In his article over at the Software Advice blog titled “The Birth of a Category Known as Contact Management“, Mike Muhney (co-founder of ACT! Software) brings out some history surrounding where ACT! came from.
What struck me was the fact that it was born of a need, a need both he and Pat Sullivan had. It was not born of a thought “what can we make that will make money”, but rather, “we need to do x, let’s make something that will do x. Hey, other’s need it too…”.
The first reason why ACT! was successful is because it did the core things that sales people needed.
Mike and Pat sold the sales people of host of laptop makers on the benefit of using ACT!. They then sold it to others. Remember, that once you sell a salesperson on an idea, it’s incredibly hard to un-sell them on it.
The second reason that ACT! was successful is because the targeted the right niche.
There’s a lesson in there for all of us, we need to deliver the core thing that our clients are paying for, and make sure that we are marketing to the right people.
Richard Brust has written a blog post on:
..not so much about the setup and inner workings, rather more of a “what you get” in the integration… via CRM Tips, Tricks, and Technical Info: SageACT! Google Integration.
Good run down.
Had a client today need some information out of ACT!, and ideally it would be in an Microsoft Excel spread sheet.
Given that one of the default ACT! reports gave the bare minimum required (Group Membership) we spent some considerable time editing a copy of that report to display the actual fields we wanted, both contact fields and group fields. What we wanted was a spread sheet that showed each contact in a particular groups sub-groups, detailing which sub-group each contact was a member of, and also showing some groups specific information for each.
This was all fine except that it still wasn’t in a spread sheet once we produced the report, printing it, out to PDF, were no problem, but no .xls file.
This is where KB 14690 came in handy. It details how to modify the Windows Registry such that the output options for ACT! reports will then include such welcome and handy options like Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, TIFF file and Paged html.
Now when we produce the report, we get a beautiful Excel spread sheet with just the information the client requested.
Hope you find that useful, and if you do, let me know how you’ve applied it.
The day is almost over, so I’ll fill you in on some of what occurred today, as it relates directly to this post by Mike at GLComputing. This was originally written as a comment to his post and kinda grew, so I’m posting it here in full.
SQL 2008 Express R2 has finally let me install a default SQLEXPRESS instance but I still can’t get a custom instance of ACT7 working. Who should be paying for the time it’s taking me to work out this issue?
I don’t yet have a complete answer to that question.
Imagine for a moment that I buy a brand new car, from a dealership. The car has trouble starting. So I go back to the dealership and ask them to fix it. They do so. I as a client go home happy.
But what’s really occurred? Well, the dealership gets a mechanic to look at it; he determines that a component if faulty, he replaces it with one off the spare part shelf in the dealership.
The dealership doesn’t want to wear the cost of the mechanics time or the cost of the part, so they put in a warranty claim to the manufacturer for the time taken by the mechanic and the cost of the part.
The manufacturer pays up, occasionally they audit the dealership to make sure fraud isn’t occurring. The manufacturer actually obtained the faulty component from a supplier. They then make a claim to the supplier for the costs.
The supplier pays up.
I know this because many years ago (early ’90′s) I was a Warranty Manager for a car dealership.
Should the same process apply in the software industry?
Is it the fault of the reseller/dealership that software/component failed?
Is it the fault of the software house/manufacturer that the software/component failed?
Is it the fault of the supplier that the software/component failed?
Of course the initial supplier will argue that they make their product to stringent standards, and they can’t account for all the possible variables of other hardware and environmental conditions.
And of course the software house/manufacturer will say they took all appropriate steps.
And also, of course, the reseller/dealership will say they aren’t to blame either.
And the customer, well, the customer is never wrong, right?
Getting a little more specific, in my case today, the client has all good name brand equipment, setup by a reputable IT firm with a solid reputation. I couldn’t fault either their spec’s or configuration. I know the amount of effort I’ve put into this today. I know how much effort I’ve put into making SQL installs go smoothly, to the point where they mostly do go smooth for me, but sometimes, like today, they go very very wrong.
And so yes, I lay the fault with the remaining two players. Me, the guy on the pointy end of the issue, who gets to look like an idiot in front of a customer because he can’t make shrink wrapped software work on name brand computers. [Do you think I'm a little cranky? hint, I am.]
You see, the vendor here (Sage) have a product they sell (Sage ACT!) that uses a database in the back end (Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Express R2). The vendor (Sage) has chosen to use that product, use that version of the product. That choice means an implicit responsibility to issues using their product with the 3rd party product. Let me say it clearly, “Sage, you chose to use Microsoft SQL 2008 Express R2, which makes you half responsible.”
The 3rd party, the supplier of that component, Microsoft, have chosen to update their product, and sometimes that transition hasn’t gone smoothly for them, but nonetheless they have updated on a semi-regular basis (although not yearly, and the topic of frequency will be the subject of another discussion). They provide help via their KB articles and revert to the line “too many other environmental factors, not our problem”.
Reminds me of a joke I heard years ago:
A helicopter was flying around above Seattle when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft’s electronic navigation and communications equipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter’s position and course to fly to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter’s window. The pilot’s sign said “WHERE AM I?” in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign and held it in a building window. Their sign read: “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER.” The pilot smiled, waved, looked at her map, determined the course to steer to SEATAC airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the “YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER” sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded “I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because, like their technical support, online help and product documentation, the response they gave me was technically correct, but completely useless.” – Thanks to Alun for the source link.
In my view, if a car had, say a throttle problem, the manufacture would be sorting out the problem quick smart. Sage, you need to compensate the people in the front line, in the trenches. Go hit Microsoft up if you’re not happy about it. That’s what the car manufacturers do. It works for them so don’t tell me it can’t work.
But, Sage, I’m not hearing much from you. And that’s concerning to me because in today’s world, the world of 2011, the internet, social media and a with your own social media presence, to not hear much at all is to hear all the other dissenting voices, to hear the competition.
Now honestly, the competition to Sage ACT! is woeful. Seriously, it is. ACT! is a great product, it’s flexible, customisable, and at least 11 other herbs and spices, all of which are pure goodness (honestly, it’s a lot more than 11). So here’s a hint to the competition, if you want a good CRM product, imitate ACT!.
Want to know one of its weaknesses? It’s reliance on product that doesn’t install properly. Achilles only had one heel that gave him trouble. Most, but not all, of the competition have figured this out, and allow either multiple backend databases to be used (MSSQL/MySQL/Oracle/PostgreSQL and others).
Now if you agree with me, let me know, if you don’t let me know as well, because as those that know me can attest, if you can prove your point, I’ll change. Of course, if you don’t give two hoots, then I guess I won’t be hearing from you. Either way, I’m gonna go hold my teddy bear and sing myself to sleep, hoping that the SQL install nightmare doesn’t plague me tonight. I’m gonna need some sleep to go fight this dragon again.
Had an issue yesterday where we wanted to remove some entires from Outlooks location list.
Huh? When you book an appointment in Microsoft Outlooks calendar you can specify a location. If ACT! by Sage has a Resource that is designated as a location, when ACT! sync’s with Outlook that location list gets filled in.
So, we wanted to edit that list in Outlook. Well, you can’t.
But you can clear the list completely, which for our purpose suited us fine, it’ll get repopulated with the correct values.
Thus, without further ado, here is how you do this:
Open up Regedit and remove the value from this key:
Note that you will need to replace the version number for your version of Microsoft Office (14.0 = MSO2010, 12.0 = MSO2007).
Hat tip to superuser.com.
Google Wave is occuping a great deal of mind space at the moment, the best site I’ve found that explains what it is, and how to use it is this, which starts out with this:
The Complete Guide to Google Wave is a comprehensive user manual by Gina Trapani with Adam Pash.
Google Wave is a new web-based collaboration tool that’s notoriously difficult to understand. This guide will help.
read more here: The Complete Guide to Google Wave: How to Use Google Wave.
The jury is still out for me, but at this point Gina and Adams explanation has made more sense of it, how this helps CRM and how it can be integrated with ACT! is what I’m mostly interested in.
Often I’ve been told “my ACT! won’t print reports, it doesn’t matter which report I select, it won’t print”.
In the majority of these cases, the fix is actually very quick and simple.
You simply require at least one printer installed and have it set to be the default printer.
See, that was simple. Unfortunately, people sometimes remove all their printers, or for some reason none of their printers are marked as being the default printer and the first sign of trouble is that when they go to print out a report in ACT! it doesn’t work.
After spotting a link to both the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition and Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware, I’ve read the original 1980 paper by the Stuart and Hubert Dreyfus (A Five-Stage Model of the Mental Activities Involved in Directed Skill Acquisition)which made for interesting reading.
It describes (suprise!) 5 stages one goes through when learning a skill:
- Advanced beginner
I’ve yet to read the book Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware, but the two chapters that are online (“Introduction” and “Journey From Novice to Expert”) and the mind map shown all lead me to believe that the book uses the Dreyfus Model as a basis to then provide practical measures to implement in order to make your way from novice to expert.
This is of interest to me because since October 2008 I began working with a product called ACT! which is a Contact and Customer Relationship Management product. When I began I was a Novice at using and implementing ACT!. My employer provided great training which got me to the Advanced beginner stage. Constant use and troubleshooting got me to the Competent stage, which was validated by my passing the ACT! Certified Consultants Exam. Now I’m chipping away at the Proficient stage, made just a little more interesting by the fact the the software has just been updated to version 12 (ACT! by Sage 2010).
But enough about me, what have you been working on becoming an expert on?