(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
If your company hasn’t tried a project management system, you really should consider one.
Today’s project management applications, like Asana, Basecamp, Trello, Wrike and Podio, are powerful, flexible, cloud-based platforms that are, for the most part, easy to setup and easy to learn. And in an environment where many employees and contractors are working remotely, it’s becoming an increasingly popular way to share information and keep a distributed workforce up to date.
When you use a project management system, your teams are able to schedule and share tasks, emails, notes and progress on just about anything your company is doing, both externally and internally. And when you think about it, isn’t everything in the end just a project?
A customer job. A marketing campaign. The hiring of a new employee. The development of a new product. A bulk email outreach. The setup of a new piece of equipment. A significant bid. A forecasted sale. A product return. A customer service issue.
A good project management system will allow your team to do all these things. You can create and customize forms for data entry, integrate with other popular applications and help track, through metrics, dashboards and analytics, the progress of projects and the productivity of your people. Today’s project management systems track sales, cases, issues and tickets, help build product roadmaps, share calendars, send out emails, enable collaboration and also come with workflows and other artificial-intelligence tools to ensure that things are done automatically and with minimum human interaction.
So, if they can do all these things, then can’t a project management like Asana or Basecamp in the end just replace a CRM system like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics or Zoho? If you visit the above-mentioned project management providers they’ll infer as much. Some outwardly tout features that go head-to-head with CRM applications. Others are more subtle and prefer to position themselves as “partners” or add-ons to CRMs. But the answer is obvious: yes, a good project manager can replace a CRM system.
But then again, the reverse is also true: a good CRM system can also replace a project management application.
That’s because many CRM systems now offer integrated project management modules. And most of the good ones can be customized to accommodate new data entities that can act as project managers. And even if you don’t want to go to the effort of doing all of that, just taking advantage of the out-of-the-box calendaring, task management and productivity features in a CRM system would suffice for most of a company’s project management needs, particularly if the company is smaller and its needs aren’t complex.
If you’re trying to choose between a project management or a CRM system know that either can do the job without having to get both. To help decide, you should be honest about your company culture. Are you a project-oriented company, one that’s managed by people that come from an engineering, service or operational background? Or are you more of a sales-driven company that’s driven by deals, forecasts and commissions.
Determining that will help determine which type of application is best. Once you make that decision, don’t look back. Do what you need to do to fit that application to your needs. Hire a consultant. Create a long-term plan. Map out your objectives, devote resources and closely monitor your progress. Know that the same implementation rules apply for a project management system as they do for a CRM system: you need to have management involvement, a strong administrative team, and a system of reporting and monitoring the data to enforce accuracy and completeness.
So yes, go ahead and get a project management system instead of a CRM. Or get a CRM instead of a project management system. For the most part, either should be satisfactory, as long as it’s implemented the right way.