Outlook 2003: Business Contact Manager

Business Contact Manager (BCM) version 2.0 is a free add-in to Outlook 2003 in the Office Professional and Small Business editions. It's a great tool if you understand how to use it for your benefit and overcome its two major limitations:

  • Older versions of BCM work as stand-alone units not allowing sharing among several users. Upgrading your BCM to Version 2.0 allows database sharing among several users. If you're using an older version, get online, choose Help in the Outlook toolbar, choose Check For Updates, and then follow the instructions to upgrade your system.
    To use BCM's sharing features, your Outlook program must be installed on a computer running Windows XP Professional; BCM doesn't share under Windows XP Home Edition.
  • The Product And Service Items List has a fixed format with only three available fields to import data from your sales and accounting system. You have to adjust the fields from your business system to fit into the three importing fields: Item Name, Description, and Unit Price, which limits the way of quoting services and products. Quoting the same product as one unit, one box, or one container means you have to open one line item per packaging. You can't import your current inventory quantities because BCM doesn't import quantity fields.
    To have the same item on the different packaging on the same line, you have to define the meaning of your unit quantity, whether it's 1 shampoo bottle or a box containing 12 shampoo bottles. Adapting each Item Name, Description, and Unit Price for a service, a project, or product is the challenge of using BCM in any business.

Say, for example, that Daisy works in a computer and software maintenance company and receives a request for a quote to install and share the new BCM 2.0 in five workstations. She writes a detailed proposal, including minimum requirements like a Windows XP Professional in the workstation that will share the database, and estimates the number of hours for her service. She creates a new item to record this proposal:

Service Quote for Installation Software

Item Name: Software installation

Description: BCM 2.0 shared in 5 workstations

Quantity:1 service

Price : 120.00

Daisy uses the Item name field to specify the service and the Description field to list what was required. She also links the proposal as a file in the Opportunity History Items. Adapting her service to the Product And Service Items List, you can apply Daisy's idea in any type of business.

In addition, say that Mark works in a legal office, and a new customer requests a quote for handling the company's legal affairs. He writes a proposal explaining what his office services cover and sends it as $250 per hour, estimating ten hours per month of service. He estimates the proposal at 120 hours a year and sets it up in the following way:

Service Quote for Mark's Legal Services

Item Name: Legal support

Description: Business legal support contract 10h/month

Quantity: 120

Total: $30,000

Likewise, a cosmetology clinic can create a Product And Service Items List for Botox skin-care applications and laser skin-care services in the same way as a legal office or a computer service.

Whether you're in a store or small industry, you can adjust your product list to fit BCM's available fields by using the preceding examples.

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