CRM no longer simply involves an address book or phone list. Social mediums are blurring professional and personal lives. Managing your contacts, conversations and communities will require a more powerful solution than just your email inbox and smartphone contact list. You're no longer even limited to a desktop computer or browser with today's mobile-oriented tools. I tried out Gist recently and got a pleasant experience using the service via Web and mobile.

Managing Sources

Gist works on the concept that you need to be on top of multiple communities that involve people, events and conversations. To make information more manageable, Gist presents a centralized dashboard where you can access all this without information overload. Gist will ask you to authorize with different sources of information, like Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Calendar and other IMAP-based email systems.

The service will intelligently create a profile for each individual and company that you have been dealing with, based on your data streams and conversations.

Gist Sources

Note that it will take some time for Gist to process your information in the back-end if you have a particularly large dataset to begin with. My Gmail inbox is about 95% full, so it took quite a while for Gist to do the message analysis.

Application Access

Gist is flexible in that you're not limited to accessing the CRM on your web browser. Gist offers mobile applications for iOS and Android, with plans to branch out to other smartphone OSes. Research in Motion (news, site) has recently acquired Gist, so expect to see a Blackberry version soon.

 Gist iPhone app

Gist also has plugins and extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Outlook and Salesforce. While the mobile tools will give you quick access to information while on-the-go, the desktop tools integrate information from Gist on a contextual basis. For example, if you're reading an email, Gist will show the sender's latest tweets and events right within the Gmail window.

Getting an Overview with Dashboard

With all the plugins and extensions, the main interface of Gist is its Web app. Gist's dashboard gives you an overview of content generated by your contacts, whether these are from their blogs, twitter stream, Facebook statuses or other sources.

Gist dashboard

To help make sure information you see is relevant, Gist lets you filter content by importance, relevance and other criteria. You can read content -- including full email messages -- right on the Gist interface.

Managing People

Gist is all about managing communities and people, and its contact list is feature-packed and flexible. For one, Gist will consolidate contacts based on the sources you indicate during setup: Gmail, Google for domains, IMAP, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Gist Contacts

Gist will then assign an Importance value based on your communication patterns. This value can be adjusted at any time, and will be used by the system to determine importance of news and information sources in your Dashboard view.

Gist will pull content from various online sources and will assemble a profile for each of your contacts, complete with contact details, company affiliation and contact history.

Managing Communities

Gist will also determine the companies or communities that your contacts are members of, based on several factors, like their email domain, signature line and the like. Like contacts, you can assign an importance level to companies, which will be useful when you're sorting events and messages.

Gist Companies

Managing Events

Gist also pulls data from Google Calendar and other scheduling services. If you're using the Outlook plugin, Gist will synchronize with your Outlook calendar. Gist is useful for pulling schedules and events from Facebook. You can also publish upcoming events through your Facebook, Twitter or email accounts, and invite participants.

The Gist on Gist

Gist is currently in Beta, and is offering its services free of charge. Gist aims to make your life easier by eliminating the need for multiple email and status alerts, and the need to access different services just to check on your professional (and personal contacts).

With solid backing (from RIM), and with tools to cover various major platforms, the service looks promising, and can be a great way to consolidate your contacts, events and conversations.