Sage ACT! is a widely used CRM system, and there are several products available that can connect QuickBooks with your ACT! system. Today I’m reviewing QBSalesData from Effective Solutions. This is an interesting program, with many great features but a few rough edges. You might want to compare this with Xact Accounting Link for ACT! and QuickBooks, which I reviewed earlier.
Please note that this is an overview, not a detailed tutorial on how to set up and use the program.
Working With QBSalesData
It is important to keep in mind that when you are talking about ACT integration, the typical user is going to be a salesperson who lives in ACT most of the time, not an accountant or bookkeeper. You won’t see changes on the QuickBooks side of things, everything is accessed via ACT.
Once you have everything set up (as I’ll discuss briefly below) you have the ability to:
- Add a customer in QuickBooks from an ACT contact.
- View QuickBooks information in ACT, such as sales activity.
- Create invoices, estimates, sales orders, sales receipts, payment receipts and jobs in QuickBooks.
Here is your ACT contact view as modified by QBSalesData:
The menu options that are added let you control how this contact interacts with the QuickBooks
QB Create/Link Customer establishes a connection between the ACT contact and the QuickBooks customer. You can create a new QuickBooks customer from this contact, or link to an existing one. The search feature doesn’t provide a dropdown list – you have to enter a search value. That could be a minor hassle if you aren’t careful how you set up QuickBooks naming conventions. Note that you use this to add new contacts that become QuickBooks customers as you go along – your initial QuickBooks customer list will be synchronized as a part of the setup process.
Invoice provides a list of transactions that you can create in QuickBooks. If you select one of these options, and you have a QuickBooks company file open at the same time, you will be taken to QuickBooks to enter the transaction you selected, with the proper customer already selected. So you don’t have a window in ACT to create the order, you must have QuickBooks available.
Edit Record in QB takes you to the Edit Customer record in QuickBooks so that you can directly edit the information there. Again, you must have the QuickBooks company file open already. However, changes you make in QuickBooks aren’t always synchronized back to ACT, even if you select the Refresh Data From QB option. I’m still looking to see if I have something set up incorrectly here. Update: “Refresh Data From QB” is purposely designed to only update the info in the QB tabs. There is a separate “Contact Data Sync” process that would update the contact information. This is important because of the different ways that users want to manage the contact/address information. Some would like separate address info between ACT contacts and QuickBooks customers. It is a complicated issue, QBSalesData provides you with tools to manage it the way that fits your situation best.
Refresh Data From QB will bring information in the QB Data tab over from QuickBooks. This is information about sales, balances and such. Note that this can also be automated so that it will bring over data periodically without you having to click on something.
Lookup Item asks for a QuickBooks item ID and will list all other contacts that have purchased that item. This one was a bit confusing until I read the manual a second time.
There are three tabs added to the Marketing Results section of the contact view.
QBData has information about the customer and sales activity. Terms, limits, price levels on the side. An aged receivables summary. Then up to five years of sales activity if you decide to bring the data over. As I’ll discuss later, this is not a real link to the QuickBooks company file, it is data copied over. I like this window – the information is immediately available and presented very clearly.
QB Transactions is a list of the transactions in tabular form. You can filter the results to find records that you want. Double click on a transaction and a detail window opens up.
QB Items is a listing of all of the items purchased by the contact, in detail. I don’t see a way to get a summary, just the details.
Setting Up QBSalesData
Summary installation instructions are available on the web site, but I recommend that you look at the full documentation rather than using the installation summary. The summary glossed over some details that I thought were important, while the full documentation explains things more clearly. Initially I set up with just the summary instructions and I found that I didn’t get the results I wanted. I started over with the full instructions and was happier with the results.
Installation and setup does take time. You will set up mapping between QuickBooks and ACT fields, decide what information to bring over, and decide how you want to synchronize the customer lists in the two databases. Be patient – it takes time to run through all of the information in your QuickBooks file, even if it is a small file. It wasn’t always clear to me that something was going on – there wasn’t a “wait” cursor and the progress notifications were a bit obscure. However, the process did complete without any error messages.
Sharing Data with QuickBooks
QBSalesData has a very different approach to sharing QuickBooks data than Xact Accounting Link. With Xact you have an active link so that data is moving back and forth between QuickBooks and ACT at every step. With QBSalesData you have a batch process – data exchange only occurs either when you specifically click on a button, or with an automated sync process that you set up to occur at a particular time of day.
With Xact, changes made in Xact would show up in QuickBooks almost immediately. In addition, if you make a request to see reports based on invoices (for example), Xact goes to QuickBooks and retrieves the required data. Your QuickBooks data stays in QuickBooks unless you pull it for a query or report.
With QBSalesData everything is just about the opposite. Changes made in QBSalesData only go to QuickBooks when you push a button to synchronize (or at a scheduled time). A detailed copy of your history (invoices, etc.) is copied over from QuickBooks and duplicated in ACT, so when you are generating reports that report is based on the copy that you have in ACT.
Which is better? Well, that depends on how you use QuickBooks.
On the surface, I prefer Xact’s approach. I don’t want duplicate copies of data in both places. I don’t want to have to spend a lot of time managing syncing. However, in my particular situation, I can’t use Xact. As a ProAdvisor and software developer/critic, I work with many different company files. I would like to have ACT open all of the time so that I can quickly respond to sales queries that occur at any time during the day. However, if I have ACT running, with Xact, I must have my own QuickBooks company file open all of the time. I can’t open other client files without shutting down ACT. Yes, I know that I can have two company files open in QuickBooks 2011, but that doesn’t work for me. The second company file has major restrictions, and I’m not always running QuickBooks 2011. I’m running different year of products, and sometimes flipping between Enterprise and Premier.
QBSalesData doesn’t have this issue. If I have ACT open, but some other QuickBooks company file open other than the one that is linked, no problem. I can look at sales histories, make changes to contact information, and do many of the activities. The only time I have to make sure that the right QuickBooks file is open is if I am syncing, or trying to create a new invoice or similar transaction. This suits my situation much better.
If you have a situation where you are taking ACT out into the field so that you aren’t always connected with the QuickBooks company file, you still have access to that sales history, which may be beneficial to some businesses. However, without QuickBooks connected, you can’t create invoices. Instead you have to create a sales opportunity, which you can later change to an invoice when you are connected.
I do have a few issues with QBSalesData and how it connects contacts with customers. For example, I use the first/last name fields for a client that doesn’t have a company name. QBSalesData wants me to use the Contact field instead (which I normally don’t use).
There is a lot to like here, particularly if you are working with multiple QuickBooks client files in addition to your own, or have to take ACT out on the road. Xact has more polish and runs a bit more smoothly, while QBSalesData has a few rough edges here and there. I’m also concerned about how well it keeps data in sync – I haven’t run this for long enough to see how well the sync process works. If I have to remember to click buttons all the time, I’m not sure that it will be helpful.
QBSalesData is available for $159 per workstation. If you wish to run the “nightly transaction sync program” on your data server then you need an additional license for the server itself. A 15 day trial is available that provides all functions – I strongly recommend that you try this before purchasing. It is available for ACT 2008 through 2011, and QuickBooks 2007 through 2011 (US editions – Canada/UK is supported for 2010 through 2011). The product has been on the market since November 2009.