Map & Guide 25h review
You can’t wave a magic wand to add more hours to the working day but, as the name suggests, 25h certainly does a good job of creating that illusion. This ‘sales fleet planning software’, for want of a better description, integrates tightly with Outlook and provides address, appointment and contact management with the addition of professional-level street-mapping and route-planning components. If you’ve ever tried to use Outlook with a separate route-planning application, even if both come out of Seattle, you’ll immediately appreciate the ‘built for purpose’ focus of 25h. This is made for field service, period.
This is best explained by example: let’s say you have half-a-dozen appointments tomorrow. Traditional planners would find the best routes between each but 25h also calculates a list of all the customers in your contacts database who could also be included in your schedule for tomorrow, the day after or the whole week. With full details of both additional journey times and impact on your on-site time fully detailed, you can avoid wasted journeys and fill unwanted holes in a schedule. If you start the day from home instead of the office, or are ready to roll an hour earlier than intended, 25h will simply recalculate your day based around these changes.
Running both from within Outlook and as a standalone application, 25h adds an Outlook toolbar with buttons to ‘plan sales call route’, ‘find available appointments’, ‘find nearby addresses’ and ‘enter journey times’. The integration is complete, and you soon become used to 25h-related items popping up as you work in Outlook. For example, to enter a new appointment you do so as normal for Outlook. However, if you’re vague in the location field, a 25h window will open stating that the location couldn’t be automatically ‘geocoded’ (mapped to an exact address) and asking for more detail to be entered. From this window you can enter the postcode or an address fragment and let 25h quickly fill in the blanks. You’ll also notice a new toolbar within the Outlook appointment creation window; this has buttons for mapping as well as flight and train appointments. 25h can be quite unforgiving when it comes to entering locations though, and demands that you work its way, which is frustrating at first.
So, if you’re used to entering a full postcode forget it; 25h only wants the first half and perhaps a single character from the second, otherwise it gets terribly confused. We found that what it really likes is just the first bit of a postcode coupled to a street name; do that, and it will quickly reveal the address you want with an option of selecting street numbering from a list.
It’s easy enough to include hotel and restaurant information into your route planning and book both online straight from the 25h interface. And by tightly integrating with the rest of the Map & Guide product family, you can easily load any compiled client appointment data from the desktop/server onto a notebook or Pocket PC, where Map & Travel Navigator can take care of the actual on-the-road GPS navigation. Advanced address filtering is possible using the graphic display function to pull selected records from the database: colours, symbols and sizes can be used to identify important and complex relationships at a glance. If you need to know which customers with a turnover in excess of £100,000 haven’t been visited within the last 12 weeks, you can. Of course, routes are based on the very latest street-level map data, and precise information regarding mileage travelled is logged for route-costing purposes.