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Why extend CRM to include Project Management? - Guest Blog by Mark E. Engelberg

by Administrator Administrator on ‎03-31-2011 10:01 AM

Why extend CRM to include Project Management?

by Mark E. Engelberg


Question:  Should your company capture information about client projects in your accounting system or your CRM system?


Traditionally, firms have entered time and other transactional data into a company’s accounting application, or some other system outside of the company’s CRM system.  In fact, before CRM joined the ranks of “mission-critical” applications, the only available place to store such information was the accounting application; no alternatives existed for  small-business computing. With the addition of CRM to the operation of many companies, now firms can choose.


“CRM vs. Accounting” is a philosophical decision.  Those who make Customer Relationship Management the cornerstone and central repository for all client and project information expect to find all information in the CRM system.  Keeping in mind that the data will eventually end up in the accounting system anyway for billing purposes, the discussion really should be about where the data should start its life; we know where it must end.


When time, expense, and task data is integrated within the CRM system, the information remains visible to every germane individual in the company – accessible by Customer Service, Marketing and Sales, not just the Finance Department.  For example, Sales can maintain good rapport with the client throughout the Customer Lifecycle and identify up-selling and cross-selling opportunities.  And deal with issues that may be occurring.  So, why would you want this data “hidden” in Finance?  It will get there eventually anyway for invoicing.


Other reasons exist to embed project management functions directly within the CRM system. Whether you call it a finance, accounting or ERP system, it is, by design for security reasons, a system with limited user access.  Therefore, data entered into a spreadsheet needs to be re-keyed into accounting for billing.  This often creates errors and delays.  Users enter time and expenses into spreadsheets each week and someone else re-types the information into the accounting system. You eliminate this error-prone process by capturing time and expense information in a single system that can pass the data electronically.


Doesn’t it make sense that your project, time, and expense information belongs with the CRM data?  Why would you want it in a separate system (a spreadsheet or web application or the accounting system)?  When a salesperson closes a deal (an Opportunity), doesn’t it make perfect sense for that deal to become the project?  It’s a natural flow.  It’s a flow from forecast to actual. A flow that covers the full spectrum of what Customer Relationship Management should be – managing the relationship completely from Lead to Opportunity to Delivery to Customer Service – with all information in one place to support the relationship.


As you proactively access, analyze and manage project tasks, resources and associated costs and revenues, such an integrated CRM-based system unites once-siloed departments, expanding views into work performed, project profitability, and dispersed knowledge of the client relationship.


Answer these questions to gauge if you can benefit from a CRM-based project management system:


  1. Can you easily, and in real-time, determine non-performing and under-performing workers, projects and customers (yes, customers under-perform, too!)?
  2. Is your time and expense information subject to delays and errors because data must be re-entered from multiple systems and spreadsheets?
  3. Do you know when your staff is performing out-of-scope work that should be captured for additional billing?
  4. Does it take too long to compile and bill for out-of-pocket expenses?
  5. Are you losing revenue by not capturing time for all work performed?
  6. Are you losing revenue because you can’t bill for premium and complex rates?
  7. Are you satisfying customers with timely and accurate project reporting?


I find what often passes for a project management and time tracking system is a hodge podge of multiple spreadsheets, paper documents and applications, like this:




Turn your mess into a unified Project Management system, built around your CRM.


Lacking a single system, you can’t easily determine what work has been performed by particular staffers and how long it took them.  Tracking profitability at the project or task level is nearly impossible and requires manual calculations.  It’s hard to calculate payroll and commissions. Staff and management have poor visibility into resource scheduling, which is time consuming.  Multiple data silos exist throughout your company.  Duplicate records make analysis challenging.  Re-entering information slows down invoicing and cash flow.  Is any of this good?


You’re left with poor communication between departments, inconsistent business processes, no best practices, revenues not captured, reduced margins, and a costly license and support infrastructure to maintain.


You can turn all this around by embedding Project Management within your CRM system, achieving a complete view of the Customer and Project Lifecycles.  In doing so, you give management real-time access to the status of projects, tasks, contracts, schedules, resources, expenses, and associated dollars and profits, and linked to the Opportunity that generated the work, and the customer service or tech support that keeps the customer satisfied.     




If your company goal is to attain a single system to efficiently and effectively support all functions across all departments, from Lead Generation to Customer Service or Technical Support, consider embedding project management within your CRM system.        

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