|Microsoft Office Outlook® 2003 with Business Contact Manager
This article was adapted from Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 Inside Out by Jim Boyce. Visit Microsoft Learning to buy this book.
If you are in the business of selling for a small-sized to mid-sized company, whether one product or hundreds, keeping track of your sales leads, customers, contacts, and products is an important key to being successful. Wouldn't it be great if you could integrate all of those tasks and the information that goes along with them into Outlook? That's exactly what Business Contact Manager can do for you.
Business Contact Manager (BCM) is an add-on for Microsoft Outlook 2003 that adds customer resource management (CRM) features to Outlook. What is CRM? Let's take a look!
By itself, Outlook lets you manage contacts, e-mail, a calendar, and tasks. Business Contact Manager extends those capabilities to add accounts, business contacts, and business opportunities (such as sales) to your Outlook data. These items appear under their own Business Contact Manager branch in the folder list.
By bringing all of these items and features into Outlook, Microsoft has made it easier for you to manage your business data without learning a new program — once you are comfortable using Outlook, you can start tracking your business items with the same level of comfort. That's a huge advantage in today's busy, stress-filled world.
Another great benefit of using Business Contact Manager is that it gives you the means to easily integrate all information about a customer account in one place.
You can easily link e-mail, contacts, notes, documents, and other items related to an account and view and manage those items from a single point. The result is the capability to organize all account data in one location, quickly find information, and improve customer response, which ultimately should mean both a cost savings to you and in the end, potentially more revenue for you and your company.
Business Contact Manager also enables you to keep track of sales opportunities and the product information associated with those sales from initial contact through after-sale customer support. The Opportunity item type stores information about a sales contact, potential or actual order, product items, and other items related to the potential sale.
The Business History folder is a Journal folder that keeps track of events associated with each contact, account, or opportunity. By automatically journaling items, the Business History folder makes it easy to search for and locate these items.
In addition to these special-purpose folders, Business Contact Manager also adds reporting capabilities to Outlook to help you manage and analyze the information you've stored about your accounts, contacts, and sales. These include several pre-defined reports for each item type, which you can use as-is or modify to suit your needs.
Business Contact Manager uses the Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine (MSDE), a run-time database engine that provides the core features of SQL Server without the expense or installation of SQL Server. Business Contact Manager Setup installs its own copy of MSDE, even if you have an existing installation already on the computer. If you remove Business Contact Manager, Setup removes this copy of MSDE as well, but leaves alone any other versions installed on the computer. Bottom line: You don't have to install a separate database application on your computer to store your BCM data. You don't even need Microsoft Access on the computer — BCM includes everything you need right out of the box.
There are a couple of other points you should understand before taking the BCM plunge.
- You can't include BCM in the same Outlook e-mail profile as your Exchange Server mailbox. However, you can create a second Outlook profile for BCM and easily switch between the two when you need to work with either your Exchange Server mailbox or your BCM data. Although BCM won't synchronize your contact or e-mail information between the two profiles, you can use Outlook's Import/Export features to move items between the two profiles.
- BCM is designed as a single-user product. You can't directly share a single BCM database between multiple users. However, you can export the data from a database, and other users can use that database as the starting point for their own BCM setup. Look for multiple-user support to be added in a future version of BCM.
Business Contact Manager is included with Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003 and Microsoft Office Small Business Edition 2003.
About the author: Jim Boyce has authored over 50 books on software and operating systems, including over a dozen titles on Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook. In other lives he has owned and operated an Internet services company, and been a college instructor, engineering technician, CAD systems manager, and UNIX administrator. In his spare time he enjoys flying, both real and model aircraft. See Jim's Web site for other Outlook, Office, and Microsoft Windows® tips.