Business Contact Manager 2007 vs BCM 2003

Last year I reviewed Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager, and being somehow disappointed on some lacking features of BCM 2003, I decided to take a look at what Business Contact Manager 2007 has to offer. First of all, Business Contact Manager doesn’t come as a separate product, it is an add-on for Outlook 2007 so you cannot purchase it separately.

Purchasing Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager:

  • If you want to buy only Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manger, then the price is $150, purchase details and other information being available here: Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manger
  • If you want to also purchase other Microsoft Office products, then be sure you understand that Outlook 2007 has the Business Contact Manager only if you purchase these Office packages: Microsoft Office Professional 2007 ($500), Microsoft Office Small Business 2007 ($450) or Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 ($680) – Business Contact Manager is not available in Microsoft Office Home and Student edition 2007 or Microsoft Office Standard 2007. A comparison between these Microsoft Office 2007 suites can be found here: Which 2007 Office suite is right for you?

Testing Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager:

  • You can test Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager by downloading a free trial for 60 days for Microsoft Office Professional 2007 here: Office Professional 2007
  • There is another way to test it, as Microsoft offers an online 2007 Microsoft Office Test Drive. This will prompt you to install a TestDrive Launch Wizard addin that will allow you to see tutorials that guide you through some of the features of Office 2007. Besides seeing the tutorials you can also experiment the programs included in the Office suite. To access this online test visit this page: 2007 Microsoft Office Test Drive.

Installing Business Contact Manager for Outlook 2007:

  • If you have purchased Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager separately (not as part of an Office Suite), you have to simply insert the CD and follow the instructions on the screen
  • If you have purchased one of the Office suites that includes Outlook with BCM, make sure you have Outlook 2007 installed first and after Outlook is installed, insert CD no. 2 and a startup window should appear automatically and you should be able to install Business Contact Manager 2007 (if the window doesn’t show automatically browse the CD 2 with Windows Explorer and click on setup.exe – note that you cannot install Business Contact Manager for Outlook 2007 on a computer that has Outlook 2003).
  • After Business Contact Manager (referred from now on as BCM) for Outlook 2007 is installed, when you start Outlook 2007 with BCM for the first time, a configuration wizard for BCM will start:

1. BCM uses SQL database to store the information, so in the first step you will be asked to choose between an Express or Advanced database configuration – Express will create a new database (or use a local one), but the recommendation is to choose Advanced (not only you can create or use a local one, but you can also point to use a shared database from your network – if such a database exists). After selecting Advanced hit Next to continue. bcm1.jpg 

2. Next you’re required to choose if you want to register online your copy of BCM by sending your contact information(option selected by default), case in which you will also be subscribed to the beta test for E-mail Marketing Service that will allow you to send for free up to 150 email messages trough this service (even if you don’t register you can still send messages as part of a marketing campaign through Outlook – the advantage that their E-mail Marketing Service offers is the fact that it will offer statistics on how many emails were delivered, how many were opened, and clicks done on the links inside the message). If you don’t want to have to send your information to Microsoft, choose the I want to Register online without sending information option. Click Next to continue.

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3. This Setup step is the one where you actually create a new database for BCM to use, or you select an existing database (either a local stored one, or a shared network database). If you choose to Create a new database, you only have to enter the name for it and hit Next (a default named one MSSmallBusiness will be created). The problem I encountered at the end of this step is that Outlook 2007 with BCM stopped even after letting it work for about 20 minutes, I had to Ctrl+Alt+Del it and restart it. However, since everything worked on restarting I assume it was simply a random bug.

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4. After everything is installed, you’ll be greeted with a “Welcome to Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager” email message, highlighting a couple of the new or improved features in this version. You’ll also see in your Outlook toolbar (and also on you navigation pane) a Business Contact Manager Home that is actually a homepage for BCM that shows the most important items in BCM (this is new in BCM 2007 compared to BCM 2003, and also is customizable in the way that you can add/remove several business metrics included there.

What’s new (or improved) in Business Contact Manager 2007 compared to Business Contact Manager 2003:

Marketing Campaigns. BCM 2007 added a new feature, one that lets you create Marketing Campaigns and measure how effective these were. Borrowing something from the mail merge functionality of BCM 2003, the marketing campaign wizard lets you choose what is the marketing campaign for (naming it, assigning a code to it, selecting the type – email, printed flyer, telemarketing, direct mail print, seminar, mass advertisement – a start and/or an end date), who the marketing campaign targets (you can choose from different contact lists – from current view contacts, to ones stored in search folders, or marked as leads – contacts that can be filtered and you also see the detected number of contacts), how will they receive the material (sent via Outlook, using Word mail-merge or the Publisher mail-merge, using Microsoft’s BETA E-mail marketing service) and nevertheless what will they get (that lets you design the actual email/message). The marketing campaigns also allow tracking, and the type of tracking depends on which service are you using. If you’re using Outlook or the other mail merge options, you can track for the marketing campaign: how many leads you obtained from running it, how many opportunities, accounts, contacts, and also show the total cost of the delivery. If you are using Outlook’s E-mail Marketing Service (currently in beta) this would allow you to also show how many emails were delivered, how many were opened, and activate click-tracking for included links.

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The E-mail Marketing Service (in beta) is an online service provided by Microsoft that lets you send your Marketing Campaigns and track their effectiveness (delivery rate, opens, click-tracking). This service is currently in beta testing, so you don’t have to pay anything (registration required though) but you can only send up to 300 e-mail messages per month.

Work offline. With BCM 2003 you could only work if you were connected to the database (in case you were using a shared network database), but BCM 2007 lets you take with you the data from BCM on a portable computer (e.g. your laptop), add business projects, update business contacts, accounts, create reports, and when you return with your portable computer you can synchronize the changes with the main shared database.

Business Contact Manager Home. A new feature in BCM 2007 is the centralized view where you see the most important information from all main sections such as: Accounts, Business Contacts, Opportunities, Business Projects, Project Tasks, Marketing Campaigns – and many more since all these can be easily added/removed through the Add or Remove Content link. The homepage for BCM 2007 can be accessed either through the toolbar link or from the Personal Folders.

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Mark as lead. When adding a business contact, you have a checkbox to mark that contact as a possible lead (instead of a normal contact). Leads are taken into account separately, so you can easily see them filtered in the Current view and also use them in marketing campaigns separate from the normal business contacts.

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Search Folders. You can perform particular searches to gather your business contacts, accounts, opportunities, business projects, history items in different folders based on particular criteria. As an example on how this is useful, when creating a marketing campaign you can specify that the target recipients are part of a search folder.

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Customized CRM reports. The BCM reports (over 50 different report types) can now be customized, so not only that you can brand them with your company name, url and name the report, but also you can filter the data that will be included in the report. BCM 2007 also adds a new feature to export the results of the report to Microsoft Office Excel.

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Share history. Items stored in the Communication History (business notes, phone logs, Opportunities, Business Projects, tasks, e-mail messages, appointments, files) can be shared.

Business Projects. You can create business projects in BCM 2007, where you can organize all the information related to a specific project (tasks assigned individually, e-mail messages, business meetings, attachments and business notes). Each project can have a different type, be linked to different business contacts, consist of several tasks and have a start/due date. A Project overview section also shows you how many days the project is due in, as well as how many of the assigned tasks were completed.

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Customizable forms. This is actually one important new feature in BCM 2007 compared with BCM 2003, because you can customize the forms. For instance, if you want on all your Business Contacts forms to show an extra check-box, you can simply open a business contact and click on Customize Form and then on Add a new field. You can select from different data types (text, number, percent, currency, yes/no option, date/time, integer or a drop-down list) and a format for that, and after saving and restarting BCM 2007 you will show that new field added for every business contact.

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Customizable product lists. When you add an opportunity you can now assign different products or services to that opportunity, that can be part of a customizable lists of products/services. Based on this information, BCM 2007 will also calculate the expected revenue and the sales pipeline depending on this possible revenue.

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Better import/export. Now BCM 2007 allows you to export not only in its proprietary system, but also in csv. Also, importing is supported from more applications like ACT!, QuickBooks, Access, Excel and others.

There is a comparison table based on what’s new/changed between the two versions here: Compare Business Contact Manager 2003 with Business Contact Manager 2007

To sum up, Business Contact Manager 2007 has the following new (modified) features compared to BCM 2003:

  • A customizable main dashboard
  • Forms, fields and lists can be customized
  • Offline synchronization with a shared database
  • CRM reports can be customized and exported to Office Excel
  • Marketing campaigns with tracking options
  • Sharable communications history
  • Create a publication with Office Publisher 2007 and send it through BCM 2007
  • Business projects

As an overall impression Outlook with Business Contact Manager 2007 improved considerably since the last BCM 2003 version, which caused me quite some frustration at the time of using it. As a small-office home-office on-premise CRM solution, BCM 2007 is an option to be taken into consideration if you want to set up an improved CRM system. Since every business is handled in a specific way, a recommendation when choosing the best CRM software for your business would be to test first, purchase later. Outlook with Business Contact Manager 2007 gets another point for offering the 60-day free trial, so if you’re testing several on demand CRM solutions for home/small business use, this should really be on your test list. The version reviewed here is Business Contact Manager 3.00.6912.00, which includes the SP1 released earlier this year. If you don’t have that installed, I strongly recommend downloading it from here: Business Contact Manager for Outlook 2007 Service Pack 1 (KB941652).

Related resources for Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager: