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  • How does Contact Management fit into GTD?

    Hi, I am in the process of starting my own small business and I have hit a sticking point with how the whole idea of Contact Management fits in with GTD.

    To me Contact Management is tracking all calls, emails, meetings, tasks, sales leads etc associated with a specific Contact/Company.

    Traditionally I would use ACT! for this, and here is the problem. If I follow GTD, or my understanding of GTD, unless something is date/time specific it should not go on the Calendar (ACT) it should go on a Next Action list. Now this is fine, but from a Contact Management perspective the information link is broken. I use MLO for my Next Action lists, Projects etc. With ACT! everything has to be dated and attached to a Contact/Company.Any task within ACT really ends up looking like a daily ToDo list because everything has to be dated.

    How does everybody else manage Contact information?

    I am starting to think I am really getting overly concerned about this, and it is probably because of my previous conditioning working with Contact Management software in the past. But it does worry me that I will regret at some point in the future not having information attached to Contacts.

    Then again, speed wise and simplicity, just working from MLO and Next Action lists will probably pay dividends.

    I just seem to get in a twist about things at the moment, should a Call go into ACT or into MLO on my @Calls list.

    I keep trying to break away from ACT, use Outlook for Contact etc. But in the end I keep coming back to ACT mainly because I am not a big Outlook fan.

    Tried most Contact Managers, and the only thing that looks like it might be a reasonable replacement, from just a Contacts/Calendar perspective, is Time&Chaos. With Time & Chaos I can see I would work primarily from MLO, just using Time&Chaos to reference Contact details, appointments etc.

    So I either have an overly complex system with ACT and MLO, or a really simple system with Time&Chaos and MLO. The latter system would make me enter all of the information apart from Time Specific, into MLO. Which I can see the benefits of, everything more or less in one place.

    But I just wondered how others dealt with Contact Specific information/data?

    Has anybody else managed to break away from what I would call this 'Contact Management mentality' and have there been benfits from doing so?

    The most important thing is really to get the Next Action done, regardless of the system. But at the moment, because I do have doubts about where things should go, which system, things are starting to backlog and stall.

    Any help or guidance would be much appreciated, I just feel lost at the moment as to the best way forward.

    All the best

    Steve

  • #2
    I have tried contact managers, but I'm not in sales, and they are not a good fit for me, so anything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. However..

    What is your work? How do you do it? If you sit in a dark room making cold calls from a list somebody hands you, your needs are different from somebody who spends most of his time out of the office calling on current customers. When are you in the office? Do you have a routine? How much information do you really need to track, and where do you need to see it? How many customers do you have? How do you follow up on leads? Is your current system working? How do you want to work?

    From my own experience, I have found that tracking people (in my case 100+ grad and undergrad students) is best done outside my GTD system. Of course, my projects and next actions do refer to the students and their issues:

    Project: Spring Advising of 1st & 2nd year grad students
    NA: send email re making appts. w. me

    but the data on individual students is just reference information.

    Comment


    • #3
      Records of past events are reference information and therefore outside of GTD. Keep them in whatever tool makes sense, probably Act.

      A number of people, myself included, fudge the undated NA list rule. For future NAs like followup calls, I assign the first date on which I am likely to consider doing the task. This lets me ignore "Call John week of June 19" until I'm ready to act on it, without cluttering up my calendar or going through the hassle of transferring an electronic task to my paper Tickler file. Might this approach also help you resolve the conflict?

      Katherine

      Comment


      • #4
        How many people do you need to have in this database? Poke around Download.com and see if you can't find some new software to make it easy.

        Building a database in Microsoft Access is a possiblitiy too. This way you can do mail merge letters, envelopes, etc.

        Try Nonags.com is your looking for free software.

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks for the repsonses so far

          Hi Guys,

          Thanks for the responses.

          In answer to some of your questions, I am starting a Computer Services Business as a Sole Trader to start. So I am planning on wearing various hats, Sales Manager, Marketing Manager, Accountant, Tea Boy etc. As well as doing the actual work !!!

          I can see from a purely Business perspective that using a Contact Manager makes sense, due to the fact I have the ability to store Contact information, group contacts via business types, do mail/email merges, run reports, add sales leads, see a sales pipeline, list of prospects etc. There is also other software that links with the Contact Management software, Helpdesk, Accounting etc. So Contact information would be pivotal for these other applications. I also have a PPC link, so that the Contact Management info is portable and at the moment there are 700+ live contacts in the database.

          ACT! is for me I suppose is a trusted system I have used it all through my career so far, it is just a pity it does not lend itself more to GTD. My attempts at getting a GTD system working within ACT have been next to useless. I agree with the point, that dated Next Actions can be fudged by setting a date in the future but whatever I do it is really limited to just seeing nothing more than a Daily ToDo list which is what is was designed to do.

          I just have doubts about separating information that is connected, either separating a Contact Specific item from ACT into MLO, or separating a Project related item from MLO into ACT.

          If I was to view the Contact information as just reference material, then I don't think I need a Contact Manager and something like Time&Chaos would do the job as an Address book and Calendar. This type of system I haven't ruled out yet, and I need to experiment with. Though it does raise questions about finding other software to do Mail Merges, Exporting/Importing contact records etc.

          Everything is very hard to gauge at the moment because I am just in the initial steps of starting the business. But I can see in the future I may well need information on Projected Sales, Sales to date etc. Not using a Contact Manager from that angle will make information retrieval more difficult. Yet not having a streamlined good working system in place to begin with is going to cause me even more problems.

          Swings and roundabouts, I just keep going in circles. What is best from a Contact Management/Customer Relationship Management perspective is not necessarily best from a GTD implementation perspective.

          I probably need to think long and hard about setting some guidelines for the types of information that are stored, how important they are and where to store them. Then play around until I do get a system that works, but I still feel lost with it all !


          All the best

          Steve

          Comment


          • #6
            In my opinion:

            Getting Things Done is about...getting things done. E.g., actual physical actions. It's not a catch-all reference system that you can drop contacts into, since contacts aren't directly actionable.

            Keep your contacts in whatever form that is useful for you. But when you need to contact people (you can use your tickler to remind you to keep in touch with folks), you've got an Action (phone, e-mail, etc.) that can go into your Next Actions list.

            Does that make sense?

            Comment


            • #7
              I would NOT recommend throwing out Act! and starting over with something else. Whatever its limitations, it is a system that you trust and are familiar with. Trying to develop that familiarity with another system while simultaneously getting a new business off the ground sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

              I would also suggest that you stick with a system that meets your current needs, rather than trying to plan the perfect system for all your anticipated future needs. A simple system with room to grow will take much less time to set up and manage. Once you need a more complex system, presumably you'll have resources (staff and/or money) to implement it. Right now, you need to build your business, not get hung up in creating tools.

              So, there are a couple of alternatives. One is to figure out a way to manage projects within Act! People have had success using a "Contacts as Projects" method in Outlook; might something similar work in Act? If you can get the project information into Act! in that way, presumably Act's reporting functions are powerful enough to give you whatever view of the data you want.

              Or, is there a way to get action items out of Act! in some reasonably portable way, like a text file? Or paper? If most of your actions are generated within Act, you may be able to use a much simpler secondary system than MLO for project lists and so forth. (Alternatively, if Act! is only responsible for a few actions, you may not need the full functionality that it offers.)

              Hope this helps,

              Katherine

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Brent
                In my opinion:

                Getting Things Done is about...getting things done. E.g., actual physical actions. It's not a catch-all reference system that you can drop contacts into, since contacts aren't directly actionable.

                Keep your contacts in whatever form that is useful for you. But when you need to contact people (you can use your tickler to remind you to keep in touch with folks), you've got an Action (phone, e-mail, etc.) that can go into your Next Actions list.

                Does that make sense?
                Yes that does make sense, perfect sense. I agree that is the way I probably will work and to be honest that is the way I want to work.

                So in summary from what I can see then GTD really negates the need for Contact Management software. Because Next Actions, such as Calls, Emails etc, will not be linked or recorded against a specific Contact or Company. The essence of Contact Management software is tracking contact related activities. Those things will be on Next Action lists, separate from the Contact Management system. All that is required from a GTD approach is a reference list, address book, of the required Contact details phone numbers, email etc. To refer to, when working from Next Action lists.

                Thinking more about it as I am writing, I will bite the bullet and give it a go just using Next Action lists because I can really see the benefit of doing it that way. I also think I will switch to Time&Chaos or something for contact reference details and Calendar. I think I need to switch to something else for the Contacts, because if I continue to use ACT I will be drawn back into this revolving door type scenario. Other things such as Mail Merges, etc, I will address later when the need arises. As long as I have the Contact data, there is always a way.

                Brent I think your words of wisdom have cleared things up in my mind.

                Many thanks

                All the best

                Steve

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by kewms
                  I would NOT recommend throwing out Act! and starting over with something else. Whatever its limitations, it is a system that you trust and are familiar with. Trying to develop that familiarity with another system while simultaneously getting a new business off the ground sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.
                  Hi Katherine thanks for the response, only just saw your reply after posting about Brents comments.

                  I have tried everything with ACT to implement GTD, using Contacts as Projects etc. But nothing worked well, my trusted system actually became an untrusted system because I was using it in a way it wasn't designed to be used. Hence the reason I purchased a copy of MLO.

                  I won't have a problem I don't think adapting to a new system, my main problem is just breaking away from that Contact Management mentality. The way I have been working in the past hasn't really worked that well hence the reason I want to utilise the GTD principles. So perhaps a fresh new approach, with the start of a fresh new business may just work out well.

                  I understand your reservations, I have them as well. Lots of them. But a new approach I think is just what I need and it is perhaps better in a way to start now while things are just getting off the ground. Rather than get trapped with a redundant system later on. I can always tweak things as I go along, and the worse case scenario is as long as I have the basic contact information I can always import it back into ACT!

                  Thanks for you comments

                  All the best

                  Steve

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Glad to help! And thanks for the detailed response.

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