Updated: May 26, 2022
Using Salesforce for project management may not be the first thing that comes to mind for many users of the world’s leading CRM. Here, we explore the value of Salesforce as a project management tool when paired with the right integrations.
Plenty of companies use Salesforce for sales pipelines, but it also offers exceptional capabilities when it comes to onboarding customers and managing projects (particularly when you invest in the right Salesforce project management app).
Drawing on insights from leaders in the field, this post outlines how you can use Salesforce for project management and get the most out of the CRM. Along the way, we’ll consider how to manage projects in Salesforce from the onboarding phase right through to completion.
A key part of doing this is having the right Salesforce-native integrations and apps in place. To that end, this guide also addresses the practicalities of managing projects on Salesforce and offers tips on choosing the most effective project management integrations for your setup.
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Want to see Precursive’s Salesforce project management app in action? Book a demo today by clicking the button below.
WHAT DOES SALESFORCE OFFER FOR PROJECT MANAGEMENT?
Best known as the world’s favorite CRM, the project management capabilities of Salesforce are often overlooked. A basic out-of-the-box Salesforce setup offers some fundamental features that are actually pretty critical for managing projects, including:
Tracking tasks and project progress
Collaborating within teams
Basic messaging for comms between project team members and clients.
On its own, the platform is fairly limited in terms of its scope for project managers. When combined with integrations and dedicated Salesforce-native project management apps, however, you’ll find it has a whole lot more to offer.
Organizations that want to keep their systems in one place and integrate project management into their Salesforce setup can benefit from tools for:
Time management (with Salesforce Lightning)
Real-time communication and file sharing (with Salesforce Chatter).
With the right tools and integrations in place, Salesforce can be transformed from a simple pipeline management system into a fully-fledged all-in-one project management platform.
ONBOARDING PROJECTS IN SALESFORCE
A smooth onboarding process is vital to the success of any project or client relationship. When managing projects in Salesforce, integrating your onboarding system into the platform helps to keep teams and clients on the same page, with all of the key information available in one place.
There are a lot of features that come with an Onboarding Project Management app, but when it comes to managing team continuity, there’s one feature that really needs highlighting as the one that is going to count: that’s the board view.
This is a visual kanban-style ‘board’ that everyone works from. It’s likely you already use some Agile tools that incorporate a kanban view, for example, Trello or Jira.
In separate race-lanes you can see exactly what your project status is at a glance. There’s a column for what’s coming up next, in progress and still to be completed. The real advantage here is that anyone can log in and pick up someone else’s tasks exactly where they were left off.
The board view is at the heart of Precursive’s OBX onboarding app for Salesforce. Other key features for onboarding clients within your CRM include:
The ability to create customized customer onboarding playbooks that guide the handover from sales to services delivery
Customer collaboration functions like shared project plans – and automatic rescheduling of tasks if plans change
Onboarding analytics, with advanced reporting dashboards and forecasting.
Book a demo using the button below to see all of this in action.
It's tough sometimes when someone has all that knowledge in their head. What if someone is out sick? At least we can look at a board and think, ‘OK, what does ABC have to do?’ and then we can pick it up.
/ Project Manager, Scout
WHY NOT JUST USE TRELLO THEN?
Certainly you can, and in fact, this would definitely be sufficient for many smaller businesses (or smaller departments within larger organizations). However, as soon as you start trying to scale Trello, across many different customers on many different products and services, it all becomes unmanageable very quickly.
With the power to create customized onboarding playbooks and automate project plans, Salesforce-native project management apps are a cut above standalone platforms that are dedicated to the same purpose. All of this makes scaling much more achievable.
What’s more, these tools are not native to Salesforce (we’ll come back to that), that’s to say that while there are integrations available, they have not been designed and built specifically for this purpose.
And then, of course, certain simple-kanban tools don't have repeatable Playbooks...
WHAT'S A REPEATABLE PLAYBOOK AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?
When it comes to onboarding customers to your product or service, while no two implementations are identical, within customer segments it’s very likely that there is a lot that is the same. That’s where Playbooks come in; these are the repeatable processes that roll out at the click of a button. As soon as you close a new customer, everyone gets to know what their next step is.
By getting these Playbooks down now, you’ve just gone a long way to mitigating the risks of depending on individuals who may be in high demand across multiple projects, and that’s the only way to scale.
See our guide to customer onboarding playbooks for more information.
Precursive's Customer Onboarding software was the catalyst for us. It really forced us to take a look at our process, the knowledge we had and document it. We were growing to the point where we really needed the ability to scale, and scale efficiently and effectively. And we've been making a lot of investments into updating our processes, putting everything into Salesforce and coming up with standard procedures. It was a company wide initiative.
/ Activation Director, Scout
ALLOCATING RESOURCES WITH A SALESFORCE PROJECT MANAGEMENT APP
Resource allocation is another key project management process that can be handled with ease in your CRM. With the right Salesforce resource management app at your disposal, you can easily see who is available to work on a project, align skillsets with the type of work, and assign the best people for the job.
Advanced solutions like Precursive RCO provide comprehensive utilization reporting to help you ensure that your resource allocation is well optimized and avoid the dreaded capacity crunch. On the flip side, utilization data also enables you to spot over-utilized team members who could be at risk of burnout.
By taking your resource allocation out of spreadsheets – and into a Salesforce-native app – you can have all of the data you need for effective capacity planning in one platform. Choosing a suite of Salesforce integrations like Precursive also facilitates a smooth transition between onboarding, allocating people to projects, and setting up tasks.
SETTING UP TASKS AND MANAGING TASK DEPENDENCIES IN SALESFORCE PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOLS
Whether your organization favors Gantt Charts or Kanban Boards, all of the best Salesforce project management tools offer a complete view of the tasks involved in a project in a layout that suits you.
Within this, you’ll have the ability to break down projects into their component tasks and assign them to specific people or teams. By comparison to standalone project management apps, advanced Salesforce integrations like Precursive RCO offer the added advantage of automation, with the ability to receive real-time notifications as and when key stages in a project are reached.
To give your customers complete visibility of a project’s progression and current status, you can also share project plans and task boards (whether your customers work in Salesforce or not).
The ability to establish down- or upstream task dependencies within Salesforce itself helps to prevent any bottlenecks from occurring during a project. If one task is a prerequisite of another, this can be marked up at the outset of the work (and modified at a later date). Task owners will then be notified automatically when the groundwork for their part of the project has been completed and they can make a start.
FORECASTING PROJECT DEMAND AND THE MONITORING PROJECT FINANCIALS IN SALESFORCE
It may be possible for smaller teams to carry out some elements of project management in a standalone application, but an integrated Salesforce solution can help you to realize more value from your project work through enhanced project accounting and finance capabilities.
Suites like Precursive give you all the data relating to onboarding, resource allocation, task management and project financials in one place – this gives you a much more accurate picture of how long it’s taking to recognize project revenues, so you can identify and eliminate stumbling blocks, deliver value more quickly and ultimately improve project margins.
With all of the data housed in a centralized hub, advanced all-in-one Salesforce project management solutions are also capable of facilitating accurate project demand forecasting. Not only does this give you a much better understanding of your capacity, utilization and hiring needs, but it also provides you with accurate predictions of your future revenue levels.
THE PRACTICALITIES OF USING SALESFORCE FOR PROJECT MANAGEMENT
So, by now you’re probably starting to get that Salesforce can be a pretty powerful tool for project management. But is going Salesforce-native really that big of a deal? And is it still possible to work effectively with clients and stakeholders who aren’t on the platform themselves?
Is Salesforce-native important?
If you aim to have Salesforce as the single source of truth in your business, then yes, this is fundamentally important. Here’s a quick list why:
A Salesforce native Customer Onboarding Projectment solution will work seamlessly with your Salesforce data, so you are always working with real-time information
You can use Chatter to post updates on any Salesforce object relevant to the project at any time
Make use of the reporting and dashboard capabilities to tailor a data dashboard that reports on the metrics that really count in your operation
See at a glance the status of your project pipeline without having to toggle between different apps.
And most importantly, no data will end up siloed by tools or simply kept in someone’s head
They can see where everything is at, and who needs to do each specific piece - so that belongs to a specific person who is the task owner. It also really helps if someone gets switched out on one of our installs, which is a pretty common thing, the data stays there.
Ken Gentry / Manager Operations Development, Dealertrack
I’ve already paid my license fee for Salesforce, why would I not configure Salesforce to be a PM solution?
You could. If you have a good Salesforce Admin who has the capability and importantly the capacity to configure bespoke workflows in your existing Salesforce instance, then this is definitely an option. However, if you take the decision to purchase a license for a pre-built Salesforce App, you will save yourself a huge amount of time and error. You will benefit from the experience and thought someone else has invested in the process as a result of many rounds of learning and optimization. Plus they will be in charge of keeping your toolkit up to date and secure with every new release.
Last question...I’m on Salesforce but my customer isn’t and they still need to see the plan. How does that work?
Not a problem. There are solutions that allow you to externally share your plan within Salesforce with the customers. They will not need a Salesforce license but can still access a visual project plan in Salesforce in this way, allowing your customer to understand exactly what the project status is in real-time and what’s required of them in real-time at every stage.
Hopefully, this overview is useful and gives you a better understanding of the real advantages available to you now in order to manage your operations in a time of huge upheaval.
In the words of one Head of Onboarding at a scaling SaaS financial transactions business:
Whenever people are off or away, we can handle a pretty large number of merchants and handle them in a way that we are pretty happy with, and handle them all in Salesforce, which means we can manage this and tailor things to a merchant, even when we are low on capacity.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SALESFORCE-NATIVE SOLUTIONS FOR PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Having seen the light and decided that managing projects via Salesforce-native integrations is the right option, the next step is to find out which specific apps will be the best choices to further your cause. The Salesforce AppExchange is the place to go.
As well as advanced integrations like Precursive OBX and PSA, you’ll find thousands of options when it comes to Salesforce project management apps, all with different combinations of features on offer.
Choosing apps from the same provider is often a good strategy. This’ll ensure that the various tools that make up your overall project management ecosystem are well integrated, guaranteeing that your data is aligned and available in one centralized hub. A full Salesforce solution suite helps to connect the dots from the point when a project onboards right up to its completion.
Beyond this, you’ll need to consider which specific project management features you need from your Salesforce setup:
If you’re looking to carry out everything from customer onboarding, resource allocation and task management to collaboration, client comms and project accounting, then combining tools like Salesforce Lightning and Chatter with a full suite such as Precursive is the way to go.
Looking for a Salesforce solution to a particular piece of the project management puzzle? Individual apps like Precursive OBX, RCO and PSA can be used in isolation if your organization has a specific need to address.
This guide has explained the fundamentals of project management in Salesforce, showing you what can be achieved with the right integrations to complement your setup.
If you have any more questions about managing projects on Salesforce – or choosing native project management apps that’ll work for you – please get in touch today. Alternatively, you can book a demo with a member of the Precursive team and we can talk directly about your use case.