I got my invite to ContactZilla a little while ago now but for one reason or another haven’t really had time to give it a proper once over until now.
It is worth admitting upfront that I currently don’t really use any kind of system to manage my contacts – I have details in LinkedIn & Google but mainly in my head if I’m honest. While at Jiva I was using Highrise from 37 Signals for a specific project and found it pretty easy to get going and relatively useful – the email integration was great – but generally it didn’t quite fit my workflow and was very much a CRM tool – it was optimised to support sales calls and that really isn’t my bag.
Right off the bat I’m more comfortable with ContactZilla as it considers itself a Contact Management System (though god knows I don’t need another CMS in my life 🙂 ) rather than a CRM – it also avoids much of the cliched language and imagery that people fall into when trying to sell to small businesses etc.
Setting up my account and importing my contacts from LinkedIn was straightforward and quick. I still find that my contacts don’t really fit into a ‘supplier’, ‘client’, ‘prospect’ model. I guess everything is a bit more blurry for me than that.
I do like the ability to add tags though as this allows me to create my own taxonomy that will work better for me – I also think the ‘request an update’ feature is a nice touch – if used infrequently. The ‘notes’ field is a pretty common function for these kind of apps and from a personal point of view I think I’d like it to be a bit more of a prominent option – it is nicely done and it is tracking activity associated with a contact that is likely to be the most important element in a team situation.
It would also be nice to somehow associate emails to a contact using the BCC field or something so that you could build an archive of correspondence with an individual. Obviously GMail etc allow you to track your conversations anyway but a backup never hurts.
The SMS search feature is VERY clever and I can see that being very popular with Blackberry users in particular!
I’m going to use it for contact management for Eventstreams and Be Bettr to get a feel for it in a more structured activity and I am also going to see if anyone at JISC is going to be interested in giving it a go. There has been a growing call for a tool of this kind for some kind but the technical and cultural overhead has stopped it ever really happening and I reckon this could help get things off the ground.