I’m often surprised by the number of people who use Microsoft Outlook as their primary email and information manager who don’t also take full advantage of its contact capabilities. While I wouldn’t say it compares with a full blown CRM system, it is certainly a capable program for maintaining contact information.
I think the main reason for this lack of adoption is that the process for capturing and maintaining this supplemental information in Outlook is just too tedious. The information you need is likely included in all those email signatures, but it takes a lot of cutting and pasting to parse it out and place it in to the proper fields.
The idea is simple really. Gwabbit runs in the background, scanning your email and alerting you if it finds new contact information within. A single click of the gwabbit button and it creates (or updates) a contact record with the info it gathers.
The update functionality is particularly handy, as it can let you know when the information you have is out-of-date or incorrect.
I’ve been playing around with gwabbit for about a week now and it generally works as advertised. Depending on how your contacts arrange their information, it can occasionally get confused but it was always easier to clean up than it would have been to start from scratch. If it finds ambiguous or incomplete information, it will also prompt you to clean it up or correct it. Highlighting the signature block can help point it to the right place.
The notifications can initially be overwhelming, so it’s good that you can configure them. I ended up turning off all prompts and just using it manually to capture information a bit more selectively. It was really quite easy to go through my email archives and quickly build up a contact list.
Obviously, once this information is stored in Outlook it’s easy to sync to a multitude of mobile devices or export for use in your CRM.
gwabbit isn’t a life-changing application by any means, but if Outlook is the hub of your communication and contact info, it is a handy way to automate something you’re already doing, or should be doing, pretty regularly.
gwabbit is obviously Windows-only but it does support a myriad of Outlook versions from 2000 up to the current Outlook 2007.
A downloadable 14-day trial is available that you can use for up to 20 contacts, above which it will cost $19.95.
Do you use Outlook to maintain your contacts? How complete is the information you keep?