In working on making CMS more intuitive and user friendly, and while at it, creating a bi-directional link to Google Contacts, a major change has been made to phone numbers and email addresses.
For the sake of brevity please take note of the following definitions:
- Contact Numbers: Phone and fax numbers and Email addresses.
- Primary Contacts: Husband or Wife on the main record, or the unmarried individual (him or her) on the main record.
How it works now:
Presently, contact numbers are primarily related to the main contact record. As an afterthought and as an additional feature, you are also able to link the contact number to an individual. Linking a contact number with an individual requires an extra step of double-clicking the number and choosing which individual this number is for. For Primary contacts, a shortcut exists where you can designate a particular Type to always be associated to Him or Her. This saved some time, but the fact remains that the contact number is being primarily entered on the contact record and the association to an individual is secondary.
There are several major limitations that have become more pronounced over time:
- Tedious and inconsistent data entry
Children, or other non-primary contacts, which are entered as individual family members on the family tab, need to have a cell phone and email address entered. There is no way to automatically associate the phone number with the individual. The following tedious steps are needed. First to enter child info; then enter the contact number on contact tab; and finally to double click the contact number and choose the child's name. This method is not reliable and causes many data entry errors and inconsistencies. There is just too much to do and it is unrealistic to expect a user to go through so many steps to simply enter a contact number for an individual.
- Additional and unnecessary contact number types
Because only a single contact number can be entered for each contact number type, additional types need to be created for each contact number. Often this would force a user to create phone types for “cell child 1”, “cell child 2” etc. While this workaround does allow for entering additional contact numbers for individuals, it creates confusion and is not intuitive.
Generating reports for individual family members will either not display their correct contact number linked to the individual (when the report was a “contact” type report), or will not display numbers (such as the home number) that aren't linked to any one individual (when the report was a “family” type report).
How the new CMS version addresses these issues:
Because of these limitations (and other factors), and based on your feedback, we decided to change the structure in how contact numbers are linked to contacts. Primarily, contact numbers will be connected to individual contacts. This applies to primary contacts as well as other family members.
This change required a complete rework of the CMS program. There was hardly an area of the program that wasn't affected by this change. As the program was being upgraded to support this change, many other improvements, new features, as bug fixes were implemented along the way -- also based on your feedback.
The result of this effort was:
- Clean and simplified data entry
All contact numbers are entered from an individual family member on the family tab. For primary contacts, it can be entered from the contact tab as well. Contact numbers that are entered are automatically associated with that individual, except when a contact number is a shared number (home number, for example). To indicate a shared contact number, one leaves the “whose” field blank. (This is the default for the Home type.)
- Phone types are consolidated
There is no restriction of entering multiple contact numbers to a single type. This applies even to an individual family member. You can enter multiple email addresses (for example) for a single person using the same type. Each contact number is automatically given an order number if there are multiple contact numbers of the same type. The first contact number of a given type is designated as the default. This makes contact number reporting more flexible and easy. There are now eight basic types: Home, Work, Mobile, Other, Pager, Fax, Email, and Emergency. (We kept pager in for backwards compatibility.)
- Reporting issues resolved
As before, there are two types of contact reports: Main Contact Record (contact) and Individual Family Member (family). The difference between these types of reports is that the “main contact record” type will display a combined row for the primary contacts whereas the “individual family member” type will display each family member on their own row. In both cases, only contact numbers associated to the individuals on the report, or shared contact numbers, will show. As before, you can choose which types to be included in a report. You can also choose to limit the report to only display the “default” contact numbers. When generating a “individual family member” type report, you can choose if you want to have only the primary, only non-primary or both.
Google Contact Synchronization
Another reason for this change was related to Google Contact integration. In exploring and developing this feature, it became quite clear that the data structure in CMS needed to be modified to fit more tightly with the way Google stores its contacts. And at the same time, retaining the relationship between individual contacts the way it is in CMS with a husband/wife as the primary family members and children in the family tab.
In contrast to the way Outlook Synchronization was implemented, Google Contact integration will have the following advantages:
- Bi-directional: Changes made to CMS will be pushed to Google Contacts; changes made to Google Contacts will be pulled into CMS.
- Minimal User Involvement: Unless there are conflicts, the synchronization will happen silently. No user involvement will be necessary.
- Individual Family Members: Each individual CMS family member will be its independent Google Contact. The individual’s contact numbers and shared contact numbers (as described above) will become part of that Google contact.
We look forward to this upcoming release and will share more details on the numerous improvements over the coming days and weeks.
We also welcome your feedback. Let us know what you think. EMail firstname.lastname@example.org.