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      08.02.2005 15:43
      Very helpful
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      >>>>>>>What is it?
      Sage ACT! is a Database and Contact Management system aimed at business users. It is suitable for all sizes of businesses though larger companies will probably want a tailor-made piece of software if they are handling large chunks of data. I use ACT! as a Sales-based Contact Management system, so the below will relate mainly to its use as such.

      >>>>>>>How much is it and what do you get?
      The single user version of ACT! 6.0 is £129 - this is what I use. There is a 5-user pack available for £599, or you can choose ACT! Professional at £170. The 5-user pack of this is £765. None of these include Sage's Sagecover service, which gives you free updates and support. The cost for Sagecover varies according to the product.

      >>>>>>>What's it for?
      Sage claims that it is "The complete way to organise you, your contacts and your business". ACT! arrives as a blank database, with a template laid out in a format useful to build the bare bones of a database. There are around 50 "fields" (types of information such as "name", "phone" etc.) to create your unique set of data. The screen is broken into 3 sections which make it easy to use. On the left are tabs to take you to pages such as the contact page - a screen showing the information for the particular record you are viewing and the contact list, your entire database (or section that you have selected). These tabs will also take you to a task list page, a "groups" page wherein you can create groups for different pieces of data to live in. There's also a built in web-browser to be found on the left. Needless to say, there's a calendar with various scheduling options that can be linked to records or groups of records.

      The main screen shows your contact's information. You will have chosen how this looks using ACT!'s very simple layout design editor. Mine carries my company logo and the basic contact information for the contact. Below this main section is an interchangeable section for Notes, Group information, Sales data (for lead tracking) And a handy library section which allows you to link a contact with a document. I include relevant news articles in PDF format here and it works very well.

      You can create dozens of different types of reports in ACT! based on your data. From simple reports showing contact info and notes/activity related to it up to complex "Sales pipelines" - graphical depictions of your leads and their status. You can even create sales predictions as long as you have kept information relating to the likelihood of leads becoming sales.

      ACT! has the handy utility to create letters or emails to your contacts automatically, and even has built in email software. I link my ACT! with Outlook and it works well. It'll handle all the mail merging for you and there's a handy editor to make your letters or emails look the way you want them to.

      If you've got two machines (or more) running ACT!, it'll happily synchronise via email to make sure you stay up to date. Very nice for me as it means my home office is able to run the whole business if necessary.

      It's possible to get ACT! for your Palm computer and link it to your main database. You can link your phone to your computer and get ACT! to ring the numbers for you. You can edit most of the ACT! system to work and look exactly how you want - if you can imagine something you want it to do, it can probably have a good go at it. It would be impossible to cover everything about ACT! here so I'll leave it there. Suffice to say that it makes management of my 15,000 contact database easy and manageable.

      >>>>>>> To sum it up...
      ACT! is extremely competent, though I only feel that way after 7 months of using it. You'll want to fiddle with it endlessly to get it doing all the things that make your business run. I change the way I use it constantly, so it's a compliment to Sage that ACT! is flexible enough to answer my needs. I'd recommend it strongly and in comparison to other CMS systems I've used including the much-lauded Telemagic system it is supremely flexible. I'm now buying Sage's Instant Payroll software so I'm clearly a "Brand Guardian"!


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