Written by – Evan Gerdisch – May 2022
Customers are the cherry to a company’s sundae.
Without them, businesses just wouldn’t make any sense.
And that’s precisely why you need efficient customer relationship management CRM.
CRM helps any business nurture engaging relationships with its customers and clients.
However, you also need to manage projects, budgets, resources, and a whole lot more to ensure you meet customer needs on time.
How do you handle all these aspects without going haywire?
By using CRM and project management combined.
In this article, we’ll explore the differences between CRM and project management, how you can use them together, and what to look for in an all-in-one solution. We’ll also highlight the best CRM project management software you can use today.
Let’s get started.
What Is Customer Relationship Management?
Customer relationship management (CRM) is a process that focuses on managing interactions with your customers and clients. It involves nurturing relationships to increase customer satisfaction and sales.
And while CRM and project management needs to work together to achieve their objectives, they have their differences:
Differences between CRM and project management?
Project management software is made to deliver a project on schedule and within budget. CRM software is used to manage interactions with prospects and existing customers. Here’s a handy chart summarizing more of the key differences between CRM and project management:
|Key differences between CRM and Project Management.|
|Strategy||To manage interactions with prospects and existing customers||To deliver the project on schedule and within budget|
|Goals||• Building customer relationships and retaining customers
• Helping your customer service team collaborate with ease
• Improving a sales team’s outreach efforts
• Resolving customer queries efficiently
|• Map out ways to achieve goals
• Deliver results on time and within budget
• Keep customers and employees happy
• Improve team communication and collaboration
|Focus||Customers, clients, potential partners, suppliers, and other stakeholders||Employees, deliverables, budgets, and resource management|
|Timeline||On-going since improving customer relationships is a long-term process||Temporary or on a project basis since projects have a specific start date and end date|
|Cycle||• Marketing stage: identify customers by running marketing campaigns
• Sales stage: identify leads and convert them into customers
• Support stage: focus on customer service and support
|• Initiation: determine the feasibility of the project
• Planning: determine the goals, schedule, and resources needed
• Executing: put the plan into action
• Monitoring: keep an eye on performance and progress
• Closing: determine what went well and which tasks weren’t completed
Sure, project management and CRM processes have their differences. But take a closer look, and you’ll see they share some common goals and objectives .
They both focus on delivering high-quality projects, services, or products on time to keep customers happy. And they both help you make more money.
What is CRM in project management?
Project management focuses on delivering what the customer needs on time and within budget. Super important if you want to maintain good customer relationships, right?
And that’s where CRM comes in handy.
CRM can help you manage projects by giving you real-time insights into customer feedback and improving communication across departments. A report on the “State of Sales by LinkedIn” found that 64% of companies say that CRM tools are helpful.
Moreover, putting clients at the center of project management can help you deliver the right products/services and retain customer relationships.
But how exactly do CRM tools do this?
With features for customer interaction tracking, budgeting, and sales pipeline management, CRM help businesses s:
- Manage a customer lifecycle
- Connect customer feedback with ongoing projects
- Deliver projects within budget
- Collaborate on client initiatives and deliverables
- Align the tasks of your project, sales, and customer service teams
- Execute projects as soon as a deal is finalized
- Engage with clients and candidates better when paired with an applicant tracking
On top of that, a CRM system often has features like milestone tracking, project roles, dashboard reporting, and recurring task management.
Here’s how these features help project teams:
- Milestone tracking: helps teams identify goals and targets
- Project roles: defined roles make it easier for teammates to manage their responsibilities
- Dashboard reports: allows a project manager to analyze progress
- Recurring tasks: automates repetitive tasks to help teams focus on more important things, AKA making money
Now that we’ve understood what is CRM in project management, let’s see how you can zero in on the right tool for your needs.
However, before we explain what you should look for in a CRM tool, let’s first cover how it differs from a traditional project management solution:
What Are the Differences Between CRM Software and Project Management Software?
Let’s check out the key differences between CRM Software and PM Software :
What Makes a Good CRM Project Management Solution?
An excellent client project management solution should be super user-friendly, flexible, and robust. And while you could opt for integrations or two separate tools to manage each process, you could also use an all-in-one solution to manage both processes.
Utilizing a CRM with project management features helps you manage your project and customer data in one central platform, and you won’t have to switch between apps all day.
And, of course, you want to avoid tools that are too complex.
To help you decide, here are ten things to look out for when choosing project management CRM software:
1. Ease of use
The software you choose should have a simple implementation process and user-friendly interface for your employees and customers.
They need to access the tool since they play an essential role in the feedback and approval processes. Giving your clients access will also lead to more transparency, fewer emails, and help keep everyone on the same page.
Additionally, make sure the tool you choose blends in with your current business processes. You don’t want to realize the tool disrupts your entire workflow halfway through your CRM implementation.
Since every business is unique, sometimes a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to cut it.
That’s why you need a customizable tool.
A customizable solution helps you reflect your needs accurately.
3. Client collaboration
Choose a solution that lets you bring the client into your customer relationship management project space to show them how their projects are progressing. It’ll also help you speed up the proofing and approval processes.
Don’t worry. Ensure your tool offers granular permissions settings to let you control who has access to what.
The customer may not always be right, but CRM task management tools with collaboration features are.
4. Document and data management
Whether you opt for a desktop app or a cloud-based CRM and project management app, the tool you choose should let you manage documents and analyze customer info with ease.
Additionally, the software should let you create and share knowledge bases, user guides, and onboarding documents. This way, you can share relevant information with your clients as required.
5. Portfolio management
A tool with customer portfolio management features helps businesses keep track of customer activities.
It basically lets you analyze and categorize your entire customer base to identify loyal customers.
This way, you can create a CRM project plan that focuses on retaining your most valuable customers. And you can brainstorm ways to renew the spark in any failing relationship.
6. Visual project management
Visual Project Management helps teams better understand timelines, tasks, and deadlines. All you’ll need is a single glance to see how projects and customer relationships are progressing.
Look for software with visual features like Gantt Charts, Timelines and Kanban views. .
This will help you:
- Centralize communication and keep everyone on the same page
- Quickly make decisions based on accurate data
- Identify any potential bottlenecks in the workflow
7. Sales pipeline management
Sales pipeline management is at the heart of CRM systems.
But what is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a snapshot of where your prospects are throughout the sales process. It helps a CRM project manager track the flow of leads and customers throughout the sales process.
The CRM project management tool you choose should have features like lead tracking, pipeline management, sales dashboards, and more. This is the basic requirements of CRM.
This will help you determine how fast sales representatives can convert leads into sales.
And if you want to improve sales performance, taking a good look at your CRM project management tool could tell you what’s working and what’s not.
8. Streamlined communication
Having a CRM and project management tool with dedicated communication or chat features can help businesses get rid of silos and data inaccessibility.
Team members should be able to drop comments, attach documents, and jump on video calls without leaving the tool. This streamlines communication as you won’t have to switch between apps all day.
9. Data-driven insights
Data-driven insights give you real-time information about how every aspect of your business is doing.
The CRM and project management software you pick should give you detailed reports and dashboards. This will help you identify bottlenecks, monitor employee performance, and make sure teams achieve company goals.
This makes it far easier to make informed business decisions.
Well-integrated systems ensure proper data flow and streamlined workflow management across different platforms.
Select a CRM project management software solution that can integrate with other tools in your workspace. This way, you won’t have to let go of your favorite apps.
Here’s a list of some integrations you might need:
- Video conferencing tools
- Instant messaging apps
- Bug Tracking Software
- Cloud storage systems
- Integrations with email clients for email project management
Pros & Cons of an All-in-one Solution?
Before you decide what project management software CRM you want to go with, here are some pros and cons of using an all-inclusive tool:
Here are the four key benefits of using an all-in-one solution:
1. Better data management
Having all customer and project data in one platform makes it easier for teams to store, manage, and access info when they need it.
Your team won’t have to spend the entire day switching between apps, leaving your customers feeling like this:
Moreover, an all-in-one tool offers a single source of truth, ensuring your project and customer teams rely on the same data to make crucial decisions. They’ll be less likely to make mistakes or run into miscommunication issues.
2. Improved deliverables
To help you understand how an all-in-one solution improves quality control, here’s an example.
Let’s say your software development team is creating new features for a dating app. Meanwhile, the marketing team is building a knowledge base for the new features.
However, your CRM shows that customers complain about constant app crashes.
While that’s heartbreaking , your customer service team can use CRM features like client feedback tracking to turn tickets into actionable tasks for the project team. And your marketing team can release relevant content regarding these fixes before focusing on new features.
With the most critical issue resolved, your customers can now get back to finding ‘the one.’
This saves you a lot of time and effort as you can quickly identify what matters to the customer and focus on delivering that.
3. Saves time and money
Using one app for both CRM and project management means that you won’t have to spend thousands of dollars on licenses for multiple apps.
On top of that, you won’t have to spend even more time and money training your employees to use multiple tools. And we all know how expensive employee training can get!
4. Cross-departmental alignment
Remember, an all-in-one tool provides you with a single source of truth. This helps your project, marketing, sales, and customer service teams create a shared understanding of customer needs and project progress.
It also enables you to create a unified task management and reporting system that helps teams collaborate with ease.
For example, marketing teams can use the tool’s reports to determine a customer’s level of interest and decide whether they can make a sale to them. And if it’s a yes, you can initiate a new project targeting the customer.
This means no more chasing after deals that end up like this:
Here are two cons of using one tool to manage both processes:
1. Different timelines
One of the problems of combining the two processes is that they rely on different timelines.
A client relationship management project focuses on long-term relationship building since it’s an ongoing process. On the flip side, project management is more temporary as projects have a start date and end date.
It makes sense to keep the two separate if you don’t want unrelated customer info cluttering your project management app.
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TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.