Software Review – Point for Windows and ACT

“Effective use of Goldmine allows total integration of your contact activity with outside parties, including time management and scheduling.”

As a mortgage originator and long time user of personal computer technology, two programs have always dominated my desktop: Point for Windows and ACT. The latter has always known Goldmine as a worthy competitor, and I anxiously awaited my opportunity to review the latest version. I approached this review with two particular goals. I wanted to see if the product could be self-taught and whether I could easily navigate the program with key commands instead of a mouse.

Many users have referred to this type of program as an “electronic Rolodex.” This is like referring to the Concorde supersonic airplane as basic transportation. Effective use of Goldmine allows total integration of your contact activity with outside parties, including time management and scheduling. A better analogy is to refer to Goldmine as a sophisticated personal secretary that is always on time and never calls in sick. Goldmine also allows the user to see the schedule of other individuals who are using the system and to effectively allow group scheduling for meetings and other projects.

Installation proved to be fairly straightforward, and I had the program operational in 15 minutes. I was able to import my ACT database into Goldmine with no real problem. A built-in wizard allowed me to walk myself through the process.

I found the basic contact management features fairly easy to learn, and had no problem using hot keys to perform basic operations such as looking up contacts by last name or company name, or to schedule a telephone call or meeting. I pointedly compared the speed and ease of use with ACT, and concluded it was smooth and perhaps even faster, particularly in the ability to quickly move among a group of individuals with similar last names.

Goldmine allows the user to set up a small Rolodex, in lieu of using the master database to look up commonly used numbers. This is easily the feature I most miss in ACT, but here Goldmine misses the mark by requiring the user to manually complete this Rolodex instead of allowing the user to set it up by importing from the master database.

Goldmine provides the ability to organize contacts into an organization chart, a feature not available in ACT, and underscoring the traditional view that Goldmine is oriented towards the company rather than the individual. This feature allows the user to organize contacts and see their position in the company hierarchy, but for the most part, information is centered around the individual, and scheduling is performed in relation to the logged in user.

Both Goldmine and ACT allow the user to set up groups (a very powerful feature that allows the user to work with a subset of the database to allow mail merged emails or faxes) or to work with a set of contacts that share some common attribute (customers, clients, lenders, and so on). Its sophisticated filtering capability allows powerful real-time look-ups that occur as data is added, allowing the user to define groups and having contacts automatically added into a particular group (or groups). Goldmine also provides a sophisticated lead follow-up system. This feature is beyond the average beginning user, but is of clear value in the enterprise environment and for the more sophisticated stand-alone user.

One area that Goldmine appears to excel in is its scalability into the large enterprise. Databases can be stored in either dBase format, or in SQL format for use on Microsoft SQL servers. This latter client/server architecture is popular (and necessary) with very large databases, where large numbers of users are accessing the data, and where a very robust database architecture is required. Inquiries are performed at the server and only the results returned to the client, greatly speeding up the transaction.

But what about the small office or single user? I concur with other reviewers that ACT is still slightly easier to learn, although this version of Goldmine has gone a very long way in achieving a new level of usability and ease of use. The sad truth is that any of the really powerful contact management systems require considerable time (and perhaps training) to learn how to utilize all of the significant features.

Goldmine 5.0 is a real winner, and a viable candidate for the office desiring this capability. A contact manager should be the average broker’s second purchase, after buying their loan origination software.

I look forward to following up on this review with add-on products like AspireGold, which is a specialized template for mortgage lending and Goldmine Plus for Calyx Point, a free data exchange application.

by Stephen Breden