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March 2000

Business Suite 8

Tigerpaw Software, Inc.
7318 Harrison Street
Omaha, NE 68128
Ph: 800-704-9009
Fx: 402-592-7317
Web site: www.tigerpawsoftware.com

Price: $1,795 for a single-user system with all 4 modules. Call for pricing on multiuser licenses and individual components.

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RATINGS (0–5)
Installation: 4.5
Documentation: 4.75
Features: 4
GUI: 4
Overall: A-


Tigerpaw Software�s Business Suite 8 is a multifaceted call center and customer management software tool, employing a GUI that is very similar to Microsoft Outlook. Designed for sales and customer support entities, Business Suite 8 offers a flexible install base (Windows 95/98 and NT) and includes more than 200 report templates generated in Crystal Reports 6.0. Business Suite 8 consists of four modules designed to manage contacts and schedules, perform quotes, service and repair tracking along with inventory control and purchasing. It is easy to install and manage, and is intended to have the look and feel of Microsoft Outlook, a program that many desktop PC users are accustomed to using.

Installation
Business Suite 8 has the ability to run on Windows 95, 98 and NT, with a minimum system requirement of a Pentium processor, 32MB RAM (64MB recommended), 60MB free hard drive space and a SVGA monitor. Our first installation was version 8.1, sp2, which we installed on a NT Workstation, 266MHz, 128MB RAM on a 100 Base-T network, although that much RAM was overkill for this product. We had recently reformatted the hard drive and performed a clean install of Windows NT to eliminate the specter of any legacy software installed on the PC. We then updated NT to Service Pack 4, only to be compatible with our third-party video driver, not due to any requirement with Business Suite 8.

The install was a standard CD-ROM. There were no surprises or complications installing the software, except for a restart at the beginning of the installation due to the PC�s OLE files being in use, which precluded an update. We had to reboot the machine and rerun the installer to finish the install. Other than the OLE files issue, installation was seamless and only took a few minutes. There were no complicated options along the way, and we stayed with the defaults.

Installing the program on a Windows 98 PC was identical. This was an important test because we wanted to install and review the product on different operating systems. Again, we used a high-end desktop and it was the same process overall, including the OLE-required reboot.

At the end of the software install, we had the option of installing Acrobat Reader 3.02, which is a nice touch because it provides the ability to read the documentation provided without having to locate and install a copy of Acrobat Reader yourself.

Documentation
As is customary with much of today�s software, there are two complete sets of documentation � the electronic documents and the hard copy. This is a good trend because the electronic documents are getting much more (deserved) attention lately. Having this option insures that the manual is never lost (barring some software corruption) and is a space- and paper-saving measure. Most sophisticated developers today are including the complete documentation as a readable file directly on the CD-ROM or installing it directly on the PC. The best-case scenario would be both, but this is not the case here, as it�s readable only on the hard drive and not accessible directly from the Tigerpaw Software CD-ROM.

The User�s Guide is extremely thorough. At over 400 pages, it is complete, organized and very helpful. The electronic copy and the hard copy are page-for-page identical. This is good as far as continuity goes, as it presents the same information no matter which version you reference.

The table of contents is excellent. Each topic and sub-topic is listed; something that is missing in other products we�ve tested in the past. Because most of the topics are less than one page in length, there are 11 pages in the table of contents. In this case, more is much better than less!

The content of the documentation is also outstanding. The text is clear and there are enough graphics (all screen shots) to illustrate the points discussed in the manual. This is much better than average documentation, and other software developers should look here to see how thorough a manual should be, without overkill.

There is also a standard Windows help file for Business Suite 8. It contains both text and graphics � more information than standard help files. There are links that connect to other sections of the help files and the list of topics and sub-topics is extensive. Overall, it is much better than average compared to Windows help files on other products we have reviewed!

Features
Business Suite 8 is feature rich. It consists of four different modules, Pursuit, Service & Repair, Quotes and Parts; the user can elect to install the entire package as a whole, or separately in an �a la carte� fashion. Every module has an easy-to-use GUI that is extremely user friendly and very intuitive.

The Pursuit Module (which has nothing to do with �Bullet,� the 1973 Steve McQueen movie) is a contact manager that allows a user to track accounts and contacts (an unlimited number), schedule tasks, send faxes and auto-dial phone numbers. It also has the ability to mail merge to Microsoft Office documents (requires Office be installed on the PC) and fax using Microsoft Exchange or Symantec�s Winfax Pro. There is also the option to print contacts, follow-ups and management reports, and Pursuit also includes a journal feature. Pursuit�s calendar gives the user the ability to customize many features, including the choice of views (daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly or annually), an alarm to notify you of upcoming appointments, the ability to make an event recurring, an option to tag for priority (high, medium, low) and the provision of drag-and-drop rescheduling.

The Quotes Module allows users to create quotes that can be turned into service orders, under the Service & Repair Module. In addition, nonbillable items can be added, items can be tracked by technician time, and items on the quote can be marked for backor-der or in-stock status. Also, any items on the quote can be added, deleted or modified until the job has been completed and the invoice is prepared. The quotes can be adjusted for additional discounts, and for all quotes that have been transferred to service orders, the items on the quote are automatically added to the parts and labor section of the service order.

The Service & Repair Module allows users to track service orders, technicians and maintenance contracts, prepare detailed service orders, assign and schedule technicians, and use the calendar view to print and track service calls and to print and post invoices. This module also allows users to track and complete open orders, generate reports to analyze profitability of tech time usage, maintenance contract profitability and technician schedules, and is designed to conform to Microsoft Office specifications.

The Parts Module is a complete inventory management system which can be used for generating purchase orders, receiving, inventory and serialized item tracking, and detailed records show all purchases, sales, inventory on hand, latest cost and total quantities of any inventoried item. Each item entered in the Parts Module has a corresponding inventory detail record and allows users to post received items into inventory.

Report Manager is a utility that allows users to print and preview reports (from all modules) and create custom report categories. There are more than 200 report templates, created by a third-party product, Crystal Reports. Crystal Reports is manufactured by Seagate Software and is required to create custom reports or modify any of the existing reports. By clicking on the Reports View in the menu bar (under Reports), you have the option of reporting on the following:

  • Accounts,
  • Contacts,
  • Tasks,
  • Service orders,
  • Quotes,
  • Price book items,
  • Purchase orders,
  • Transfers.

In addition, document linking lets you link any document on the computer directly to the account. Any file that has the application on the system can be linked to any account or contact in the database. In addition, data in ASCII text format can be imported to Business Suite 8. Although Tigerpaw Software doesn�t support any accounting package, Business Suite 8 has the ability to be linked to Quickbooks Pro 99 and can send two batches, one for accounts receivable and one for general ledger.

Operational Testing
Business Suite 8�s GUI is very similar to Microsoft Outlook. Tigerpaw is a Microsoft Certified Solution Provider and was developed in Visual Basic 6 using the Access 97 Database structure. This type of interface is very user friendly and is not intimidating to a nontechnical user.

We launched the application and created a new database when prompted. Our other choice was to open an existing database, which we had not created yet. (Subsequent launches of the program allow users to choose which database to launch.) We assigned a password to the new database we created. We named our new database and saved it in the default folder, the Tigerpaw Business Suite folder, located in the Program Files directory. We went along with the wizard, again staying with the defaults, and added personalized information when prompted. The only surprise came when we were required to enter the CD Key. We had previously entered the CD Key when initially installing the software. (Further investigation proved we had to enter the CD Key for every user we created. Our license was for 50 users.) After entering the CD Key, we entered the Account View of the database.

Our first test was the Pursuit Module, which appeared to be the most popular (and mainstream user friendly) module of Business Suite 8. Because most users are familiar with contact and scheduling programs, they will probably feel comfortable starting here, as well. We added a few contacts and appointments, a process that was easy and self-explanatory. This was standard data entry, something every experienced PC user has done countless times before. We selected New under the File menu and that gave us options to create new accounts, contacts, tasks server order, quote, price book item, purchase order and transfer. Again, this was very similar to Microsoft Outlook, except the views and functions were slightly different.

There are some slight differences in some of the functions in Business Suite 8 and Outlook. For example, the calendar portion is viewable in two-week increments in the Pursuit module, and is not in Outlook. Conversely, Outlook allows users to view the five-day workweek, something more practical for a 40-hours per week, Monday through Friday employee.

The other modules were all similarly well designed. Our testing showed a uniformly simple use with the other modules. We installed Microsoft Office on the PC, with Outlook, to test the mail merge function, which worked seamlessly. The modules other than Pursuit (Parts, Quotes and Service) are more specialized and are less familiar to the casual user than a standard contact and calendar system, and require a user to have more specialized knowledge.

For example, we prepared a line item quote using the Quotes Module, including discounting items on the quote. There are different methods of discounting � by percentage, a specific amount, a specific sell price or by gross profit margin discount, all of which are automatically calculated. This quote can be printed at any time during the process. Another test we performed was in Parts. We created a purchase order to buy some stock for inventory. We entered the line items, reviewed the items, marked the items as received and printed the report for that specific purchase order.

Finally, we generated some reports to test the Report Manager. As mentioned earlier, there are more than 200 predefined reports provided, and any number can be custom created. We ran a few random reports to test the system and they all worked flawlessly. However, we did discover that it is important to set up a printer before running a report, because several error windows popped us telling us we had a problem getting printer information and to make sure the printer was set up correctly!

Room For Improvement
Tigerpaw�s Business Suite 8 is a solid product, with very little room for improvement. However, there are a few small items that could use some adjustment, mostly in the scheduling portion of the Pursuit module. Once an appointment is made in the calendar module, it shows up as a home-plate-shaped icon. Unfortunately, these icons are the same size and shape, with color being the only distinguishing factor between them. There is no way to determine what type of appointment it is by the shape, nor is there an option for changing the icon. Unlike the Outlook calendar, there is no way to tell what the appointments are for without moving the cursor over them (which gives a summary of what the appointment is) or double-clicking on the icons and opening them. (Outlook gives the summary, or as much is visible, as part of the appointment icon.) Also, when scheduling a task, the time fields to begin and end must be entered manually, unlike the date field, and unlike the time fields in the Outlook. 

One final GUI problem in the calendar � the snooze button is not big or prominent enough and is too close to (and the same size as) the snooze-all button. This could be a problem for those clicking on an alarm in a hurry. Other small issues include the GUI in some of the modules. For example, the GUI in the modules is a bit crowded with too many functions visible on the menu bar � in this case, perhaps too much of a good thing.

Conclusion
A solid product, with very little to complain about, Tigerpaw Software�s Business Suite 8 is a strong player in the call center and distributors software field. With a diminished learning curve and easy interface, it is simple for a novice user to get up to speed quickly on Business Suite 8. Because of its seamless installation, ease of use and excellent documentation, we are proud to award Business Suite 8 the Editors� Choice award.







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