a second version with more scalability and advanced functionality.

Act 2005 is the first major update of the popular contact management software in several years, for which Best Software claims a registered user base of more than 2 million customers.

The software has been completely rewritten on Microsoft's .Net platform and built around a SQL database, to modernise its architecture and increase its scalability. Best Software also updated the ageing software's user interface.

Act was first introduced in 1985 and is one of the CRM software market's original ancestors. Thanks to its availability in retail stores and relative ease of use, Act's software for managing customer and contact details became widely used.

Best Software executives say they are committed to the software, which they see anchoring their broader portfolio of CRM products.

In addition to refurbishing Act's core software, Best Software is adding a new, higher-end version, called Act 2005 Premium for Workgroups. The new product is intended to help organisations to bridge the gap between contact management and full-fledged CRM.

Act 2005, which costs $230 (£128), is intended for groups of up to 10 users and can manage up to 50,000 contacts, an increase from earlier versions.

The Premium version, priced at $400, is intended for up to 50 users and can handle 100,000 contacts. It features additional group-collaboration tools, such as support for data synchronisation to a central database and the ability to restrict access rights to specific contacts.

One veteran Act user, entrepreneur Jim Jobin, said he welcomes the new features and greater scalability of Act 2005. "The size of the database has always been a challenge for me," he said. "I have 24,000 contacts. But I always felt comfortable Act would get to that level."

Jobin said he is still struggling with some of the software's limitations. Act 2005 can handle his 24,000 contacts, but has a significant lag on loading them. He is also eager for Best Software to develop a web interface for Act.

Joe Bergera, general manager of Best Software's small business division, said the company is working on it. Act has a web edition, but it is currently sold as a stand-alone product that is not compatible with Act 2005. The company does not yet offer a web interface Act desktop users can employ to access their contacts online.

Stacy Cowley writes for IDG News Service

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