Contact management packages reviewed

Proper control over client data can improve customer satisfaction and can win you sales. RMIT IT Test Labs look at the technology to help you do this.



Proper control over client data can improve customer satisfaction and can win you sales. RMIT IT Test Labs look at the technology to help you do this.


Contents
Introduction
ACCPAC
Act!
Coordimax
GoldMine
Legrand
Maximizer
Specifications
How we tested
Editor's choice
About RMIT

If your business doesn't currently use contact management or customer relationship management (CRM) software, perhaps you would care to answer a couple of questions. How easily can your staff reach critical information about their clients? Does your current system allow for the filing of all relevant data? Is the database so bloated with old data that users are constantly scrolling through huge lists to find what they need? More frightening still, is your data secure? If it is not, how much would it cost you to find new customers if you lost track of your existing ones?

I know of makeshift systems so unwieldy that staff, having identified a customer's ID, will then seek further information from the filing cabinet rather than on the computer. Worse still the database on the computer doesn't even allow for useful notes about the customers to be entered -- this makes hard-copy files with space for handwritten comments essential.

Do you have staff with the appropriate knowledge of the system or the backing of a software company to facilitate change, if changes are to be made to your current system?

Modern contact management and CRM applications are more than databases -- they are tools for the analysis of sales and customers alike. The software package allows users to conveniently communicate with the outside world through e-mail and traditional documents. Data can be imported and exported to where it is needed with minimum fuss. And in today's business environment it is also important for staff to access data from wherever they happen to be.

Managing customers
A CRM tool should not just be compatible with company procedures -- it should help enforce them. For example: an appointment with a customer is missed, what happens now? This is determined by escalation management. Any decent contact manager tool would have informed the user of the upcoming event, but now that it has been missed a CRM tool can be configured to force the user to reschedule before further action is taken. Where many activities are involved this could be difficult, if not impossible, without CRM tracking all of the client-staff associations. Another example is where a standard process for dealing with customers exist: the software guides the user through an entire tender process by requiring certain communications and analysis to take place before moving to the next stage.

Mobility
In order to support busy people who may not be able to regularly reach their desk at work contact management software can provide integration with mobile devices such as Pocket PC's and Palm handhelds. In this way staff can keep up to date with work schedules and details of contacts. While this full functionality is not provided through a PDA, significant changes can at least be updated immediately. In some cases the full software package may even be Web based allowing full system access from remote locations.


Contents
Introduction
ACCPAC
Act!
Coordimax
GoldMine
Legrand
Maximizer
Specifications
How we tested
Editor's choice
About RMIT

ACCPAC CRM

ACCPAC, as tested, is a Web-based application (both hosted and in-house versions are available). As such there is little actual installation involved, but it does take a while to initially download the data. It was necessary to download Macromedia Flash to view tutorials and an Outlook add-on was required for communication with ACC-PAC -- both were simple operations. This product is a full CRM not dissimilar to Coordimax in function, but it is user customised.

The interface is as attractive and clearly presented, but being Web-based it was a little slow to respond. I guess users would learn a certain efficiency in time and avoid moving between pages unnecessarily. Though greater flexibility exists for mobile staff since they can potentially access their data wherever they can reach the Internet. Wherever your salespeople or managers are, all they have to do is log onto the Net and they can continue their ordinary work.

Existing contact data can be imported via Excel or CSV formats. The process is not as easy as with other products, but the same flexible mapping procedures exist. One problem noted, however, was that upon closing Outlook after exporting a contact to the CRM, we were automatically logged out of the CRM -- so keep Outlook open until you're ready to finish work. Reports can be exported directly to Excel -- graphs inclusive. Document templates are designed for editing in MS Word as per most other applications reviewed. SQL output is also available.

E-mail is supported by Outlook and Lotus Notes, with HTML in-built. Proprietary fax and accounting software is available. Both Pocket PC and Palm operating system hand-helds are catered for. Database back-end support is available for Oracle, dBase, MS SQL, and Sybase. Sage ACCPAC also has separate Point of sale, webstore, and accounting packages which can be integrated with the their CRM. Thus, Sage, when combined with Microsoft Office, can provide a complete suite of business tools for a retail company.

Product ACCPAC CRM
Price AU$1199
Vendor Sage ACCPAC
Phone 1800 262 620
Web www.aacpac.com.au
 
Interoperability
Links mainly to Microsoft products and makes use of proprietary accounting and point of sale packages. Good database support.
Futureproofing
½
Web-based -- with many add-ons available this should serve many medium-sized businesses admirably.
ROI
½
Remote access is a valuable asset for this handy and reasonably priced product.
Service
½
90 day warranty + basic support included in subscription. Unlimited support packages available.
Rating
½
AACPAC CRM

Click to enlarge


Contents
Introduction
ACCPAC
Act!
Coordimax
GoldMine
Legrand
Maximizer
Specifications
How we tested
Editor's choice
About RMIT

Act! 7

Sage ACT markets this product for contact management purposes -- it is not a full CRM. Act! is an early pioneer among contact management products having begun in 1987. The installation process was quick and easy. Last time this product was reviewed there were some difficulties associated with the need to register the product before it could be reviewed; happily this problem no longer exists with version 7. Additional required software, such as .NET and IE6, are bundled with the ACT! package.

The graphical interface is attractive and functional. Data groups are well organised with easy links to associated information and many common tasks such as creating records, viewing graphs or company lists -- all only a single click away. Search tools make finding specific information easy. In addition to normal searching, there is a duplicate search-tool.

Import and export procedures are convenient and flexible. Imported data can be mapped to suit ACT!'s database, from predefined or user-defined forms. Imports can be made from ACT! versions three to seven, Outlook, dBase, GoldMine or text delimited. Export options are limited to ACT!7 and text delimited, plus there is a separate Excel export tool.

Creating and seeking records is a breeze. An in-built word processor, or MS Office integration, allows for the creation of letters and other documents without leaving ACT! Automatically addressed templates make letter or e-mail writing easy and a variety of reports can be created automatically for output to screen, printer, e-mail, PDF, HTML, or RTF.

Act! comes with software interfaces to connect with Palm handhelds and Pocket PCs. E-mail communications are supported via Eudora and Outlook/Outlook Express. Add-on support for facsimile communications are available.

It's good to note that none of the concerns detailed in last year's review caused us any grief this time. If you are an existing Act! user and are thinking of upgrading to a full CRM you might like to research SalesLogix by Best Software. SaleLogix is produced by the same software team as Act! and thus has a similar look.

Product ACT! 7.0 for Workgroups
Price AU$299 to AU$499
Vendor Sage ACT
Phone 1800 675 617
Web www.sageact.com.au
 
Interoperability
Links mainly to Microsoft applications. Can support various accounting packages.
Futureproofing
A good package for smaller businesses with new developments keeping it up to date.
ROI
A neat package with a small price tag.
Service
AU$750 per annum per five users + 30 day warranty.
Rating
ACT!7

Click to enlarge


Contents
Introduction
ACCPAC
Act!
Coordimax
GoldMine
Legrand
Maximizer
Specifications
How we tested
Editor's choice
About RMIT

Coordimax

MaestroSuite's product is a fully customisable CRM tool for the serious user. Coordimax purposely steers clear of Microsoft platforms for security reasons. If hackers and virus builders want to target the big cheese, stay well away! MaestroSuite instead chose to work with the long-lasting alternative -- Lotus. Rather than a stand-alone application, Coordimax, is based in Lotus Notes running on a Domino server. While Windows is an optional platform, Linux and OS400 are also possibilities. This is a delivered solution which is tailored to your company's individual needs after a careful consultation process which assists the customer IT staff to install and configure the software. Pricing is dependent on the modules required and each module is tailored to suit. Everything is configurable from escalation procedures to labels for company/contact descriptions. Modules exist for campaign management, sales analysis and help-desk support.

For the purposes of this review, MaestroSuite sent us a laptop with their product pre-installed and then arranged an on-site meeting with us to show us the product's operation (which was an unusually simple communication process -- last year they spent far more time on-site as we were using our own hardware).

Being a Lotus notes client the user interface is more functional than beautiful; picture garlanded buttons tend to give way to text-based menus. The wealth of options makes it a little hard to get a handle on things initially, but staff training is part of the deployment as far as MaestroSuite is concerned. Basically, any data related to that on screen should only be one or perhaps two clicks away. While navigation is mostly achieved within the Coordimax client, certain functions, such as creating new contacts and data export, rely on Lotus Notes' menus or buttons. While at first I found it a little difficult to use, after a little familiarisation with its methods tasks became quite straightforward. Import and export of data is restricted to text delimited and MS Excel formats. While export formats may be limited the nature of the exported material is not. Complex queries can be set up and kept as templates for later use.

Coordimax supports Lotus Notes and Outlook-based e-mail and can work with any PC-based word-processor or spreadsheet. It is compatible with any ODBC compliant accounting systems and network-based databases. Support also exists for faxing as well as handheld devices such as XDA, Palm, and Blackberry.

Product Co-ordimax
Price Free 10-user pilot licence. Various options including rental starting from AU$25 per user per month (up to AU$100) or outright purchase.
Vendor MaestroSuite
Phone 1300 655 460
Web www.coordimax.com.au
 
Interoperability
Support for any PC based packages as required.
Futureproofing
Being fully customised to the user it should have no trouble facing tomorrow.
ROI
Fully customised CRM at a fairly average price.
Service
½
Support included in subscription is very good.
Rating
Co-ordimax

Click to enlarge


Contents
Introduction
ACCPAC
Act!
Coordimax
GoldMine
Legrand
Maximizer
Specifications
How we tested
Editor's choice
About RMIT

GoldMine 6.5

GoldMine from FrontRange is a contact management product with some sales force components -- such as keeping a record of all activities relating to each contact and analysis of sales. The installation process was very easy and included an automatic recovery of contacts from Outlook. Various other wizards are available upon installation, and later as required; one of these customises screens and document templates to suit certain industries -- specifically financial, insurance, legal, and real estate businesses.

The graphic interface is clear and colourful. Basic tasks have their own toolbar buttons and the menu system provides a wealth of other task and configuration options. GoldMine is a little different from similar products such as Act! in that it uses a multi-window interface to lessen the amount of data visible at any one time. This is good and bad -- there is less distraction for the user, but there may be more window hopping going on. On the other hand independent windows allow the user to place data wherever they desire on the screen.

Data can be imported from Excel, text files, SQL, and Act!6; export is to Excel or text file. Import and export procedures are very easy. Reporting is done via Word and Excel; custom templates can be called up from contact details, establishing ready addressed documents for editing. Creating new contacts could not be easier; a button always available at the left side of the window brings up dialog box where basic details can be recorded. Thereafter, the more detailed customer record screen appears and allows for further details to be added such as other contacts for that company.

GoldMine has its own e-mail client, but Outlook is also supported. Third-party support allows for fax and accounting package integration. There is also Palm Pilot and Windows CE handheld support. It works with dBase and SQL database back-ends.

With regards to product support, FrontRange tell us that it differs by reseller and depends on the type of support required. I'm afraid this doesn't really inspire me with confidence -- choose your reseller carefully. Interestingly, the FrontRange Web-site also indicates that there is free e-mail support and a newsgroup. Presumably the phone support listed there is not applicable in Australia.

FrontRange also have a Web based version called iGoldMine which allows for greater user mobility and centralised administration. Looking to the future, by late 2005 FrontRange plans to launch customer and sales relationship components and marketing components.

Product GoldMine 6.5
Price

AU$379.50 (single user)
AU$1534 (5 users)
AU$2964 (10 users)

Vendor FrontRange Solutions
Phone 02 8080 3300
Web www.frontrange.com.au
 
Interoperability
½
Geared towards Microsoft applications. Supports dBase, SQL and accounting packages.
Futureproofing
GoldMine has a good range of features for smaller businesses.
ROI
A neat package with a small price tag.
Service
Mainly reseller support with no prices indicated; free e-mail support available. No warranty.
Rating
GoldMine 6.5

Click to enlarge


Contents
Introduction
ACCPAC
Act!
Coordimax
GoldMine
Legrand
Maximizer
Specifications
How we tested
Editor's choice
About RMIT

Legrand CRM

Legrand is a full CRM product, with customer service and item tracking modules having full integration with accounting products. The item tracking components allow for the storage of detailed products listings and records of distributions to customers. Installation was quick and easy and the disks came complete with several short demonstration videos.

The graphical interface is clear and allows the user to have easy access to a range of information without being overwhelmed. There is a good use of colour to accentuate particular features, drawing the eye to where it needs to be.

Data can be readily imported from delimited text formats using customisable mapping routines which can be saved for future use. An MS Outlook synchronisation module also allows new contacts to be directly imported from your address book. Export is limited to MS Excel which is achieved quickly without any messing about (right clicking on a list provides options for many operations including export).

Record creation was no trouble. Letters and reports can be generated via a mail merge of currently selected contacts. Such documents appear in MS Word for editing automatically addresses and formatted according to user defined templates. A similar process can be used to direct e-mails (standard or HTML) to contacts. Customisation allows for a number of extra customer details to be recorded according to individual needs.

Pocket PC support exists for Legrand as well as fax support. Both Foxpro .dbf and MS SQL database back ends can be used. Besides Outlook integration, Legrand also supports MAPI, SMTP, and CDO for outgoing mail. Excellent integration procedures are available for a variety of accounting software packages, however, the accounting interface does come at an extra cost.

Time spent on individual customers can be recorded in the customer service module. Naturally this could be a very valuable asset if you charge for such services on an hourly rate. Alternatively, managers may wish to know how much time is spent dealing with customers as compared with the monetary value of their custom -- or whether certain sales people spend an inordinate amount of time on such issues.

Product Legrand CRM PRO edition with CS optional module, Legrand CRM PRO CS
Price

AU$275 (STD edition)
AU$495 (PRO edition)
AU$660 (CORP edition)

Vendor Legrand Software
Phone 1300 132 890
Web www.legrandsoftware.com.au
 
Interoperability
½
Supports many accounting packages as well as SQL and dBase, but generally leans towards Microsoft products..
Futureproofing
½
A full CRM "out of the box", with a surprising range of features.
ROI
Not the most advanced CRM, but feature packed for its small price.
Service
½
1 month free with ongoing e-mail support free. AU$200 for full support per annum. 12 months upgrades at 20 percent RRP.
Rating
½
Legrand CRM

Click to enlarge


Contents
Introduction
ACCPAC
Act!
Coordimax
GoldMine
Legrand
Maximizer
Specifications
How we tested
Editor's choice
About RMIT

Maximizer Enterprise 8

Maximizer is a full CRM product with customer service, sales, and marketing modules. Upon attempting the installation we were informed that MDAC 2.8 was required. This was installed from the Maximizer installation disk and then we were able to proceed after rebooting the machine. The whole process was brief and painless. Note that separate installation disks exist for server and client machines.

The user interface is beautifully laid out; it is attractive and functional. Addition and removal of contacts is quite easy -- no need to resort to help files. Complex searches based on any contact characteristics are possible without having to be a genius to use them. Then again, a simple search is often enough and many basic searches are readily available in the search menu. Data can be selected for charting in a wide range of formats and saved as a chart file, windows metafile or bitmap.

Very detailed, customisable contact information can be recorded with Maximizer. You can create as many fields, in any format as required, and group them in folders.

Contacts can be imported from csv, tab-delimited, dBase and XML formats and exported to all of the above except dBase. Import of vCard files is also possible as well as Goldmine and Act! databases. E-mail support for Exchange, Outlook and Lotus Notes is available and reports can output direct to the screen or printer and in many cases to HTML, RTF, MS Word, and e-mail. Crystal reports are also supported by Maximizer. MS Word can also be launched from Maximizer's tool bar. Outlook address books and calendar can be synchronised with Maximizer.

SQL and Pervasive SQL back ends are supported as well as a range of accounting packages. PDA support includes Palm OS, Palm Desktop and Hot Synch Manager. Mazimizer makes use of WinFax for facsimile support.

Product Maximizer Enterprise 8 Pervasive Client server version
Price

AU$764.50 pervasive workgroup up to AU$1094.50 for eCRM (SQL)

Vendor Maximizer Software
Phone 02 9957 2011
Web www.maximizer.com.au
 
Interoperability
½
The usual Microsoft support is bolstered by WordPerfect support, good accounting software support and Pervasive SQL.
Futureproofing
½
A powerful package for medium-sized companies. It should support a growing business very well.
ROI
½
Able to cope with larger database needs, this CRM comes at a quite reasonable price.
Service
30-days warranty, then 20 percent RRP per annum for support.
Rating
½
Maximizer Enterprise 8

Click to enlarge

Specifications

Product/Model Name ACCPAC CRM ACT! 7.0 for Workgroups Co-ordimax
Vendor Sage ACCPAC Sage ACT MaestroSuite Pty Ltd
Telephone 1800 262 620 1800 675 617 1300 655 460
Web site www.accpac.com.au www.sageact.com.au www.coordimax.com.au
RRP price range (inc GST) In premises version: AU$800 per user per year, hosted version AU$99 per user per month AU$299 to AU$499 Free 10 user pilot licence, rental from AU$25 per person per month, outright purchase.
Price as tested (inc GST) From AU$99 per user per month AU$499 inc GST Depends on number of users
Warranty 90 days 30 days 60 days
Support contract(s) Channel based support ACT! technical support contracts available Yes
Operating systems supported Win2003, Win2000 Windows NT/2000/XP, Server 2003, Web 2000 Server 2000 Advanced, 2003 Standard Edition 2003 Enterprise Server -- Windows, Linux, OS400. Client -- Lotus Notes, Outlook, Internet Explorer
E-mail clients supported Exchange/Outlook, Lotus Notes, and inbuilt HTML Microsoft Outlook 2000/2002 (XP) and 2003 and Outlook Express 5.5/6.0, Eudora 5.2. Lotus Notes, Outlook
Word processors supported MS Word Word 2000/2002 (XP) and 2003 Any PC based
Spreadsheets supported MS Excel Excel Any PC based
Accounting applications supported ACCPAC Accounting Add-on software to support integrations with backend software are being developed Connects to any ODBC compliant accounting system
Networked database backends supported MSSQL; Oracle: Sybase; DB2 Proprietary database shipped with ACT! Any, ODBC compliant
SMS gateway support Yes N/A Yes
PDA operating systems supported Microsoft Pocket PC; Palm OS Palm running PalmOS 3.5 or later, pocket PCs running Windows CE/Pocket PC 3.0 or later, Pocket PC/Pocket PC 02 XDA 02, Palm OS, RIM Blackberry


Product/Model Name GoldMine 6.5 Legrand CRM PRO edition with CS optional module Maximizer Enterprise 8 Pervasive Client server version
Vendor FrontRange Solutions Legrand Software Pty Ltd Maximizer Software Pty Ltd
Telephone 02 8080 3300 1300 132 890 02 9957 2011
Web site www.frontrange.com.au www.legrandsoftware.com.au www.maximizer.com.au
RRP price range (inc GST) AU$379.50 for a single user, AU$1534 -- 5 user, AU$2964 -- 10 user STD edition -- AU$275, PRO edition -- AU$495, CORP edition -- AU$660 AU$764.50 pervasive workgroup up to AU$1094.50 for eCRM (SQL)
Price as tested (inc GST) AU$379.50 AU$495 + AU$385 AU$764.50 per licence
Warranty None Free e-mail support. 12 months' updates and upgrades -- 20 percent RRP Covered under maintenance
Support contract(s) Support provided by reseller channel Silver and gold support packages Yes or annualised or per incident basis
Operating systems supported Windows 98, ME, 2000 Win2k, WinXP Windows 98, Win ME/NT), Windows 2000, XP, Windows Server 2003, Terminal Server 2000, 2003
E-mail clients supported GoldMine comes with it's own inbuilt e-mail client, but also supports integration with Microsoft Outlook Outlook for both incoming and outgoing e-mail. Outgoing e-mail also supports MAPI, SMTP server, and CDO Outlook 98, 2003 Outlook Express 5.0-6.0, Exchange 4.0, 5.01, 5.5, 2000, 2003 Microsoft Messaging 4.0, Netscape Messenger 4.6x, 4.7 Lotus Notes/Domino 4.6, 5.0, 6.0, GroupWise 5.5
Word processors supported Microsoft Word 97, 2000 or 2002, Microsoft Notepad, and Wordpad MS Word Word 97, 2000, 2002 (XP), 2003 Corel WordPerfect 8.0, 9.0, 10.0, 11
Spreadsheets supported Excel Excel Excel
Accounting applications supported Integrates with Arrow, Accpac, Attache, Exonet, JIWA, MYOB, and Pastel MYOB, Pastel, Sybiz, FinancePlus, JD Edwards, Quickbooks, Accredo, Advance Business Manager Pastel, Narvision, Great Plains, Attache, MYOB, Quickbooks
Networked database backends supported Microsoft SQL 7 & 2000, dBase Visual FoxPro .dbf, Microsoft SQL2000 SQL Server 7, 2000
SMS gateway support Requires a third party application like Zetalink No Yes
PDA operating systems supported Palm Pilot, Windows/CE v2 or higher Pocket PC Palm OS version 3.1â€"5.2.1, Palm Desktop 4.0-4.1.2, Hot Sync Manager version 3.1-4.1

Contents
Introduction
ACCPAC
Act!
Coordimax
GoldMine
Legrand
Maximizer
Specifications
How we tested
Editor's choice
About RMIT

How we tested

For the purposes of this review we are mainly concerned with contact management rather than full CRM functionality; however we will try to comment on higher functions where they occur. Basically we consider the user friendliness of the product, import and export options and breadth of features. Also, we will note if there are improvements to features criticised in the previous review of this product type. This is a review more than a test as such.

Sample scenario

This company's sales staff maintain all their contacts on Excel spreadsheets, and customers are complaining that they get contacted by multiple sales people for different products. The company wants to centralise its contacts into a database that all the sales staff can access.

Approximate budget: Open.
Requires: Contact management software suitable for 50 sales staff.
Concerns: The contacts database needs to be located on a central server so that there's one version of the truth. Staff should be able to synchronise their databases easily over a network or over a VPN while outside the office. Staff and management should be able to track each customer's contact history to better coordinate sales activities across the whole organisation.
Solution: The keywords for Coordimax are flexibility, scalability, and security. The product is fully customisable and the deployment includes a lengthy consultation process with MaestroSuite staff to ascertain the needs of the client company. Modules can be purchased or leased as required, thus as your business needs increase you can employ more modules. While it may be at the high end of the price range for a full set of modules, it can also be very competetive with lower end products if a lesser range of tasks is required. Finally, the product avoids relying too heavily on Microsoft products (deployment through Lotus Notes on Domino server) in order to avoid malicious software attacks aimed at Microsoft.

Final words

If you want a good contact management product then Act! and GoldMine are both reasonable choices. Act! relies on it's own proprietary database which has the potential to reduce your integration flexibility and GoldMine relies on third party support contracts.

ACCPAC is a Web-based application -- useful if your staff are highly mobile. Legrand has most bases covered with their easy-to- use CRM being highly configurable without much trouble, and Maximizer has many of the same advantages as Legrand, but is more for larger companies.

Finally, Coordimax seems to have an edge through extreme flexibility, and excellent vendor support.

Contents
Introduction
ACCPAC
Act!
Coordimax
GoldMine
Legrand
Maximizer
Specifications
How we tested
Editor's choice
About RMIT

T&B Editor's choice
Editor's choice: Coordimax

While Coordimax is a clear winner, I would like to give a special commendation for Legrand. I was particularly pleased by the layout of the product's screens, it's user-friendliness, and the inclusion of such features as item tracking and impressive customisation tools in what is essentially an out-of-the-box solution. ACCPAC and Maximizer scored equally well as Legrand CRM overall and they could well be ideal applications -- depending on your particular situation.

This article was first published in Technology & Business magazine.
Click here for subscription information.


Contents
Introduction
ACCPAC
Act!
Coordimax
GoldMine
Legrand
Maximizer
Specifications
How we tested
Editor's choice
About RMIT

About RMIT IT Test Labs

RMIT IT Test Labs
RMIT IT Test Labs is an independent testing institution based in Melbourne, Victoria, performing IT product testing for clients such as IBM, Coles-Myer, and a wide variety of government bodies. In the Labs' testing for T&B, they are in direct contact with the clients supplying products and the magazine is responsible for the full cost of the testing. The findings are the Labs' own -- only the specifications of the products to be tested are provided by the magazine. For more information on RMIT, please contact the Lab Manager, Steven Turvey.

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All