CRM Software
March 10, 2009 1:11 PM   Subscribe

What's a good, desktop-based (not web) CRM program? It should also be able to sync with a Palm Treo and over the local network and integrate with multiple Microsoft Office versions.

I offer computer help to a local financial planner from time to time. To manage his contacts, he uses the CRM program ACT! 6.0. He's tried newer versions, but found them to be too buggy to use, at least on his setup of two networked XP machines and an older Palm Treo (syncs via USB if it matters, using HotSync). Anyway, he now has a huge database for all his clients and business contacts, but he's acknowledging that ACT! is getting to be outdated and is needing to use more and more workarounds and tweaks to get it to work with his other programs.

We tried SmartOffice, a web-based CRM, which was buggy and slow and seriously hurt productivity. Many calls were needed to their tech support, and him and his administrative assistant found them to be difficult to work with and curt. The slowness was either due to overloaded servers (the tech support guys said the company had overexpanded too quickly and freely admitted they were upset because of all the calls) or inherent latency on the connection (100ms ping to Plus, some parts worked better with IE, others with Firefox. We had to frequently change security settings related to ActiveX to levels lower than I was comfortable with. I doubt all web CRMs are this bad, but it definitely soured the idea. As almost all work is done in the office, the web features aren't that useful.

Anyway, we're looking to replace the current CRM software, ACT! 6.0, with something more modern. The two computers run Windows XP Pro 32 bit, have dual core AMD processors (3200+ Sempron and 3200+ Athlon X2), 1 GB of ram each, and may update to Windows Vista or 7 eventually (with a RAM upgrade). They also both have modern, somewhat large hard drives (160 and 320 GB). At least one is on at any time, usually they are both always on. They're networked via 100Mb ethernet through a consumer D-link router. The boss has been considering a Mac, but that's not too likely.

The software must be able to import the ACT! database somehow. Preferably, it'd just read the backup and line up the fields on its own, but ACT! can export CSVs, so at the bare minimum it should be able to import CSV files.

Again, syncing with a Palm Treo is also needed. It should also be able to sync and run between the two computers, updating each hour or on request. If they could sync to an offsite server but use desktop software, that would be a decent solution although local storage would be better for security reasons, and comprehensive local backups are kept (offsite backup, RAID hard drives on the machine storing the records, and a external hard drive holding a copy updated several times daily).

Phone-based tech support is also needed, as I go to college most of the year and the people at this business are not very good at troubleshooting from forums/online documentation. This might drive up the price, but it's essential.

Price is not too big an issue, but I'd like to hear a rough idea of how much each package/plan costs. It's a small business with only two permanent employees, so try to keep that in mind. We only need two to three licenses.

Thanks for your help, feel free to ask me for any details I left out. If you can convince me and my boss that the web based services can work well on our setup, I'll consider those options, but they should "feel" instantaneous through caching/AJAX/etc and be reliable. Preferably, they keep the amount of plugins/tools needed to a minimum.
posted by mccarty.tim to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For better or for worse, as far as I know, Act! is basically the industry standard. It's the only one I've ever seen used by anybody I know, and the only one I've ever used. I don't know about bugginess, as I haven't experienced any weirdness. It's all the way up to 11.0 (2009) now. They also seem to offer an app now for Palm 3.0, if the Treo runs Palm, which looks pretty rad.
posted by General Malaise at 1:28 PM on March 10, 2009

General, that's good to hear. Does anyone know of a comparison review of several of these services? ACT! to ACT! is probably as simple a conversion as I can get, but I just want to get some more info to back up my decision.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:34 PM on March 10, 2009

Have you looked at Goldmine? I've worked for two companies that both upgraded from ACT to Goldmine, with successful results.
posted by mazienh at 7:09 PM on March 10, 2009

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