This is another post in our Shareable database series.
I recently spoke with Matt McAdams, CTO at TrackVia, and Ed Dunigan, their Director of Marketing. Matt said their vision for TrackVia is to provide an easy to use SaaS database for business people. They wanted the average business users to have the power of an online database without having to involve IT and/or make investments with systems integrators. Matt said they like to think of TrackVia as a tool that is as easy as a spreadsheet and as comprehensive as a database.
Their web site nicely describes the three areas of focus: collect, organize, and share. First, they understand how important it is to have access to all of your data in one place. So they made it easy to collect data from multiple sources. Next, TrackVia allows you to easily organize you data with such features as the ability to edit multiple records at once, analyze data right within TrackVia, and track changes to your data. Finally, by providing an online database with granular access control, they have made it easy to share the right information with the right people. Below is a sample permissions screen that shows some of this granularity.
Matt and Ed walked me through setting up a new database. When you start you can build your database through an Excel import, from scratch, or start with one of a series of functional templates (e.g. sales leads, requests, customers). These templates offer an intuitive way to introduce you to TrackVia’s features. You then have the ability to edit these templates to better meet your business needs. There are also a variety of data field types (e.g., drop downs, numbers, short answer, calculated fields).
Matt said that 80 percent of their customers already have data in another tool, the majority in Excel. So they made it easy to import data from Excel. They have developed a complex algorithm that makes fairly accurate assumptions about the type of data. For example, if there are only two categories such as gender, then it is assumed to be appropriate for a drop down. TrackVia can get a bit more sophisticated in its parsing of data types. If there are seven names in one group and a hundred in another, then it is assumed that the seven should be in a drop down and the hundred go in a short answer. You can always override the assumptions and be notified of the impact conversion will have on your data prior to converting. Matt said they developed these rules by watching the actions of many business users. Below is sample Excel import screen.
They implemented a robust search function that works like Internet search engines. For example, you can put in state:ca to only get ca when it refers to the state. A search will bring back the matching records with the search termshighlighted. The search goes across all data types and can also search the change history and notes. Like Google, multiple words do not have to be together as required by many desktop tools. Here is a sample search result.
You can use the Bulk Edit tool to select multiple items and edit, add a note or delete them. For example, you can easily assign sales leads to a different sales rep. This gives you a quick way to work with the data. You can also find duplicates and quickly clean up your data. See a sample screen below.
There are fourways to display data: a table view, a map view through a mashup with Google maps, a calendar view, and statistics with several charts and graph types. You can easily export the data back to tools like Excel to work with your data off line.
TrackVia allows you to put the data to work by integrating with a number of applications and making it easy to complete tasks such as creating a mail merge template for form letters. In this case you can create the letter template in Word and upload to TrackVia for data integration. You can also get email alerts for changes to specified data (e.g., change in status for a sales lead). Below is a screen shot of this function.
TrackVia integrates well with web sites and email. A web form can be placed on a web site for collecting data directly into your database. In addition, incoming emails can be collected via the email collection feature and sent directly to your database. (e.g., email@example.com)
As I have asked many of the venders I speak to recently, we discussed how the economic down turn is affecting them. Matt said they are doing very well. January set an all time record for the most new customers. As with many tools in this space, new customers with tight budgets are seeing them as a low cost alternative. They are both less expensive than bigger database tools and their easy to use out-of-the-box features reduce or eliminate system integrator or IT staff time and costs. Having seen the tool in operation, it seems intuitive to me and I am a good test as I am not a tools guy.
I asked them about Twitter, as I have been writing about it a lot recently. Ed says that he has a personal Twitter account where he clearly identifies his role with TrackVia. He monitors conversations about online databases and other relevant topics. When it seems appropriate he joins the conversation and introduces TrackVia. He said the response has been very positive as people feel he is responding to their needs and not being bothersome. I think this is very good and perhaps an indication that Ed is using good judgment in how and when he approaches people. At the moment they just use Ed’s personal approach and do not have a company Twitter feed. They also have a TrackVia blog to provide more context on what they do.