Sage ACT! is a widely used CRM system, and there are a number of different products available that can connect QuickBooks with your ACT! system. One very interesting integration product is the Xact Accounting Link for ACT! and QuickBooks.
Haven’t heard of them? Not surprising. Xact Software is based in New Zealand. They are a major force in the ACT! marketplace down there and have been working with ACT! integration since 2007. They have accounting links for ACT! with MYOB, QuickBooks, Xero and AccountRight. They are making a move into the US marketplace.
The Xact Accounting Link for ACT! and QuickBooks was first released in early 2010. Their goal is to reduce the need for replicating information in multiple databases, and to allow the salesperson to avoid having to switch over to QuickBooks to complete the sales process. Salespeople live in ACT! and don’t want to switch back and forth between that and QuickBooks.
Let’s take a look at how their product works. Please note that this is not a tutorial – I’m not going to go into the details of how to set up the product and how you link it to QuickBooks.
Working with QuickBooks from ACT!
Keep in mind that the product is targeting the salesperson who is living in ACT!, not an accountant or bookkeeper. You won’t see any changes in QuickBooks itself, everything is accessed via ACT!
Once you make the connection to a QuickBooks company file you will find a QuickBooks tab in the Marketing Results panel in ACT!.
This is an “active link”. That is, when you access a contact that is linked to a QuickBooks customer, the information is pulled over from QuickBooks at that time. A few things I’d like to point out from this window:
- Custom Fields are supported. Information will only show on this screen if there is a value in the field.
- You have multiple links to create transactions for the contact.
- You have multiple tabs that provide you with different views of the customer information.
- There is a variety of sales analysis information displayed here, such as sales totals in different periods.
I was impressed by the wealth of information and analysis that they present here.
If you change a contact address in ACT! you have to choose to push it into QuickBooks, it doesn’t happen automatically. The reason for this is that you may have multiple ACT! contacts connected to one QuickBooks customer, so you might not want to override the address in QuickBooks with one of the contact addresses. Simply click a button, the address will be updated. Also, you will usually find that only a few ACT! contacts will actually be customers in QuickBooks. You don’t want the program overloading your QuickBooks customer list.
An aged receivables option is available on one of the tabs.
You can create transactions in ACT! that will be pushed into QuickBooks. As soon as you save this transaction, it is posted to QuickBooks. You don’t’ have to wait for a “sync” process.
The various dropdown lists are populated with information from your QuickBooks company file, such as the item list, tax options, terms, sales reps and so forth. You don’t have the ability to add new items to these lists from ACT!, you need to go to QuickBooks to make these kinds of additions. I actually prefer that, as I would rather not have my salespeople being able to add these kinds of records.
There is a Reports function which hasn’t received as much attention as the other parts of the program, but there are some interesting options here. They plan on expanding this in the future.
I did get a kick out of the Customer Map, showing you a map of all of your customers.
Connecting to QuickBooks
Xact has three options for how it can connect with QuickBooks:
- Local QuickBooks: You have a copy of QuickBooks installed on your local computer, and Xact will work directly with it. This is a very typical SDK kind of interface.
- Remote Data Sharing: RDS is an access method provided by Intuit for programs that want to access a company file without having a copy of QuickBooks installed on the same computer. You don’t run into this very often, as the general consensus amongst software developers is that this access method is not reliable (due to how Intuit implements it). This option is available if you want to use this method, but they don’t recommend it.
- Xact QB Link Server: Xact has implemented their own “server” integration tool. This is not Intuit Sync Manager. You install a server application on the computer that hosts your QuickBooks file, and Xact communicates with that. This allows you to have access to the QuickBooks company file without having a copy of QuickBooks installed on your computer (and not using RDS). In theory this should work very well, but I did not test this extensively.
The Xact access control panel allows you to control what types of transactions that a particular ACT! user can work with.
Some of the settings have an option of Full Access or No Access. Others add options for List Only, Read Only and Read and New.
Several “wizards” are provided to help you make the initial connection between ACT! and QuickBooks, either importing QuickBooks customers into ACT! or vice versa.
The import/export wizards provide a number of options that let you control which records are moved and how the mapping is handled to match ACT! fields with QuickBooks. I was happy with the options that they provided here.
Any third party product that interacts with QuickBooks has to deal with the often cryptic error messages that QuickBooks can return. This can be a difficult part of programming a QuickBooks interface. Xact seems to do a reasonable job of handling and explaining errors. I’ll note that I didn’t run into many error messages other than “connection” errors, which is often a tricky issue when working with QuickBooks.
Partners with Accountants
I don’t have details on this, but Xact is very interested in developing partnerships with accountants and other business consultants. This information hasn’t been (at the time I’m writing this) posted on their new web site, so I recommend that you contact them directly if you would like to know more about the kinds of resources they provide to partners. According to Graeme Leo of Xact, when talking about partnerships opportunities, “To achieve market depth and instill confidence in larger customers we have to earn consultants respect through a very high level of support both educational resources and technical support.”
Xact Accounting Link for ACT! and QuickBooks is available for US$179.00 per user. At this time there are no annual maintenance fees, upgrades are available at no charge to all registered users when they are released. They say that it is possible that if there is a change in either ACT! or QuickBooks that requires a significant rewrite of the software they may introduce an upgrade fee, but at this point there are no plans for that. Their price and update policies are excellent.
The integration with ACT! is very smooth and seamless. It fits right in. I’m very happy with the quality of the programming work that I’ve seen.
I haven’t been able to evaluate how fast the program responds when you have very large lists. This could be an area of concern, given that they maintain an active link to QuickBooks. From what I’ve seen, I believe that if you have very large lists (such as an item list) that you will notice a delay in starting up, but that once you are going the system will respond quickly. I have not tested this with a large database, however.
The “active link” approach does create some issues for SOME business environments. If you work with multiple QuickBooks company files, you will probably find that this is inconvenient to use in most situations. If I have ACT! open to deal with my contacts, but I want to work with different client files, I won’t be able to change back and forth unless I close ACT!. So for an accountant or ProAdvisor in a small office, this may not be the right solution. Although I’m very happy with how the product works, I’m probably not going to be able to use it in my own office. However, most businesses spend their time in just one company file, and this should work very well. Almost all of my clients have that kind of situation. The “active link” brings along several advantages over a product that only links periodically, or when you need to push data back and forth. Without an active link you would find that you either have to deal with a “sync” process, or suffer from long delays as you switch between contacts.
If you work with ACT!, and if this product fits your particular situation (working with one QB company file primarily) then this is an excellent tool!