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  1. #1
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    Contact Management (2002)

    I am in the process of finding a contact management solution for a small company I am helping out. Currently all the firm's client contact information is stored in one public folder (running Exchange). All identifying information (i.e., to which client or matter the contact is associated with) is maintained as a note. I need some advice from those of you who may have created contact management solutions in the past. I see myself as having two options, created a VB program with an Access back-end to take over client-matter and contact management. This program would interface with Word templates providing the user with easy access to contact information. OR, I could use Exchange public folders as my data store, write a COM add-in to display the information sorted by client matter number to the users in Word. I have read in various places that searching via public folders has a high overhead -- does anyone know if this is true? I also wonder about the data organization (would each client matter have a single public folder and all contacts in a sub folder or would I maintain the "single public folder" and have a separate field for client matter number) and how that would affect search overhead. Any thoughts appreciated as I have not used public folders in this manner before.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator jscher2000's Avatar
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    Re: Contact Management (2002)

    Do you really want to "roll your own" solution? I believe there are add-ons to Exchange for this, as well as, of course, expensive dedicated solutions with their own databases, and desktop solutions that integrate with Outlook (e.g., ACT).

  3. #3
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    Re: Contact Management (2002)

    Well most of the desktop solutions are just over the top for what I need... and obviously the expense, you've mentioned is fairly great. I've been doing similar things for long enough that I have most of the code written for an integration tool -- it's just a matter of where I get the data from and rewriting that piece of it. If you have any links to add-ons that provide just contact management (the ones I have seen all include lots of features I just dont need) and provide a user friendly interface for word templates, I'd love to see them!

  4. #4
    Super Moderator jscher2000's Avatar
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    Re: Contact Management (2002)

    I'm getting a better picture. May I assume that this public folder is full of contact records that look, for all intents and purposes, just like local contacts in Outlook? I think it would be possible to layer a search engine over that folder using an external database, but I'm not sure how it could be kept up to date in anything like real time without imposing an even worse burden on the server. Maybe a faster box for the server is the answer to the performance issue?

    Regarding integration with Word, yes, this is the Holy Grail. I think if you implement an MRU (most recently used) contact list, you can take a lot of the load off, since most people work with the same contacts most of the time. Not sure whether the cache should include the actual address data or just an "efficient" link. The problem with Outlook contacts is that there does not appear to be an efficient way to link to a particular record. I'd like to know the solution to that one.

    Unfortunately, I don't have any links... in fact, I've never used Exchange. Have you tried Slipstick?

    Sounds like a great project, and with luck, you'll be able to sell it to a lot of other Firms!

  5. #5
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    Re: Contact Management (2002)

    Yes, exactly, the contacts are just like local contacts in Outlook. The thing with the search engine is that, for the most part, everything is tied to the client matter # so I would generally want to ask "Hey, which CM# do you want to look up?" Then give them a list of all contacts associated with that #... very seldom would they want to search via name but that would have to be an option as well and they wouldn't generally be using just 5 - 10 names on a MRU.

    This is my dilemma with the data store -- having never used Exchange myself, how to best use it as a data store or just scrap that idea because of the overhead and just use an Access back-end (which I already have written since I've done that a bazillion times). Obviously I want something with longevity for my client/friend (I don't really do this as a contractor though I'd really like to find out how to go about doing so as I'm about to be done with my five year long project but I'm a Word developer anyway). Access is small and fast -- I'm thinking perhaps of just keeping a copy of the contacts entered in the Access DB in the global public folder for synchronization purposes with a PDA and Blackberry but that irks my "data integrity" button... My reviews of KB articles lead me to believe the overhead on searching public folders is too high but I don't know if that is hardware reliant or not.

  6. #6
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    Re: Contact Management (2002)

    Just to give the bigger pic...the company right now maintains a Word document with the distribution list and cuts and pastes to address documents... even though the contacts are in the public folder, they are completely unusable to them for the document creation process.

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