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PHOTO: Kevin

Complex customer engagements require thoughtful and on-point project management. Project management helps achieve the consistent brand communications which are the hallmark of excellent customer experiences — during marketing and pre-sales, during the sale and following the purchase.

One way to achieve that consistency throughout the customer journey is to use Salesforce for project management. By incorporating project management into your Salesforce instance, you can create complete customer stories by bringing together customer-facing teams, no matter the physical distance between them. If you take customer onboarding or customer service as a project, you can be sure your customers will get exactly what they need when they need it.

Of course, you can use a stand-alone project management system. But a project management system that isn’t part of Salesforce won’t be linked to Salesforce objects. Therefore, if you want to automatically retrieve data (to, for example, update a project status in the project management system), you will have to integrate the project management system with Salesforce.

In addition to bringing cross-departmental alignment, project management capabilities within Salesforce also benefit particular departments. For example, marketers can use Salesforce project management to work on complex customer engagement campaigns. Project teams in a B2B business can use project management tools incorporated into Salesforce to track project time and expenses. 

Before you jump into project management in Salesforce, you should know what particular features to look for, what out of the box project management features Salesforce offers and what other options can be found in the AppExchange. 

Must-Have Project Management Features in CRM

We explored how the capabilities of leading project management tools apply to customer relationship management (CRM) and put together the following list of CRM project management features:

  1. Lists with tasks, subtasks and milestones that feature due dates, statuses and assignees.
  2. Tools for managing and tracking tasks with respect to their dependencies.
  3. Convenient views of the project structures — Kanban, Gantt chart, calendar-based or in rows, for example.
  4. Collaboration features, such as feeds, chats and forums.
  5. Notifications that keep teams up to date on projects.
  6. Document-sharing and document-management capabilities.
  7. The ability to report on task statuses and assignees’ key performance indicators (KPI).
  8. Interfaces that are optimized for mobile devices.

Now, let’s see what Salesforce offers in this regard.

Related Article: How the Digital Workplace Is Changing Project Management and Execution

Salesforce Strengths and Weaknesses in Project Management

For now, there is no project management module on Salesforce cloud platforms. Though rich platform capabilities can be used for almost every task mentioned above, a lack of specific project entity implies that the platform needs customization to be used for end-to-end project management.

Here is a rundown of what features and capabilities are, and are not, included with popular Salesforce licenses.

1. Salesforce tasks can be used to create and assign tasks to one or multiple users. The tasks tab includes the tasks assigned to you and your colleagues; it also shows file attachments. The system sends reminders and email notifications to make users aware of updates to task statuses.

Tip: Using Salesforce Process Builder, you can create custom processes for project management needs, such as assigning a task to a service agent when a related task is marked as complete by a sales rep.

2. Out of the box, Salesforce doesn’t support managing task dependencies. Therefore, when you amend the due date of a task for your marketing team, dependent tasks of sales reps stay unchanged. However, you can use Salesforce Process Builder to create custom processes that fill the gap.

3. Without customizing Salesforce, you can’t bring together all tasks related to a project.

4 and 5. Salesforce Chatter is a very strong tool for collaborating on projects. Chatter includes activity and chat feeds, feed tracking, feedback polls, customizable notifications and alerts. With Chatter, you can create separate chats around topics, so the discussions of different projects don’t get mixed up. In addition to sending member messages, Chatter can also send the project team notifications when any task changes happen.

6. Project teams can use out-of-the-box document management capabilities to create and exchange documents, and to add documents to Chatter feeds so as to streamline collaboration.

7. Salesforce provides a powerful drag-and-drop report builder and customizable dashboards. These tools can give the managers of customer-centric projects holistic views of tasks, problems and project results.

8. The Salesforce mobile app allows project team members to access the system at any time from any device.

In short, Salesforce’s out-of-the-box capabilities are enough to handle basic customer-oriented projects. For large-scale project management, a company needs to either hire a Salesforce consultant to customize the platform or use one of the plugins available on the Salesforce AppExchange.

Related Article: Do Marketers Really Need CRM?

Leading Project Management Plugins on AppExchange

Here are three highly rated Salesforce project management plugins available on AppExchange: Taskfeed, TaskRay and Mission Control. All three are Salesforce-native, so they seamlessly integrate into the platform and use its CRM data. If set up properly, each can increase the efficiency of your customer-facing teams. Also, these three apps are Lightning-ready and optimized for Salesforce1 mobile.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these plugins and compare them.

Taskfeed, from Tapply Ltd.

Cost: $25 per user per month ($20 if paid annually).

Free trial: not available.

Available on AppExchange since 2014.

Quick overview: Though Taskfeed is focused on customer onboarding, its project management capabilities and easy customization make it suitable for other project management needs. Taskfeed lets users choose convenient views of projects — in Kanban, row or Gantt-like modes. While tasks are easily manipulated via drag-and-drop interactions, the tool automatically corrects deadlines respecting task dependencies. Taskfeed supports Chatter feeds and file attachments, offers user notifications and links projects to Salesforce objects, such as opportunities or accounts. User reviews on AppExchange highlight easy customization that makes Taskfeed a perfect project management tool for almost any company.

TaskRay, by Bracket Labs

Cost: $26 per user per month ($21 if paid annually).

Free trial: 14 days.

Available on AppExchange since 2012.

Quick overview: TaskRay has all the functionality necessary for Salesforce project management. The interface is intuitive and full of visuals, so users can quickly get accustomed to TaskRay’s features. In addition to drag-and-drop Kanban, row-like and Gantt-like views of projects, TaskRay has a calendar-based task representation for quick navigation by date. It also recognizes task dependencies and notifies users about task updates. Extra features that make TaskRay convenient for project management include the following:

  • Cloning template projects.
  • Check-off of subtasks marked complete.
  • Full integration with Salesforce objects that lets a user manage related tasks without leaving an account or opportunity tab.

Many reviews of TaskRay on AppExchange say that Bracket Labs offers strong service and support, including a responsive call-center, a comprehensive knowledge base and ongoing enhancements of TaskRay functionality.

Mission Control, by Aprika Business Solutions

Cost: $29 per user per month ($21 if paid annually).

Free trial: 14 days.

Available on AppExchange since 2012.

Quick overview. Mission Control is a full-fledged project management system that runs on the Salesforce platform. It includes a lot of functionality, including the following:

  • Multiple views of projects (row-like, Kanban, Gantt-like and calendar-based).
  • Drag-and-drop changes in projects with respect to task dependencies.
  • Project templates.
  • Chatter and Files integration.
  • User notifications.

Mission Control goes further in project management functionality. It can be used for logging and approving project time and expenses. It can also be used for planning project resources based on employees’ skills and availability.

It has a Salesforce-like user interface and offers intuitive navigation, extensive functionality and strong support, all of which make Mission Control a fine choice for high-level project management in Salesforce.  

Try a Plugin Before Customizing 

Out-of-the-box capabilities of Salesforce are not enough to fully satisfy most companies’ project management needs. Therefore, to arm your customer-facing team with all necessary functionality, you need either to customize your Salesforce CRM system or use a plugin available via AppExchange.

Start by trying out free editions of leading plugins on AppExchange, such as Mission Control and TaskRay. If they fail to meet your needs, you can turn to a Salesforce consulting company that will tweak the app or develop a custom solution for your specific case.