Act CRM alive and well for now, following Swiftpage acquisition

Swiftpage bought the small-business application from Sage this year

Swiftpage has launched a new version of the Act contact manager and CRM software it acquired this year from Sage, a move that could reassure the product's many small-business users that it is in good hands under the new ownership.

The company worked closely with Act users on the launch of version 16, said Swiftpage CEO H. John Oechsle, in an interview before Tuesday's announcement. Many new features in the release were derived from customer suggestions, he said.

Updates target mobile device access, easier management of contacts and scheduling, and a range of general usability improvements, including proactive system alerts.

It's available now in North America and the UK through Swiftpage and its channel partners, with German and French language editions coming in October, according to the announcement.

Swiftpage, which is known for its digital marketing software, also purchased from Sage another CRM (customer relationship management) system called Saleslogix that is aimed at larger companies.

Announcements concerning Saleslogix are coming soon, according to Oechsle, although he declined to provide specifics.

Sage referred to Saleslogix and Act as "non-core products" to its portfolio when it announced the sale in February. But Swiftpage sees plenty of upside in both applications.

"The technology in terms of the products themselves wasn't necessarily behind," said Allen Duet, vice president of product management. "They were really poorly positioned. There was an HTML5 client inside of Act that pretty much nobody knows about."

Still, Swiftpage also plans to heavily pick up the pace of feature releases, he said.

What's less clear is whether and when Swiftpage will create a full-blown, multitenant SaaS (software as a service) version of Act, which is available in hosted form but widely deployed on-premises.

While Swiftpage recognizes that more small businesses are interested in cloud-based software, an appetite in Act's target market remains for on-premises deployments, according to Duet.

"We're not betting against cloud but taking advantage of the fact that [the on-premises] market is there," Duet said.

Swiftpage's announcement should be welcome news for customers, according to analyst Denis Pombriant, managing principal of Beagle Research.

"I think it's an important first step for them to get a release out and show the market they intend to be aggressive supporting both products and have a road map," Pombriant said.

But Swiftpage still has work to do, particularly in developing a comprehensive social media strategy for its CRM products, he said, adding that "2014 is going to be an important year for them to deliver on that."

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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