Sage ACT! 2011: Working with the ACT! Dashboards

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Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report Cookbook

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Over 65 simple and incredibly effective recipes for creating and customizing exciting dashboards and reports from your Sage ACT! data using this book and eBook

£14.99    £7.50
by Karen Fredricks Roy Laudenslager | February 2011 | Cookbooks Enterprise Articles

One of the coolest new features of ACT! is the addition of the Dashboard. A Dashboard allows you to access key information in the form of a graphical interface. This article serves as the most basic introduction to the ACT! dashboard components. You'll become familiar with how to access the dashboards, how to print them, and how to copy them into other documents.

In this article by Karen Fredricks and Roy Laudenslager, authors of Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report Cookbook, we will cover:

  • Getting familiar with the Dashboard layouts
  • Exploring Dashboard components
  • Accessing Dashboard Data
  • Copying a Dashboard to the clipboard
  • Printing a hard copy of the Dashboard
  • Setting Dashboards as the default startup preference

 

Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report Cookbook

Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report Cookbook

Over 65 simple and incredibly effective recipes for creating and customizing exciting dashboards and reports from your ACT! data

  • Immediately access and fully understand the out-of-the-box ACT! reports and dashboards
  • Get to grips with filtering dashboard information
  • Customize existing reports and dashboards to make permanent changes
  • Create brand-new reports using the ACT! Report Writer
        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on Sage ACT! 2011, see here.)

Introduction

As mentioned, a Dashboard allows you to access key information in the form of a graphical interface. You can filter a Dashboard so that it contains just the information you need, or you can tweak the various elements of a Dashboard to give it a different look. Administrators and Managers of your ACT! database can create brand new Dashboards if they're required.

If you want more details about the information you see in a Dashboard, you can drill-down into the Dashboard with a simple double-click to access all the juicy details. At that point, you can edit or add to your information and the Dashboard will update automatically.

You can even print out a hard copy of a Dashboard to preserve the contents for posterity. Because many of the Dashboards consist of pie charts and graphs, you might even want to copy one of them and paste it into other applications such as Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.

Getting familiar with the Dashboard layouts

Quite simply, a Dashboard is a graphical interface that gives you a visual snapshot of a part of your business. ACT! Dashboards let you view and work with the various information contained in your database in one easy-to-access location. Dashboards can take the form of charts, graphs, or even lists. Dashboards are associated with a database and not a user; therefore all users share the same Dashboards. However, you can select your own Dashboard view in much the same way that you can select a layout. You can also filter the information that is shown in your Dashboard.

A Dashboard consists of two parts:

  • The Dashboard layout: The Dashboard layout determines which Dashboard components you see and how the filters are set. ACT! comes with six Dashboard layouts. However, Managers and Administrators can create additional Dashboard layouts using the Dashboard Designer or make permanent changes to the existing ones.
  • Dashboard components: Each Dashboard layout consists of one or more components. A component displays different types of data from the ACT! database. For example, a Dashboard layout might include a component that lists a user's top 10 current sales opportunities, another component that graphs the activities of a specific user, and a component that displays a pie chart of the company's current pipeline. A layout can have a maximum of six components.

Getting ready

In order to really take advantage of the ACT! Dashboard, you'll need to make sure that your database contains a variety of information. Specifically you'll need to make sure that your database contains a few Contacts, Activities, and Opportunities if you're going to view any of those Dashboards.

How to do it...

  1. Click the Dashboard icon on ACT!'s navigation bar. The following screenshot shows you an example of the default Dashboard page:

  2. Choose the Dashboard layout you want from the Dashboard drop-down list, at the top-left side of the Dashboard.

How it works...

Many of the layouts consist of the exact same components. However, the components in each of the layouts are filtered differently, giving the layouts a bit of variety.

There's more...

Out of the box there are five Dashboard layouts:

  • ACT! Activities Dashboard: Shows the activities of the user currently signed into ACT!, like the one you see in the following screenshot:

  • ACT! Administration Dashboard: Lists the database users and shows when they've logged in and out of the database. Also lists any remote sync users, the date of their list sync, and how many days they have before their remote database expires if they don't synchronize.
  • ACT! Contact Dashboard: Gives you a list of recently created contacts, recently edited contacts, and the number of fields that have changed.
  • ACT! Default Dashboard: Includes three activity and three opportunity components.
  • ACT! Opportunities Dashboard: Provides you with four different opportunity components including sales analysis by stage, value, and product.

Each Dashboard layout is actually a file ending with the .dsh extension. You'll find them safely filed in the Dashboards sub-folder of the database files folder associated with your database.

Accessing information from Dashboards

Once you've become familiar with the various Dashboard layouts your next step is to start exploring the components found in each layout to see what data they contain. The components are generally arranged in a grid of two columns of three rows for a total of six components per Dashboard layout.

The basic components include:

  • My Schedule At-A-Glance: Found on the Default and Activities Dashboards, this component lists your activities of the current user for the current day.
  • Activities by User: Found on the Default and Activities Dashboards, this component displays the activities for the current user for the current month, sorted by type, in a bar chart. The total numbers of activities are shown in the following screenshot. In addition you can hover your mouse over a bar section to see the number of activities for that activity type.

    Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report tutorial

  • Activity List: Found on the Activities Dashboard, this component is identical to the My Schedule At-A-Glance components, except that it lists all the activities for the current month.
  • Opportunity Pipeline by Stage: Found on the Opportunities and Default Dashboards, this component displays your open opportunities in the ACT! Sales Cycle process for the current month sorted by stage, in a pie chart and includes a recap on the side like the one you see in the following screenshot:

    Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report tutorial

  • Contact History Count by User Type: Found on the Contacts Dashboard this component displays history items created by database users within a specified number of days similar to what's shown in the following screenshot:

  • Opportunities - Open by Product: Found on the Opportunities Dashboard, the component displays a pie chart of the open opportunities by product and by user.
  • Top 10 Opportunities: Found on the Opportunities and Default Dashboards, this component displays a list, by company and opportunity name, of the top ten open opportunities in the ACT! Sales Cycle process for the current month.
  • Closed Sales to Date: Found on the Opportunities and Default Dashboards, this component displays the weighted and total value of opportunities in the ACT! Sales Cycle process, you closed and won in the form of a chart. Optionally you can customize the component to indicate a sales goal like the one shown in the following screenshot:

    Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report tutorial

Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report Cookbook Over 65 simple and incredibly effective recipes for creating and customizing exciting dashboards and reports from your Sage ACT! data using this book and eBook
Published: February 2011
eBook Price: £14.99
Book Price: £24.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:
        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on Sage ACT! 2011, see here.)

Getting ready

You can access the information that you see in Dashboard components in order to change it or see additional details. You just need to make sure that your database is populated with data that corresponds with the component that you're working with.

How to do it...

  1. Click the Dashboard icon on ACT!'s navigation bar. Choose the Dashboard layout you want from the Dashboard drop-down list at the top left-hand side of the Dashboard.
  2. Choose one of the following options:
    • Click a component to access the supporting data in a chart or graph.
    • Double-click to access the information about a list item.
    • Right-click on a List component and choose Create Lookup to create a lookup of the contacts referenced in the component.
  3. Click the Back icon on the icon bar to return to the Dashboard view.

How it works...

Each component works a little differently. And some components don't do anything, no matter how or how often you click them. For example, the Contact History Count by History Type, Recently Edited Contacts, and the Opportunities – Open by Product components just sit there like a bump on the log.

Here's a list to let you know what you can expect from the various components:

  • My Schedule At-A-Glance or Activity List: Double-click an activity to open the Schedule Activity dialog box
  • Activities by User: Click a single bar to display the Task List that is filtered to show the same data as the component
  • Opportunity Pipeline by Stage, Closed Sales to Date: Click the chart to display the Opportunities List that is filtered to show the same data as the component
  • Top 10 Opportunities: Double-click to open the Detail view of the selected opportunity
  • Closed Sales to Date Gauge: Click anywhere to display an Opportunity List that is filtered to show the same data as the component

There's more...

Not sure whether or not to click or double-click? You'll notice that your cursor changes into the form of a hand when you hover it over a chart or graph. That's your sign that you need only to render a single-click in order to zoom in on that component.

Customizing Dashboard columns

The various list view components may not look as jazzy as their more graphical counterparts but they do give you one additional useful piece of functionality, namely the ability to change the columns that are displayed. Simply right-click in the list and choose Customize Columns.... The corresponding dialog window appears like the one in the following screenshot. Select the columns that you want the component to display from the Available fields: list, and then click the single right-pointing arrow to move the field to the Show as columns in this order: list.

Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report tutorial

If a component appears to be blank it's because none of the data in your database matches the filtering criteria of that component. As you add additional information to your database that is pertinent to that component, you'll see that the information will appear magically.

Refreshing the Dashboards

From time-to-time, you may find that your Dashboard looks exactly the same as it did before you drilled down into it to change the underlying data. Sometimes the Dashboards don't refresh automatically to show the changed data; in those cases you'll have to refresh the data yourself. You can do so by simply clicking the Refresh icon that you see on the Dashboard's icon bar.

Copying Dashboard information to other products

If a picture is worth a thousand words then a well-designed Dashboard might be worth a million. If you like what you see in one of the Dashboards or even in a single component, you might want to share it with others by pasting it into a PowerPoint presentation or Word document to add a little pizzazz to your next presentation.

Getting ready

You'll want to make sure that you have already added the necessary information to ACT!. For example, if your goal is to show off your company pipeline, you'll need to make sure that you have the supporting opportunity records in ACT!.

How to do it...

  1. Click the Dashboard icon on ACT!'s navigation bar.
  2. Choose the Dashboard layout you want from the Dashboard drop-down list at the top-left side of the Dashboard.
  3. Choose one of the following options:
    • To copy the entire Dashboard into the Windows clipboard: Click the Copy icon on the Dashboard menu bar
    • To copy a single component into the Windows clipboard: Right-click on the component and choose Copy To Clipboard from the contextual menu
  4. Open the target program, and choose Paste from the Edit menu.

How it works...

When you copy a Dashboard or one of its components, it goes automatically to the Windows clipboard where it will remain until you replace it with another item.

There's more...

Once you copy an item into the Windows clipboard, you can continue to paste it into as many places as you'd like.

Printing Dashboards

Dashboards are dynamic which means that they change as your data changes. For example, the Dashboard you see on Monday may not look at all like the Dashboard you viewed on Friday. Although you can save a Dashboard layout, you can't save the current information found in that Dashboard. Consequently, the only way you can truly save the contents of a Dashboard for future generations is by making a hard copy of it.

Getting ready

Because a Dashboard is simply a reflection of your current data, you'll want to make sure that you have entered all pertinent data into your ACT! database.

How to do it...

  1. Click the Dashboard icon on ACT!'s navigation bar.
  2. Choose the Dashboard layout you want from the Dashboard drop-down list at the top-left side of the Dashboard.
  3. Choose one of the following options:
    • To print the entire Dashboard: Click the File menu, choose Quick Print Current Window, select the Print orientation and Print sizing options like the ones you see in the following screenshot and then click OK:

      Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report tutorial

    • To print a single component: Right-click on the component and select Print from the contextual menu.

How it works...

Once you send the Dashboard or the Dashboard component to the printer you'll be able to apply any of the printer options just as you would with any other document.

There's more...

Unfortunately, although you can print all of the Dashboards, you can't print all of the individual components. Moreover, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of logic as to which components will print. For example, some of the list components print and others don't. The only advice we can offer is to try each one out for yourself!

Making Dashboards the default startup preference

If you really start to feel that Dashboards are the greatest thing since sliced bread, you can change the default startup preference so that the Dashboards are the first thing you see when you open up your ACT! database.

Getting ready

You can only change your startup preferences if you've fired up ACT! and have a database open.

How to do it...

  1. Click Preferences from the Tools menu.
  2. Click the Startup tab.
  3. Click the Startup view drop-down in the Log On settings section and choose Dashboard. Your screen should look pretty much like the following screenshot:

    Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report tutorial

  4. Click OK to save your changes.

How it works...

The next time you open ACT! it will automatically open to the Dashboard view.

There's more...

Smart reader that you are, you might have noticed that although you indicated Dashboard as the Startup view preference, you weren't asked to indicate your layout preference. Indicating the Startup Dashboard layout is a bit trickier—or perhaps stickier.

Once you have changed your Startup preference to Dashboard, you can experiment a bit by choosing a Dashboard layout and then closing your database. You'll find that when you reopen your database it will open to the last Dashboard layout that you had viewed. This behavior will repeat and ACT! will continue to open automatically to the Dashboard layout that you had last viewed.

Remember, the various ACT! preferences are machine-specific and not user-specific. That means that if all of the users of your ACT! database develop Dashboard envy and decide that they too would like to have ACT! open to the Dashboard view, you'll have to wander over to each of their machines separately, to make the change.

Summary

This article was the most basic introduction to the ACT! dashboard components. You have become familiar with how to access the dashboards, how to print them, and how to copy them into other documents.


Further resources on this subject:


Sage ACT! 2011 Dashboard and Report Cookbook Over 65 simple and incredibly effective recipes for creating and customizing exciting dashboards and reports from your Sage ACT! data using this book and eBook
Published: February 2011
eBook Price: £14.99
Book Price: £24.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

About the Author :


Karen Fredricks

Karen Fredricks began her life rather non-technically growing up in Kenya. She likes to say that she developed her sense of humor while dodging bombs in Beirut where she attended high school. She graduated from the University of Florida and holds degrees in English, Theatre and Accounting. She settled in Boca Raton where she includes tennis, trips to the gym and cheering for the Gators in her busy schedule.

A true CRM expert, Karen is the author of over ten For Dummies books, including titles on ACT!, SugarCRM, Outlook, Business Contact Manager, Office Live and Marketing with Microsoft Office 2007. This is her sixth book devoted to ACT!.

Karen’s firm, Tech Benders, customizes popular contact management and CRM software to help businesses grow by being more productive, efficient, and profitable. Karen believes in working smarter in order to have the time to enjoy life and tries to install that philosophy in her clients.

Roy Laudenslager

Roy has spent his entire career working on computers.  He likes to say he barely missed the vacuum tube computers. He's repaired them, written numerous training manuals about them and spent many years troubleshooting them.  He began working for Symantec when they combined all their technical support in a new site in Eugene, Oregon. When they acquired the ACT! program, he was one of the first ACT! support agents.  He was already familiar with the ACT! program having used the DOS version at another company.He spent the next 10 years supporting the ACT! program for Symantec, then InterACT Commerce Corporation and finally for Sage Software. By the time he left, he was the lead support agent for ACT ”escalations”. Escalations are the problems that the regular support agents are unable to solve; his job was to solve the “unsolvable.” He also trained new support staff on database field modifications, reports, and synchronization. His expertise in the area of synchronization lead to the Knowledge Base document that he wrote for setting up synchronization, making it possible to synchronize ACT! 3 through 6 reliably. After 10-years in ACT! technical support, he wanted to become an ACT Consultant so he left Sage and joined Karen Fredricks as part of Tech Benders to allows him to do what he loved to do:  work with ACT! users! 

Roy has worked with the ACT reports since ACT! for Windows 2.0 and is known around Sage as the ACT report writer guru. He wrote the 12 new reports that first appeared in ACT 2010/12.

In the early part of his career, Roy spent several years working as a technical writer and authored many training and reference manuals.

While working in technical supports for Symantec and later Sage, he contributed one or more articles monthly to the Easy ACT! newsletter. This body of work took place over a 7-year period and represented over 100 articles.

Most recently he was the Technical Editor for the Dummies books on ACT! versions 7-11.

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