10 of the best CRMs for project management

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If your CRM does not deal with project management, then you might find yourself still carrying out a variety of tasks manually. Not only can this waste a lot of time but think about the impact it must have upon project deadlines and keeping the client happy. You may even wonder if you could just manage projects yourselves without a CRM. After all, you all know what you are doing and not having to buy specialist software would save a lot of money... wouldn’t it?

Traditionalists may believe that project management is not necessary, so why use a CRM to take care of it?  What they don’t understand is that failing to use project management is literally a false economy. It may use up to 20% of the overall contract budget but is certainly not an unnecessary expense.

It not only keeps the team working together, focused on the same targets, but also enables proactive dealing with any issues that may occur.   

We have taken the time to check out the ten best CRMs for project management available, but before we get into that, let’s look why project management is important.

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Importance of project management for CRM

Strategic alignment

Good project management takes care of the product being delivered, makes sure that it is the right thing, and creates real value. No matter which client you are working for, each one will have their own strategic goals and project management slots those goals into the correct framework. A project management CRM helps you keep track of all the details, so if risks do crop up during the project, the strategy can change with project management ensuring that the project is part of the strategic realignment.  If your project drifts off course or fails to adapt to change, it may become far too expensive or even worse, unnecessary.

Leadership

Project management adds essential direction and leadership to projects. Direction, purpose, and control are critical if the team are to give their best. With everyone’s task clearly delineated, there is no confusion about who is doing what and the lead project manager can keep everyone in line, taking responsibility for the whole project’s success. Your CRM gives full visibility of your project allowing your team to be as productive as possible.

Clear objectives

In order to execute strategic goals, a proper plan is required. Without project management in place, teams can drift all over the place, lack structure and goals and have only vague aims in mind.  Clear objectives and accomplishment of tasks by set deadlines are required, breaking up the project into smaller chunks. Your CRM can help you monitor and set these deadlines, as well as track progress. As each stage is finalized, it can be ticked off and the next task brought into the picture.  Without clear insight, projects can falter, and objectives can be lost.

Project planning

Expectations need to be linked to clear deliverables. This relates to both budgets and estimates and achievement of deadlines. A project that comes in late and over budget is not what you want.  Deadlines need to be reasonable and ultimately achievable. Once a sense of urgency takes over, panic can ensue and necessary steps end up being compromised, along with quality. Most of the time, tasks do take longer than planned and good project management balances available resources with a realistic schedule, bringing into play clear objectivity.  Once processes are clear and deadlines seen as being achievable, everyone can move forward knowing that what is being asked of them is realistic.

Quality control

An effective project management CRM provides consistent quality. Without it, schedules can be tightened, processes hurried and tasks vastly underestimated. Result? Poor quality.  Correct project management tests quality at set stages. Going together with quality assurance, the use of phased processes allows enough time for output to be examined and signed-off once approved.

Risk management

Project management also allows the correct management of risks and prevents them from becoming long-term issues. Forget pushing them aside or trying to ignore that they exist; with robust processes in place, risks are identified and can be dealt with early on.  As they occur, they can be analyzed, quantified, and mitigation or contingency plans put in place. The likelihood of them occurring can also be prioritized. It is not possible for all projects to continually go to plan so by being adaptable in this way, success is far more certain.

Orderly process

This involves everyone doing what they do best at the correct time and in accordance with the project lifecycle. Planning needs to be proactive and never reactive as this can result in mass inefficiency. By following a set process, each member of the team has their role clarified with the project being consistently aligned with the basic strategy. CRM is great at setting processes and stages for your team to follow. Without clear and orderly processes in place, projects may fail and employee attrition increase.

Progression tracking

This involves continuous oversight and the tracking of progress correctly. Status reports are a way of making sure that all is going to plan and on track in accordance with the original. With adequate project reporting taking place, if it does start to veer off course, the quicker you can get it back on track. Bespoke reports can show work completed to date, hours utilized so far and that everything is in line.

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What are project management CRM features?

Not all project management software is the same, but most packages will include the following:

  • Agile support
  • Budget control and management
  • Effective planning of the project
  • Provision of Gantt charts
  • Reports on workflows
  • Tools to enable easy collaboration/communication
  • Tracking of important milestones
  • Tracking of portfolios
  • Tracking of tasks with completion dates

10 best CRMs for project management   

1. Work[etc]

Suitable for: small businesses looking a powerful but affordable all-in-one CRM

Work[etc] provides a CRM solution that encompasses project management and billing functionalities. Price-wise it is one of the most affordable all-in-one solutions on the market. This makes it attractive to small businesses who need a  solution to fit a workforce that wears many hats.

The project management side of the CRM includes built-in project budgeting, the ability to attach key documents to a project, and a clever feature that allows you to create a dependency between tasks and trigger alerts once certain tasks are complete. Work[etc] offers a variety of different ways of viewing a project - from Gantt charts and graphical timelines to budget and progress focused views.

Reviewers loved the range of features Work[etc] offers for its price point, and were generally happy with how it integrated with their existing software. Some small businesses were initially concerned about investing in an all-in-one solution, but report that post-implementation the system has paid for itself.

https://www.worketc.com/

2. Apptivo

Suitable for: those looking for a feature-rich CRM with a flexible modular structure and first class customer support

Apptivo is a web-based solution comprised of over 50 ‘apps’ (modules) that businesses can pick and choose to create their own. The ‘build it yourself’ approach and affordable price point will appeal to small businesses who want to combine several business processes into a single software package - as well as project management and CRM, Apptivo offers apps for HR management, supply chain management, and financials, to name a few.

Find the right CRM for your company using this comprehensive CRM vendor directory

Their project management app offers a comprehensive set of collaborative tools, offering the ability to oversee an unlimited amount of projects at once, fully interactive Gantt charts and customizable project templates. Apptivo also offers integrated project billing, so that users can specify how they want to invoice for a project - whether as a flat rate, phased-based payments or total hourly rate.

Reviewers were near unanimous in their appreciation of the customer support, and also loved the price point of the software. For startups who want the option of CRM, project management and potentially more covered by one solution, Apptivo comes highly recommended.

http://www.apptivo.com/

3. SugarCRM

Suitable for: companies who want an easy-to-use and quick-to-implement system with a range of integration options.

SugarCRM has been offering project management functionality since back in 2007. These are available in all of SugarCRM’s product editions, and whilst the minimum ten user license will put off the smallest organizations and early-stage startups, more established companies will find the software reasonably priced for the features it offers.

With SugarCRM’s project management feature, companies can take full control of campaigns and how they progress. Users can view and track activity easily using Gantt charts and customizable project dashboards, share project information and collaborate fully by attaching meeting notes or store call records, and also export data to other programmes such as Microsoft Project.

Reviewers liked SugarCRM’s were impressed at how easy the system was to customize - this is largely thanks to the range of third-party integrations it offers and the database of add-on apps. It also scores highly for flexibility and ease of implementation, making it ideal for those looking for a system that can evolve with changing business needs.

https://www.sugarcrm.com/

4. Insightly

Suitable for: small but ambitious companies who want a fully-featured and flexible CRM that will grow with them

Insightly’s small business CRM provides a full set of project management features at a very reasonable price. These are fully available in the free version of the software - for up to two users - making it a perfect option for early-stage startups and sole traders who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Clients can switch up or down to any of Insightly’s five pricing plans at any time, offering an unparalleled amount of flexibility for high-growth companies.

Users can view project progress using both pipeline and milestone-focused views. Insightly also doesn’t forget the basics either - the ‘recurring tasks’ feature allows people to set task alerts to recur at regular intervals to ensure that regular check ups are done on client accounts. Project status reports are simple to produce and easy to view.

Reviews frequently mention how easy Insightly is to use, and were full of praise for its intuitive interface and range of integration (G Suite, QuickBooks, MailChimp, Outlook…).  Whilst the reporting functionality isn’t customizable enough to meet everyone’s needs, Insightly provides a solid set of tools for companies who would otherwise be priced out of an all-in-one solution.

https://www.insightly.com/

5. Podio

Suitable for: companies who require a broad spectrum of software integrations.

Podio is a CRM and project management tool provided by Citrix. It will appeal to companies looking for a robust and adaptable CRM tool that integrates well with existing software - Podio’s list of integrations includes G Suite, email, Excel and Gotomeeting, as well as the less common Zendesk, Zapier and FreshBooks.

Nail down your key project management requirements and select the right software for your team with this CRM selection survival guide

Podio offers a comprehensive set of project management features, including customizable project views, task alerts and automated workflows. API access allows those with the know-how to create their own apps and add-ons, whilst the Podio App Market offers a wide range of free pre-built apps which can expand the software’s functionality.

The flexibility this offers for a mid-market price point was praised by reviewers, who also liked the frequent updates, range of integrations, and user-friendliness of the platform. Whilst some mentioned that the reporting functionality could be more advanced, users were generally very happy with how Podio’s features met key business requirements.  

https://podio.com/site/en

6. Apollo HQ

Suitable for: companies looking for more of a project management focus than a CRM one.

Unlike most other systems on this list, Apollo HQ is best thought of as a project management tool with added CRM functionality rather than a CRM with added project management functionality. If you have extensive project management needs but only limited requirements for CRM, this could be the software for you.  

Unusually and refreshingly a chunk of Apollo’s development is user-led - you can vote for features you’d like to see in upcoming releases on their website. All plans offer unlimited project users, and features include time tracking, customizable task list templates and the ability to merge related projects together to reduce confusion and administrative workload.

Reviews praise Apollo’s user interface, particularly the use of tabs to switch between projects and the ability to create project shortcuts with just a couple of clicks. If you’re looking for a fully-featured CRM alongside your project management tool this probably isn’t the system for you, but the contact management and sales pipeline tools provide a solid baseline functionality in these areas.

https://www.apollohq.com

7. Zoho

Suitable for: companies who want their CRM to do absolutely everything (and have the resources to customize)

Not only do Zoho produce a great CRM with the ability to provide in-depth analytics; they also offer a bolt on Projects module which is free of charge when you purchase the Professional and Enterprise editions.  If you already have this version of their CRM in place, then all you have to do is download the Projects add-on.  

Here you will find some powerful tools such as the ability to track timelines, check on the adherence to milestones and make use of Gantt charts.  All this comes with detailed analytics and planning options, as well as cross-team access and visibility.

Reviewers love the scope for customization Zoho offers and were positive about the add-ons on offer in Zoho Marketplace. For companies that can spend the time and resources customizing their software, Zoho can be adapted to suit their business processes perfectly.

https://www.zoho.com/

8. NetSuite SRP

Suitable for: ERP-using companies who want a fully-integrated project management tool

NetSuite’s SRP is unique in that it’s the only cloud solution that unites ERP and professional services automation in one software product. It’s not technically a CRM in itself - but NetSuite do offer a companion CRM product (CRM+) that integrates easily. SRP is therefore ideal for companies who need ERP, but want fully-integrated project management functionality alongside it.

As with all of NetSuite’s products, SRP offers a range of powerful features, including customizable timesheets and billing and invoicing management. The project management solution aims to deliver complete visibility and control over a project, with users able to collaborate in real-time, create detailed project level budgets and track all key financial metrics of projects they work on.  

Find CRMs with project management functionality using this free online CRM comparison tool

Reviewers liked the powerful reporting features SRP offers, and found the software easy to customize and highly flexible. They were also very positive about NetSuite’s ability to seamlessly integrate front office functions (CRM, marketing, support management) with back office functions like accounting and project management. SRP won’t suit everyone - but for companies that need some ERP functionality and are willing to purchase CRM+ alongside it, it’s a uniquely powerful tool.

http://www.netsuite.com

9. TaskRay Project Management for Salesforce

Suitable for: companies who use Salesforce and want to expand their project management functionalities

TaskRay is a project management solution native to the Salesforce platform, meaning that all information contained within the app can be tied to existing Salesforce data like accounts, opportunities, and contacts. As it is available on the AppExchange, TaskRay is particularly easy to install and implement for Salesforce-using companies.

With TaskRay, project managers can visualize their data in the way that best suits them - a range of project overview screens are available, including Kanban, calendar and Gantt chart-based views. The app also offers robust reporting features,  cloneable project templates, and repeating task automation, which allow users to cut down on the administrative burden of starting a new project.

Reviewers like the visualization options TaskRay offers and how intuitive the software is to use - they were particularly impressed with the drag and drop and how easy it is to customize the software. Support was rated as first class.

https://taskray.com/

10. Crowe Project Management

Suitable for: Dynamics-using companies who want extended project management functionality, but don’t want to replace their CRM

Crowe Project Management (formerly AbleBridge) is a powerful add-on that expands Microsoft Dynamics from a sales-focused CRM into a project management tool.  Suitable for companies of all sizes, it takes care of project management seamlessly.  Whether you are the manager of the project or dealing with customer service, it will keep everyone in the picture when it comes to time-related tasks, budgets, and general progress.  

Crowe Project Management allows users to convert incoming emails into a project task and assign resources to it from within Microsoft Outlook, and offers real-time project dashboards. While managing CRM-based projects, you can also drill down into the details for a speedy resolution. Alongside this, users can automate routine processes and create customized project templates.

https://www.crowehorwath.com/crm/project-management/

Project management is essential and without it, both teams and clients can find themselves in a state of chaos. Objectives may become muddied, resources limited, planning unrealistic, the quality of deliverable low with ultimately, the project running over in terms of both time and budget.

Effective project management keeps everything on track and provides a clear vision of where you need to be at any one time. When you know what you need to do to achieve success, getting there is so much easier and, at the same time, a real return on investment is achieved.  The result? Not only a happy team, but also a happy client.

Gone are the days when scribbling notes onto a notebook stuffed in your pocket was enough. Now clients expect far more professionalism and it is only by having one of the best CRMs for project management that you can provide this.

Review data was taken from a survey of online review sites

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Jane Tareen

About the author…

An MBA-qualified professional, Jane specializes in all kinds of copywriting and creative content production. With many years spent working in advertising and publishing, she is also skilled in editorial production and proof-reading. Whilst writing, she has a constant companion in the form of one very large Fox Red Labrador!

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Jane Tareen

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