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XenForo as a Contacts Manager

Discussion in 'XenForo Questions and Support' started by HydraulicJack, Oct 18, 2011.

  1. HydraulicJack

    HydraulicJack Well-Known Member

    Do you know of a company - that offers an add-on or plug-in or simply a methodology that could enable me to use the XF core as a Contacts Manager?

    I've been using ACT by Sage for quite a while but their proprietary grip on my contact notes is ridiculous and unacceptable.

    It seems like now that XF offers the ability for custom fields, we could be pretty close, especially by adding a Calendar plugin for task reminders, etc.

    I would buy a separate license and restrict access just to my staff for handling contacts, contact notes, schedule followups, attach files, etc.

    Seems like the XF core (now with custom fields, and a nice array of 3rd party add-ons and plugins) could get this job done, so I wouldn't have to park my company-sensitive data on somebody ELSE's cloud server such as 37Signals or some such, but could run it on my own server.

    I'd sure appreciate some serious suggestions about this!
  2. Jake Bunce

    Jake Bunce XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    What features do you need?

    The profile field system allows you to collect any information you want and have it associated with user accounts.
    HydraulicJack likes this.
  3. HydraulicJack

    HydraulicJack Well-Known Member

    Thanks very much Jake!

    As I've mentioned often in this forum, I am not a tech wizard, just a teacher of various self-improvement and consultative tools and co-owner of a small publishing company (of training video- and audio programs, plus some consultation and on site training)...

    I have grown less and less comfortable with ACT which uses a proprietary data format for storing the notes which effectively hold that data hostage to their application - they do not provide a way to export the Notes en masse.

    RE: Other "cloud" solutions... a perusal of their fine print often reveals similar claims to presumed rights to control of one kind or another of my proprietary data, and due to the confidentiality requirements of my profession, these are unacceptable.

    Thus I am curious as to what I might be able to accomplish using the increasing flexibility and power of XF, while preserving control of my data - on my server.

    First I'm assuming that this Contacts Manager would be a dedicated XF installation not open to the public, installed on my webserver, with the people associated with my company having Moderator or Super-Moderator rights (with me as Super Admin, plus possibly one or two other Admins).

    The actual contacts themselves would be stored as "members" in the XF db, but would have NO rights to view this installation... Strictly internal access within my company operations.

    In the near term, I will have to keep track of about 500 to 1000 "companies" - altho I would like to have the option of its growing into the thousands.

    Here are my thoughts as far as I've been able to take this idea without training wheels...

    Assuming the expanded functionality of 1.1 to add additional fields within the Members area, and the availability of add-ons and plugins such as a Calendar, I'm thinking of a way to keep track of my contacts, tasks, and followups more or less like this:

    It seems like I could define each company as a forum and each department within as a subforum... with the number of contacts (treated as "members" in XF I presume) for a given company for the most part usually being from 1 to several... altho in a few instances the number of contacts within a company may be larger.

    In the case of an individual client of mine, not associated with a company, maybe it would make sense to have a Forum named Individuals with each individual having a sub-forum and an associated member name having an identical name. Is there any reason you (or someone else reading this post) can think of that would preclude that configuration?

    Below is a screen shot of the Act Contacts Manager Screen. There are lots of clickable tabs in various places but mostly I just use the fields you see populated in the screenshot example.

    The upper half is for the most part an individual's contact information within a company, so I presume that data would appear in the XF Members area using a combination of the default fields provided by XF plus additional custom fields I could now define, as need be, including a field containing the name of the forum (i.e. company) associated with that Member.

    The exception would be the field named "Company" in ACT which in XF I presume would be a forum name, while a department withIN that company could be defined as a sub-forum.
    In the case of a company with no departments, then the Forum name and a single sub-forum name would have the same content.

    Does that seem reasonable and practical in your opinion? If not I'd appreciate your suggestion(s) (and those of anyone else reading this thread who cares to comment) for an alternative.

    Thanks very much!

    All the best,
  4. Jake Bunce

    Jake Bunce XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    The only problem is that users have no direct relation with forums. You can't organize users by forum. But you can use a profile field for company names instead.
    HydraulicJack likes this.
  5. HydraulicJack

    HydraulicJack Well-Known Member

    Thanks very much Jake for helping me sort this out. Seems like we're close to a solution here!

    Ok, so an additional field in the member area that would list that person's Company, and then I could still create a forum having that company's name with subforums for each member of that company where I could keep their respective contact notes.

    Am I understanding that correctly? Does that get that job done?

    Again, MANY thanks for helping me pin this down.
    All the best,
  6. Jake Bunce

    Jake Bunce XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    If you want to post contact notes as threads, then yes. I would think that contact notes would be more appropriately stored inside of the user's profile, such as in another profile field or in the default "about" field.
    HydraulicJack likes this.
  7. HydraulicJack

    HydraulicJack Well-Known Member

    Thanks again Jake for continuing the discussion!

    It seems to me that notes of each contact would be appropriate as part of a thread with the thread name for example having the name of that contact. Then each post in that thread would have its own date and be associated with the same person. On such and such, Jake said this, on such other such date he said that, etc.

    These histories extend over years. Not sure how that would work if that entire history were packed into a single profile field or even a few profile fields unless XF allows those fields to become amazingly large.
    Separate time sequenced entries, i.e., notes of my people's contacts with members of the customer organization would seem to be more appropriate for the thread system.

    I'll want to at least test that hypothesis at this point and see what flaws if any the test may reveal.

    Also, since the actual contact person will not have ANY access to this forum at all, it seems that if the contact person, who would certainly have more or less static "about" data stored in profile fields, would also have a subforum within a company, each company having its own forum (unless the structure of XF doesn't permit the number of forums to grow that large efficiently as to server load considerations etc.).

    There may be some way that the new prefix function (a GREAT addition imho) could then be used to tag the status of a note or necessary action to be taken e.g. Followup by Us, Next Action of Client, etc., while a Calendar plug-in could handle the date/future action issues.

    Seems also that the prefixes could also include project names, which could relate multiple companies working collaborating on the same project.

    Not sure how KMA are using XenForo to manage their projects but given the new functionality, seems like this could work for my needs.

    I'm thinking I'm going to go ahead and do a test of this theory using a limited number of companies and contacts and their histories and see how it works.
    There may be something I'm missing, but I'm not aware of it at the moment so a test seems to be in order.

    As soon as I get the new release testing on our Forum (backing up data frequently, esp since we know that this is still Beta), then I'm thinking I'll buy that additional license and test this out on a few cases.

    As I wade in to the test when time permits, I'll update this thread with where I might bump my noggin, and where things seem to be running smoothly.

    I'd also welcome anyone else's thoughts who might care to comment.

    Again thanks very much for your thoughts on the matter!

    Best regards,
  8. EasyTarget

    EasyTarget Well-Known Member


    When I first read your post I was thinking, is this a case of him trying to fit a round peg into a square hole?

    But the more I thought about it, the more it actually would make sense to use XF as contact management software.

    My suggestion based on the info you provided would be along the lines of

    Is to have the top level forums organized by Letter, 26 forums, A-Z.
    In each forum, then you could have a subforum for each company that you are doing business with.
    In that subforum create a threads as you see fit. If it is project based, or store all the notes, etc...

    So here is the forum structure I would suggest.

    A... (forum)
    ....Acorn (forum)
    ....Amiga (forum)
    .........Projects (thread)
    ...............A1000 (post)
    ...............A2000 (post)
    ...............A2500 (post)
    .........Notes (thread)
    ..............Note 1 (post)
    .........etc (thread)
    B... (forum)

    Then under each post listed above you could create replies to the posts and keep track of things easily. Searching for information would be quick and easy.

    For the details about the client, I would then use the custom profile fields to add details like, mobile phone number, business number, fax number, favorite shoe size...what ever is needed for your business.

    You could protect your site from outside gazing by removing all permissions from the guest accounts.

    The major advantages to a set up like this would be good organization, easy searching and having your data freed from proprietary solutions.

    Best of luck to you.
    HydraulicJack likes this.
  9. HydraulicJack

    HydraulicJack Well-Known Member

    Thanks very much for the boost! Although another colleague is pretty chary of my abandoning my current solution (not Act, but a proprietary cloud where someone else (a big corp) is the proprietor), XF keeps tugging at my sleeve this way so b 4 2 long I may get another license and load it on my server just to see how far I could challenge XF to perform in this way (with loads of help from this community of course)! :D

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