ACT CRM is the grandfather of sales automation tools and is still the most widely used in the world. With well over 6 million users, it’s tough to find a sales-pro that hasn’t used ACT CRM However, business changes, new requirements and the cost of managing, supporting and upgrading ACT! can motivate companies to seek options for moving ACT! to the cloud.
Most importantly, many businesses that have used ACT CRM for years and have valuable customer relationship histories, may be expanding into new territories or have sales people that travel frequently or work virtually. This can make the many online CRM or Cloud based CRM solutions attractive.
There are 4 common reasons businesses consider moving ACT online.
1) ACT! is broken. ACT CRM is a database and requires proper maintenance to perform properly. Companies that synchronize ACT! between multiple offices or virtual employees often find that ACT! stops working unexpectedly. Also, upgrades to computers or other software can sometimes cause problems with ACT!
2) The need to access ACT CRM via the Internet. Breaking into new markets, frequent travel and virtual employees make accessing your ACT! database online important. Many businesses are fed up with or simply want to avoid the costs and complexity of synchronizing ACT! databases between users and offices.
3) New capabilities needed. As businesses grow, the need for additional capabilities such as email marketing arises. Sometimes ACT CRM cannot support these new requirements and often services that do support them are web based and not fully integrated with your ACT database.
4) Costs. When businesses use, manage and support ACT! for a few months or years, they learn quickly that the costs are significant. These include not only the ACT software costs but, the costs of hardware, upgrades and manpower to manage ACT! system and support their end users.
Options for moving ACT! to the cloud include upgrades and add-ons within the ACT! software ecosystem and completely new SaaS or online CRM solutions.
Within the ACT CRM ecosystem, there are several options such as ACT! for Web upgrade and ACT hosting providers. However, these solutions typically involve a significant investment in additional software and/or hardware and can prove quite complex to implement and maintain. When considering these options, most businesses rely on a Certified ACT! Consultant to assist in the selection, migration, setup and support of these additional services.
Choices in Moving ACT CRM to the Cloud
Online CRM (SaaS, software as a service) providers can appear quite attractive from a cost, simplicity and support point of view. However, there are 4 crucial considerations that ACT! users are often unaware of until they’ve made the leap into cloud based CRM and learn the hard way.
1) ACT! data migration. Most web based CRM solutions will allow only an import of contacts via Excel. This means that businesses will not have the benefit of the valuable notes, histories, sales pipeline entries, calendar items, etc. that make the ACT database so valuable to them. Some vendors offer software to enable the transfer of this information or will recommend 3rd party consultants to assist with migrating CRM ACT notes, etc. to the cloud. Of course, these options include additional costs and can be complex. Navigating these options can be tricky and frustrating.
For instance, Salesforce.com sales reps have been known to say things like, “Sure, your ACT! contacts can easily be transferred into our system.” This leaves the customer innocently expecting the notes and histories to come along for the ride and unfortunately they do not.
For businesses that have been using ACT CRM for some time, the notes and history of customer relationships stored in ACT! are a strategic asset and extremely valuable.
2) Customization. Many online CRM systems bear no resemblance to the CRM ACT at all. This means that time and expense will be required to tailor the new system to the business. Most often, the customization already done in ACT! will not transfer to a new online CRM.
3) Support. Some web based CRM vendors offer little or no technical support. When making the transition from ACT! software to cloud based CRM, ready assistance is crucial to ensuring minimal downtime for the sales team. Sugar CRM relies heavily on a network of resellers to meet the customer’s needs for one on one help. Salesforce.com provides only 48 business hour response unless expensive premium support options are purchased.
4) Islands vs. Clouds. While moving ACT CRM online can provide for the outsourcing of ACT software maintenance and support, the need to integrate basic sales automation and customer relationship management functions with other capabilities, such as email marketing, can complicate the picture. Businesses often find that to provide the capabilities required several different web based solutions are needed such as online CRM, email marketing, web lead management and more. The result can be a complex and costly network of separate “clouds” that do a poor job of interacting and exchanging information.
ACT CRM, especially after years of use, can be a strategic asset for many businesses and selecting a cloud based CRM home for it should be done carefully!