Review of Act 2009 vs. Salesforce

I recently moved to Act 2009 as my primary contact relationship and calendar system and thought that it would be helpful to share my experiences. (Disclosure: Sage Software gave me a license for review purposes. ) I was particularly interested in comparing Act with its most popular competitors, Microsoft Outlook?s built-in contact manager and Salesforce.com.

I generally like Outlook as an email program, but I strongly dislike it for contact management. In my experience it?s painfully slow, inflexible, poorly structured, and allows for only very limited types of access to your data. I do not recommend using Outlook as your contact manager unless you have very simple contact management needs.

What I like about Act is that it?s fast when used on your local client desktop; extremely customizable, and predictable in cost (because you do not have to pay an ongoing fee to Salesforce). This reflects Act?s heritage as traditional desktop-based software.

However, as soon as you have more one person using your contact database, you?ll run into the complexities of client-side software. Even if you simply have a personal assistant who helps maintain your contact database, that assistant will have to go through the hassle factor of installing the software on his/her machine and syncing with you.

Although I do plan to use Act as my primary contact manager, I was surprised to encounter some bugs and areas for improvement. I have been using Act since 1997, and with a product that has been through so many iterations, it should be rare to identify either significant bugs or very clear areas for improvement. I see this with the Microsoft suite; I can?t think of any obvious bugs (other than the regular crashes…)

(If Microsoft asked me for feedback on the suite, my suggestions would be much more general and require much more work and re-architecting on their part: e.g., they need to incorporate more social functionality that competitors such as Google docs and Zoho are already offering. Unsurprisingly, that’s exactly the direction in which Microsoft software is going.)

Some minor bugs:
– When I imported a test file, the system did not properly process some charcters: >, < , ?, ?, and line breaks. - I tried to modify the font size of some fields and received an error. Customer support confirmed that is a bug. - When I merge two contacts, there is no ability to keep the Group membership of each contact valid and merged into the new entity. In addition, the system does not automatically assume that data from one contact?s field should supplant data in the other contact?s same field, if the latter is blank. - When I tested importing some events from Outlook to Act, Act only imported events subsequent to today?s date. However, I was able to get around this bug by temporarily changing my machine?s date to a date in the past. (I later figured out an option that controls this, but that issue was not brought to my attention in the import process.) - I tried doing a search for all Contacts with ?Create Date? = ?Today?, and received an error, even though ?Today? is an option on the menu. - The system sometimes freeze briefly when I make a request. Of course, the same is true with my Microsoft software, sadly. Some obvious functionality improvements: - It took me about 1 person-hour to get the system installed and running on my machine; I kept thinking, ?Salesforce would take me 1 minute to activate.? - The functionality to merge two contacts is much inferior to Salesforce?s. When I tell Salesforce to merge two contacts, Salesforce automatically gets data from each contact, and if a given field is blank, Salesforce will copy data from the other contact. Act is not that smart. Also, merging contacts requires far more keyclicks than with Salesforce, which is ironic given that Act is desktop-based. In sum, for a sole operator I endorse Act, certainly over the dramatically inferior Outlook. For a small or medium-size organization, the advantages of Act include predictable cost and rapid speed when working offline. I do recommend researching such web-based solutions as Salesforce and Zoho as potential alternatives.