Best Software To Hold Competition At Bay




Event Summary

It is apparent many software powerhouses have this Fall been busy sharpening their weapons and fortifying their kingdoms. On October 28, Best Software, Inc., one of the leading provider of integrated accounting, business management, HR/payroll and fixed asset solutions for small and mid-sized companies in North America, and a subsidiary of UK-based The Sage Group plc (LSE: SGE.L), one of the leading providers of business management software for mid-sized companies worldwide, with annual sales of $815 million and nearly 3 million customers worldwide, announced the availability of Abra Suite 7.0, the latest version of its renowned human resources management system (HRMS). Version 7.0, designed to further help companies reduce compliance risk and increase return-on-investment (ROI), reportedly offers several feature enhancements.

Leveraging its July 2002 acquisition of the HR Compliance eLearning solution from HR One, a leading provider of compliance management training solutions, Best Software will offer Abra LearningAction as an add-on service module for Abra Suite 7.0 users. A hosted solution, Abra LearningAction enables companies to conduct sexual harassment and diversity courses remotely, without the need for expensive trainers and travel costs. Developed by legal and educational experts, such as Harvard Law School professor David Westfall, and a team of content and educational experts, Abra LearningAction courses should cover a variety of topics, including workforce harassment and discrimination, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privacy in the workplace, and insider trading. Additional Abra Suite 7.0 enhancements include:

  • Crystal Reports Professional version 8.5 should enhance its ad hoc reporting capabilities and a new business analysis tool.

  • Abra OrgPlus module, through the alliance integration of Human Concepts' OrgPlus, an organizational charting system, with which Abra Suite customers should be able to develop and communicate up-to-date org charts across their organization. An additional add-on module, Abra OrgPlus Professional, should further allow users to publish org charts on their Intranet, and distribute charts via any web browser.

  • Windows XP user interface should increase the product's usability and easy navigation.

  • Abra Suite will now integrate with TimeSheet Professional, Best Software's project oriented time and activity tracking system for workgroups of any size.

This is Part One of a four-part article on Best Software.

Part Two will detail the company's Strategy.

Part Three will discuss the Market Impact.

Part Four will cover the Challenges faced by Best Software and make User Recommendations.

SalesLogix Version 6.0

On the same day, Best Software announced the availability of version 6.0 of SalesLogix, one of the leading small business and mid-market CRM products, which is reportedly built on a new architecture and with more than 200 product enhancements. The SalesLogix architecture was reportedly enhanced to increase developer productivity, enable quicker customization, and lower implementation time and costs, since the product is based on a 3-tier architectural environment with a standardized toolset for open development and possibly a rapid deployment. The architecture should facilitate data integration with applications built in Microsoft's Visual Basic, Visual Studio .NET (VS.NET), or any other development environment that supports Microsoft ADO (ActiveX Data Object) data access.

The new architecture should also allow for backward compatibility with existing customizations and add-on products, simplifying thereby the upgrade process for customers and partners. SalesLogix' administrators running SalesLogix 6.0 should also reduce the time spent on manual tasks by using the streamlined new-user entry process with user profile templates and the simple, flexible user and team security controls. Other enhanced processes include: account permission configuration for teams, advanced territory realignment with scenario analysis, improved integrity checking to eliminate "orphan" accounts, and easy identification of users and teams that have access to an account. In addition to the new architecture, users should benefit from the following enhancements:

  • Sales Client User Interface — Users should now be able to manage multiple addresses within account and contact records, create account hierarchy and navigate among parent and subsidiary accounts, and launch customer and prospect location maps, websites, and e-mail with one-click web access. In addition, SalesLogix 6.0 will also ship with Crystal Reports version 8.5.

  • Tighter integration with Microsoft Office — SalesLogix 6.0 reportedly offers one-click export to Excel for analysis and reporting. In addition, the product offers Word integration for mail merge' facility and advanced Outlook integration.

  • Significant Mail Merge improvements — This feature should be easier to use with template management; merge at contact, account, opportunity, or group level; and the ability to automatically exclude individuals based on their solicitation preferences. Users can now also attach a record or copy of the e-mail and attachments to a recipient's history records and automatically schedule activities as part of sales or marketing workflow.

  • New AutoSync feature — For mobile employees, the product will now automatically synchronize in the background when a web connection is available, while employees can work without disruption, and no longer having to remember to manually synchronize their data when returning to the office.

  • Enhanced Web Client functionality — SalesLogix customers should enjoy Outlook and Excel integration, Crystal Enterprise web reporting, mail merge with customizable e-mail templates, and the groups and query builder. The Web user interface has been updated with an improved design and additional functionality to mirror the rich functionality of the SalesLogix Windows client.

  • Improved Support WebTicket — Designed to improve ticket workflow management, the Support WebTicket has a look and navigation that is very similar to the SalesLogix Support Client. Enhancements include: integrated knowledge base with keyword highlighting and automatic creation of frequently asked questions (FAQs); customer self-service portal with two-way communication; addition of activities and attachments to tickets by both employees and customers; and employee visibility to defects, return material authorizations (RMAs), and ticket changes.

ACT! Version 6.0

Further, in August, Best Software announced the availability of ACT! version 6.0, one of the most comprehensive contact management product released yet. With over 50 new features, ACT! 6.0 is an upgrade for all previous users of ACT! for Windows. The primary focus of this new release is a completely new e-mail client and advanced integration with Microsoft Outlook. The ACT! 6.0 e-mail client has been completely upgraded, as users can now use the new ACT! e-mail as a standalone client or integrate with and view Outlook, Outlook Express, SMTP/POP3 (Internet Mail) and Lotus Notes e-mail folders from within ACT!. Users can set up multiple accounts and view them all from within ACT!.

Because tracking the history of e-mail correspondence is a critical part of contact management, there are three history options that are available when sending e-mail from either ACT! e-mail or Outlook. In addition to traditional e-mail history options such as including the subject line only in the notes section or attaching the full e-mail to the contact record, users now have the option to attach the subject plus the text of the message in the notes section, which may be especially useful to corporate customers with large workgroups working from a single database. Additional new e-mail features include the ability to send and receive HTML e-mails from within ACT!, the ability to instantly add new contacts to any ACT! database, and the ability to access both ACT! and Outlook address books, regardless of the application in which the user is currently working. However, highlights of ACT! 6.0 would include:

  • Active Libraries - From the Library Tab, users should now be able to directly attach Microsoft Word/Excel/PowerPoint/MapPoint documents, Adobe Acrobat documents (PDF), JPG files and BMP files to the contact record and view them from within that contact record, without launching a separate application. In addition, these documents can now be edited from that view using all of the native Microsoft Office toolbars and then saved or printed.

  • Excel Integration - Using an Excel document that has been attached to the Library Tab, users can map fields from their database to fields in Excel for simple and efficient quoting. One quote sheet template can easily be attached to all the contacts in the database for quick updating and quote generation.

  • Contact Activity Look-ups - This data-mining feature should enable users to gain insight into the customers and activities in their database with a few clicks. Users can perform a contact activity look-up to, e.g., uncover which customers they have contacted recently, as well as which ones have not been contacted in a specified time frame. From the look-up they can then schedule follow-up activities, send an e-mail or derive a call list.

  • Annual Event Tracking - Another data mining feature, which should enable users to specify any date fields in their database as annual events. By doing this, users can manage their events such as birthdays, anniversaries, and policy renewals with a simple annual event look-up, which should give them advance notice of the event so they have time to react appropriately.

  • Enhanced Internet Services - Now, users can access Web sites from within ACT!, using the built-in Internet Browser, and attach relevant Web pages to one or more contacts. The pages are saved as offline Web pages so users can access the information even when they are not connected, or when the page is no longer available online.

  • HTML E-mail Templates The product comes with 10 HTML e-mail templates for everything from birthdays to e-newsletters to order confirmations. Using the new mail-merge wizard users should be able to correspond with their customers in a professional and efficient manner.

This concludes Part One of a four-part report on Best Software.

Part Two will detail the Best Software Strategy in terms of recent announcements.

Part Three will cover the Market Impact and

Part Four will discuss the Challenges Best Software faces and will make User Recommendations.

 
comments powered by Disqus