CRM and Project Management Systems – Keep them Separate!

An Argument on Keeping CRM and Project Management Systems Separate!

For many businesses, searching for the project management or customer relationship management (CRM) software is quite a dilemma. The question, however, is whether to buy two stand-alone systems and keep them separate. Or, one system with both, or if you already have one then buy a plug-in, add-on, or app that integrates.

Usually, the teams who purchase a CRM system are not the same teams who purchase a project management system. As a result, most consumer guides and articles on this subject have treated these systems as an add-on or feature. In practical terms, the two industries speak a different language. Arguably, sales personal and project managers should be keeping these two types of software, quite separate!

Comparison and Contrast

Similarities between project management and CRM:

There are a number of common features in the two software types. Research demonstrated the following similarities in many solutions available for consumers:

  • Both usually have an email element
  • Both have a contacts organization
  • A project planning component is usually present
  • Mobile view/integration
  • A scheduling/time tracking element

Differences between project management and CRM:

There exists a much greater number of differences between project management and CRM than there are commonalities. This is because the two systems play their own unique roles within a business. CRM software helps manage customer relationships and focus on the external activities of a business. But project management software helps manage projects and deliverables to a complete end and are on average, internally focused.

CRM specific functionality:

  • Managing sales performance
  • Customer support
  • Tracking
    • follow-ups
    • customer interactions
    • Q&A
    • visitors
    • referrals
  • Tools for quotes and proposals
  • Socials mechanisms
  • A specified cell-centre management feature. This is not to be mistaken for the feature of general contact management, which is usually a common factor in both systems

Project management specific functionality:

  • Management of budgets
  • Gantt and/or Agile support
  • Portfolio and Program Management
  • Milestone tracking
  • Task completion analysis
  • Workflow reporting
  • Time tracking
  • Resource tracking

An all-in-one solution, is it for you?

CRM software aims to improve the long-term success of turning leads into customers. On the other hand, project management software is concerned with tracking the project from conception to completion. Having all of a customer’s information stored within the same project work stream is not necessarily beneficial, as there will be components which are not relevant to a specific project.

Software options with the ability to carry out the full range of CRM and project management functions are not common and good ones will be expensive in comparison to separate systems. However, there is a strong case for the economic viability and overall benefits to having two separate systems. There are a number of companies on the market that offer great solutions for small businesses with limited financial resources.  To sum up, it boils down to the needs and requirements of an individual business.

Options for CRM and project management plug-ins

Firstly, using a plug-in can be viewed upon as a compromise. Therefore, the decision to utilize this solution should be made by individual businesses, based on their own requirements. For example, if a company requires only a task manager to complement their CRM system, and none of the other features of project management software solution, then a plug-in would be sufficient.

Secondly, many instances a business requires a highly specific and perhaps bespoke project management software solution. In addition to this, it may have fewer actual external clients. In such situations, it would be more suitable to invest in a sophisticated project management system complimented by a CRM plug-in.

Arguments for integrated CRM and project management systems

Supporters of integrated systems state this kind of software allows a company to manage its sales, track its leads and also deliver projects within the same application. The argument goes-on to say that the ability to move seamlessly from a successfully attained contract, right through to the actual project within the same piece of software without the need to duplicate work, is beneficial. Most importantly, these systems also offer the ability to define templates for aspects of a project that can be repeated and incorporate dashboards which illustrate performance across more than one team. Such kinds of integration allow for increased communication and visibility and offer a central point for reporting purposes.

Recap for keeping them separate

In short, CRM and project management tools are designed to serve different purposes and roles in a business. CRM is concerned with the customer process, arguably the most important aspect of a business. It can then be stated that adding project management to this all-important part of the business could serve to make things unnecessarily complicated.

Meanwhile, a project management timeline is project specific, which is quite the opposite of the CRM timeline. An effective project management software solution will allow teams to take on the tasks head on.  Above all, the main feature of a good project management system is to develop internal business activity and assist internal processes to the finish line, thus, justifying the need of a separate project management tool.

In conclusion, I feel keeping them separate is the best approach for small-medium sized businesses.  However, as technology improves I could see this argument changing.

What do you think? Should you keep them separate?  Let us know here ⇓

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