A mobile App should do more than extend your CRM

Author: ken@keystroke.ca posted in Handheld Contact

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... it should complete it.

A CRM application can do many things for your business, but if it tethers the users to their desktops, it will never realize its full potential. This is why all CRMs must have a mobile application to enable the users in and out of the office, and for Act!, that application is Handheld Contact.

For those that think this is a predictable declaration from the company that makes Handheld Contact, you might be right, but consider this statistic. Not only has Handheld Contact been around 15 years, but it also has a churn rate that is less than half that of the Act! CRM program itself, meaning user loyalty to the mobile application actually exceeds the data source it relies upon. By any standard, this is a remarkable statistic and one that certainly underscores the importance of the mobile side of the CRM industry, but it does not tell the whole story. 

If it were simply about mobile access, the history of Act! would not be littered with so many failed mobile apps. No, for a mobile app to be useful, it must do more than simply extend access to the data, it must extend the functionality, as well, and Handheld Contact does precisely that. We describe this principle as “function-follows-find”, and we believe it’s at the core of our longevity, and why Handheld Contact is the exclusive mobile Act! product sold on www.act.com.

Function-follows-find is more than lyrical alliteration; it is an overriding objective that drives us to make your data not only easily accessible, but useful, as well. For example, it’s not enough to provide offline access to your contacts, we must also make it easy to organize them into groups that you can do something with, like email blasting from your mobile device. Find the contacts and then provide functionality.

In today’s marketing parlance, this is often described as “purpose driven.” We call it being useful, and it’s what has driven us since Handheld Contact merged with Keystroke last October. 
From the first day as a merged company, we went back and compiled a review of the backlog of user feature requests from the last two years, with an eye towards expanding the Act! functionality within Handheld Contact. We then surveyed all our customers in early February to ensure we properly understood what they wanted from HHC, so we could better tailor-fit the application for them.

The results were both compelling, and yet unsurprising.

Incremental Improvements
There are more examples, of course, but often feature requests are smaller in scope, and aimed at simply easing use or increasing efficiency. Each suggestion gets filtered through the prism of “does it enhance the user experience” and “does it bring HHC into closer alignment with the Act! experience”. 

To that end, we’ve recently added the following features:

Seizing the Opportunities in 2017
Our biggest undertaking for 2017 is unquestionably the building of support for mobile display, management, and syncing of Opportunities and Secondary Contacts in HHC. We believe these additions are critical to completing the mobile experience with Act!, and represent the most consequential feature gaps between the desktop and mobile experience. As these changes will involve an overhaul of the Windows Console, both device client applications, and the middleware they all sync through, we’re projecting a late summer completion date for these features.

Other 2017 Roadmap Features
Additional scheduling and filtering preferences will always be part of our ongoing efforts to further enhance the mobile experience, but we realize we have plenty more to do. Act! users, for instance, are accustomed to “search on keywords” functionality in both the Windows and Web interface, where you can enter one search variable, and it will scavenge the entire database - notes, histories, activities, and all. We aim to duplicate this keyword search functionality as closely as possible in HHC within the next two months. 
Admittedly, “function follows find” is our general modus operandi, but sometimes “finding” begets additional functionality, as well.

Other features on our 2017 roadmap include the following:

CRM technology remains at the heart of most businesses today, and with over 110,000 current Act! subscribers and many more using legacy versions of Act!, we know the challenge ahead of us is daunting - especially when you consider changes often lead to unforced errors. 

And while some repairs have been needed, we’ve learned from them. Improved regression and beta testing protocols have been implemented internally, and we’ve substantially increased the size of our development team to reduce resource bottlenecks. 
Whatever challenges lie ahead, nothing scares us more than the status quo. Our vision of closing the feature gap between desktop and mobile so that we may complete the overall Act! CRM experience is not simply a goal; it is our raison d'être.