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The Next Generation of Contact Management Software

For my new Fast Company column, my coauthor Scott Allen and I had a chance to have a conversation with Greg Head, ACT!’s former General Manager, about the need for increased privacy, interoperability, and personal responsibility as contact management and social networking software converge:

 Contact management software will always be centered around a database of contact information that tracks basic name, addresses, and other data — combined with powerful methods of managing countless commitments and a history of all relationships. That said, we will be doing more contact management activities using an Internet browser or PDA phone, as opposed to just Windows applications. These new methods will allow more integration to the phone and to Web services that can integrate into contact managers — to scrub addresses, to integrate with accounting applications, or to share your relationship data with others.

Head also had some thoughts about Microsoft’s role in the social networking space, as well as centralized directory services like Plaxo:

 I may be a little biased in this regard, but I think that Microsoft will have to make some fundamental changes to develop the level of trust that is required for people to track, share, and leverage social network information in a Microsoft-hosted world.

In fact, even centralized public directory services such as Plaxo might not be able to meet every users’ needs because of concerns with privacy and inconvenience.

 These services might be useful for the user — but are not so useful for the recipient of the “update your contact information” request. As the centralized nature of some of these become known, people will be even more reluctant to send their contact data off across the Internet.

 Ultimately, though, Head says it’s more about personal responsibility and process as the tools themselves:

The majority of salespeople and businesspeople are still fighting the first phase of this battle:

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just tracking all of their follow-up and project commitments in a reliable system.

Contact managers provide the tools, but the habit of tracking all commitments and managing them effectively can be different for each person.

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