The current Companies part of ACT! looks and feels like an afterthought. Many users also find it both confusing, not knowing where to enter their data, and awkward in having to potentially flip between two screens to fill out a record. I believe this could be better implemented.
The good points about Company View I see as:
It allows you to quickly see contacts who are in that company.
It allows you to see the relationships between parent companies and divisions.
It allows you to see all the notes and history created in any contact record who is in that company.
The problems / limitations are:
Users are confused whether they need to fill in the company level information or not.
Companies don't get created automatically.
You can't mailmerge company information, therefore to do this you have to link required fields to the contact record and remember to update the link, which is messy.
Updating the linked records frequently causes problems by erroneously over-writing the contact level data.
I would propose that ACT!is restructured as follows:
Company level information gets entered on the "Contact level" view only. In practice, this would not necessarily take up additional screen space. Perhaps an additional pane would be required, and we already have the SDK Middle Pane app which potentially could be adapted for this purpose.
The Companies Detail View would be retained in all it's functionality except that it now becomes read only. All the information at company level is pulled from the contact level records.
I would then also be inclined to have Opportunities linked directly to the Company name rather than a contact record ( when creating a new Opp you just select which of the contacts are to be associated with it.
The benefits would be:
Entering data is now intuitive; it all goes on the "main screen" .
You don't have to manually put contacts into Companies with all the confusion that entails.
Contacts are also automatically linked, so that chore goes away.
You can mail-merge any field on the screen, including Company level information.
Company view would automatically show combined Notes, Histories, Activities, and Opportunities
I think this would make ACT! more intuitive, easier to operate, less prone to errors and omissions, and increases the funcionality and clarity of the software.