You’ve made the jump to automating your customer relationship management (CRM) processes, now what? The next logical step is integrating it with your project management processes in the organization. Why, because your clients are important and how you connect with them on the very important initiatives you undertake with and for them (i.e., “projects”) is critical to initiating and continuing a solid vendor-client relationship.
Elements of a good project management tool
Whether you are a “visual” person who needs to see in order to understand, or an auditory person who prefers to hear in order to best comprehend, I think we can all agree that a visual planning system for project management is a great way to go. Especially if it is meeting our project scheduling, project status reporting, and resource management needs in a way that can make our lives easier and can help us disseminate information throughout the organization (ours and the customers’) to those who need it.
Yes, for PM, visual usually wins out. Charts, graphs, reports, percentages, and presentation slides abound everywhere you look and every meeting you attend. And status reporting and meetings… well, there are resource usage reports that highlight areas where your resources are overextended. Gantt charts are designed to provide a visual representation of how your entire project is laid out. Each task is represented and all dependencies, work completed, dates, and resources assigned are usually integrated into the Gantt chart visual view. And don’t forget about budget forecasting and analysis.
For the projects I’ve managed over the years, I’ve created numerous ways to display this information very visual for my team, my executive management, and my customer. Sometimes what I have suffices, sometimes the customer and various stakeholders ask for something new which sends me off searching for or creating the best reporting scenario for the project at hand. Information is critical, and the delivery of this information can be critical to end user comprehension and adoption.
Finding a PM software package that provides the best visual tool in a simple, easy to use and update format is important to the busy project manager. There are many such tools on the market - the savvy PM or PMO director or CTO must do some investigative work to determine what is best for the organization’s needs.
When scouring through the masses of project management software tools for one that will get you the best mix of visual planning and short learning curve, a few things to look for are discussed below.
Meaningful and configurable dashboard reporting. Many project management tools offer dashboards – even highly configurable dashboards. But if you can’t make them tell you what you want without a big learning curve or a high degree of customization, then the busy project manager is likely going to move on to the next PM software tool. The best visual project planning tools offer an easy to read, easy to customize project status dashboard for each project and, preferably, across a group of projects so as to produce meaningful information for both the individual project teams and customers as well as the company’s executive management who generally want to see the big picture view.
Easy to use and quick to learn. An easy to use visual project planning tool should give the project manager some easy drag and drop features like creating dependencies, moving and creating tasks, adding resources and inserting percent completes. These are the weekly rituals that project managers must go through to prepare status info for weekly customer calls and meetings, so making this as visual and easy as possible is important for the PM who is making final updates at midnight before the next day’s status call. That’s me!
Smart filters to create instant visuals of status. Easy to access and create filters should be available to the user to create meaningful filtered quick reports of project status. Key filters to use include resource usage conflicts, soon to start tasks, tasks in progress, tasks over due, tasks assigned by resource, and tasks recently completed. Anything that allows the PM an easy way to create meaningful views of important project information is huge plus.
The next logical step in customer management is...
Are you areas of your organization fragmented from each other? Does communication on projects between key business units seem to more of a negative than a positive? You have a solid CRM tool. You need - or possibly have - a good (or at least passable) project management tool. What is the next logical step?
Come on, think hard…you can do it. Yes! Integrate the two so that your team of skilled project resources, your project management office (PMO) leadership, and C-level project management sponsor (like a CPO, or Chief Project or Program Office…if you have one) can better serve your project customers or reach out to those potential project customers.
Leaving it all to account managers who mean well but don’t have the project experience or skills to exactly know how the customers can be best served by the technology you offer can be a little scary. Am I right? So tying the two together – either figuratively or with an actual integration – is the next likely step on your way to better customer management, better project management, and better timing on your customer connections and touchpoints. But how…and with what?
What would we be looking for in terms of an ideal integration with your CRM tool? Well, a productive CRM integration would probably require:
An application specifically designed to interactively manage task schedules and resources in one complete picture.
An application which makes it simple to create in-depth project templates that reflect best-practices around onboarding new customers and/or implementation of products and services sold to customer.
An application which provides project visibility to customers and 3rd party contractors/vendors at little or no cost (e.g. no CRM seat license). Also, provides easy access for customers and 3rd party contractors/vendors to update their task assignments at little or no cost.
An application which lets the PMs responsible for on-boarding or implementations instantly see and streamline resource utilization across project portfolio(s).
An application which offers quick and easy drag-and-drop scheduling to demonstrate to customers and stakeholders “what-if-scenarios” impact of possible delays or changes in project scope.
An application built for all size organizations (e.g. scales to heavy-duty demands of enterprises managing a global portfolio of customer projects) as well as, a solution with a layered feature stack for all skill levels in an organization.
Why Viewpath is your next logical step to the best customer management experience possible
Why Viewpath? Well, first off, Viewpath IS visual. Viewpath speaks to project managers, project team members, customer sponsor and team members, and delivery organization executive management unlike other project management tools.
It offers all those things that I’ve stated above should be elements in any project management tool solution. Plus, it offers the key integrations listed as requirements when incorporating your project management tool and processes with a solid CRM tool like a Salesforce or other top-notch enterprise CRM solution. Beyond that, Viewpath also offers the following benefits that can help your project-centered organization realize operational efficiencies and greater profitability overall.
Reduces process cycle time for teams delivering implementations
Helps in managing customer expectations on what to accurately expect upfront (vs what optimistic salesperson thinks customer wants to hear)
Gives internal management staff real-time visibility into pipeline of multiple customer-facing projects
Increases customer satisfaction since implementations go more smoothly
Saves the Salespeople time in chasing down completion status (e.g. from field personnel) and providing updates to customers.
Integrates seamlessly with high-level dashboards in apps like Salesforce, and allows instant drill-down capability on risks, etc.
Provides the ability to create work-flow triggers on dependency relationships
Helps get customers buy-in on importance of fulfilling their task commitments in a timely manner (to keep schedule on track)
Allows companies to better plan and track revenue recognition (according to GAP business can only bill upon completion of each Milestone)
Builds institutional knowledge base (over time) and helps in training new hires.
We believe in keeping things simple when it comes to project planning. So, we built an easy-to-use, cloud-based project management solution.
It integrates with Salesforce and Servicemax, making deployments within these environments simple and cost effective.
Viewpath is hosted in the cloud, so there’s nothing to download. Simply log in to view team availability, assign tasks and collaborate with teams in real time – no matter where they’re based.