New Contact Manager from 37signals

Highrise Contact Manager will be one to watch out for because its a 37signals product.

37signals are proud of the fact that their products “do less than that of the competition”. They are most famous for Basecamp (Project management and collaboration) and Ruby on Rails which is an open source development framework.

The 37signals product philosophy is to “focus on executing the basics beautifully”.

To quote:

“Yesterday 37signals founder Jason Fried posted about the team’s upcoming contact management app called Highrise. The goal of the app is to help you manage contact information in a better way than relying on post-its or your current software-based customer relationship management (CRM) tool. Think of it like a Rolodex but with collaboration and more space to write things down. Many people can have access to the same records at once, and from the announcement, 37signals thinks they can do better than your current CRM. In many ways Highrise is a solution for a problem with Web communication technology: we have these great contact management tools with services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Plaxo to bring them all together, but no way to share them, and add notes or related items. There are a few Web based CRMs out there, like Funclient and absoluteBUSY, but none that have the potential to tie into a suite of highly successful Web apps (see Basecamp and Writeboard). I can also see a big use for this for keeping track of friends or colleagues as they move all over the place, more so than relying on LinkedIn or social networks like MySpace and Facebook. Fried made no mention of pricing or a release date in the Highrise announcement, but noted that the 37signals team is “very happy with it.” We’ll post a hands on as soon as we get our mitts on it.”

From Original Signal (Webware)

And in a direct post from Fried on the product.

Highrise is a shared contact manager that helps you keep track of who you talk to, what was said, and what to do next. Like Basecamp helps you collaborate on projects, Highrise helps you collaborate on people. You can use it alone or with your co-workers. You can think of it as a company-wide, web-based, shared address book with a few twists.

For some clues on what the point of difference is Fried also comments later in the post:

Chris: Highrise won’t have pipeline reports or any numbers. It’s not a CRM tool in the traditional sense. It’s a lot closer to an address book than something like Salesforce.com.

Just as Basecamp doesn’t have traditional project management staples such as Gantt charts, Highrise doesn’t have traditional CRM tools like sales pipeline reports or charts.

Highrise is about people, communications, conversations, and tasks. It’s not about numbers.

Traditionally CRM has been very focussed around salesforce automation and more recently with marketing automation and services delivery systems. The usual defining split between a contact manager and CRM has been that CRM is more about process and workflow.

It is a very crowded application space although some niches are still available – like business on the mac. This product may suit those who are also looking at Daylite for example.  The product is separate from Basecamp and the other 37signals applications although potentially some linking between them would be desirable.

However – in my view any disconnected application “island” needs to be very, very good to justify the need for a new product.

I’m looking forward to fresh thinking in the area. Also wondering how this will compare to Daylite which seems to be a mid ground system that allows easy linking with mac. CRM is a collaboration strategy designed to be shared space. The “right” software always helps but is only part of the equation.

So far 37signals have shown they know how to deliver products which are simple, clean and easy to use which means that Highrise is one to watch…