New York – Best Software Inc. has announced two new versions of its contact and customer management products that expand its portfolio of business management solutions in the SMB market.

Included in Tueday’s announcement are Act! 2005 for individuals and small teams of up to ten users, Act!

2005 Premium for Workgroups of up to 50 users.

CEO Ron Verni made the announcement to 150 customers, partners and press as well as 3,000 viewers via a Webcast against the backdrop of Times Square.

“We’re introducing the best degree of connection for small teams and larger workgroups with their customers,” said Verni, referring to the product launch’s closing act, The Bacon Brothers, featuring actor Kevin Bacon.

“We’re the only company who delivers products and services that allows companies to grow within same family.”

Built on Microsoft’s’s .Net architecture and shipping with SQL Server 2000, Act! 2005 Premium for Workgroups allows data sharing for up to 50 users in a networked environment for the first time in the product’s 17-year history. Act! 2005 for individuals and small teams allows users to manage up to 50,000 contacts while Premium for Workgroups allows up to 100,000 contacts.

“Act! 2005 is a from-the-ground-up re-architecture of Act!” said Doug Meyer, president of small business division at Best. “The millions of customers that use it will instantly be familiar with it but with modernized technology we’ve really extended its capabilities into the workgroup marketplace where truly Act! until today did not play.” Meyer added Act! can now compete with other players in the market like Goldmine.

Referring to Best’s acquisition of Accpac, Meyer said the firm has an opportunity to leverage Act!’s established presence into Canada.

“To date Act! is under-penetrated in Canada relative to the States. I suspect that’s because it was a U.S. software firm running a U.S. business that happened to have international” locations.

Meyer added Best will move Accpac’s Simply Accounting headquarters from Pleasanton, Calif. to Richmond, B.C. in a few months. Best is currently in the process of hiring a general manager from Canada to lead that office.

“We very much believe in local management, local touch, local expertise. With that established in Canada through retail and through consultants channel network, we’re quite certain we can grow Act! substantially in Canada.”

New features include more database options, new group and company tracking features, expanded calendar management, more sales opportunity tracking, and enhanced data base synchronization with SQL Server 2000. Under sales opportunity tracking, for example, users can use the one-click feature to export contact, opportunity, group and company lists to Microsoft Excel.

The products are available through Best call centres and Web site. General roll out in retail stores is scheduled for the beginning of September.

Act! has between 500 to 600 certified consultants across North America. Paul Marentette of Uptime Business Solutions said the release addresses issues such as running lean, well-maintained machines and larger scale implementation and integration.

Based in Toronto, Uptime, an Act! certified consultant and premier trainer, has been using Act! in-house since its debut in 1987 and provides solutions to users from 15 to 125 employees.

“Many users are unfamiliar with customer relationship management (CRM),” said Marentette. “Their reference point is (Microsoft’s) Outlook, which is only suited to the individual user.”

Marentette gave the example of clients who use their shoebox as a database to store business cards.

He said customers can typically expect to see a return on investment within three sales cycles or 12 months. Marentette added Act! costs less than competitor’s products such as Maximizer and Goldmine.

Uptime plans to launch marketing campaigns next month and collaborate with retailers on how to sell and use the product. Marentette also hopes to pitch the solution to computer dealers as well.

Act! 2005 for individuals and small teams is listed at the same price as the previous version, Act! 6.0, at US$299.99. Act! Premium for Workgroups is priced at US$399.99.

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