In today’s business environment, project management has never been more critical to the success of enterprise ventures. Using project management methodologies, teams can keep an eye on the risks, scope and tasks associated with projects.
And while solid methodologies have helped complete large and intricate project for years, even small projects now have significant complexities and integrations inherent in their execution. As a result, the number of software tools specifically geared to help keep projects on track and help project managers get a handle on all of the moving parts has exploded. With so many choices, it’s hard to decide what the best tool is for an organization. CIO’s article on the subject, 11 Tips to Get the Most Out of Project Management Software, provides some guidelines, but 4 items in particular stand out:
Do a needs analysis: know what you’re tracking and what kinds of project will be managed with the tool
Consider a cloud-based service: Cost of ownership and deployment are two critical factors to consider when adopting a new tool, and cloud based tools frequently come out on top of those comparisons
Consider scalability: as your company grows, so will the number of users of the tool and the complexity of what’s being tracked with it
Integration with core apps: If your organization already had mission critical applications in use, your project management tool will be more useful, and experience faster acceptance, if it integrates with those existing applications
The last point, in particular, can make or break the adoption of your new toolset. This is especially true if your organization is heavily – or even moderately – invested in the Salesforce platform. Because Salesforce can house your client data, project information and even facilitate team collaboration, it makes sense to use a project management tool that can incorporate that information and minimize the need for duplicate, and inevitably mismatched, data and communication.
There are two types of project management tools that work with Salesforce – ones that integrate with the platform, using their own controls and establishing connections between Salesforce and their application, and ones that are applications that live inside the Salesforce ecosystem, adapting the common controls and leveraging the familiar tools that are part of the platform.
Below, we look at some of the most popular examples of each type as well as look at a tool that can elevate your project management to the next level.
Project Management Tools that Integrate with Salesforce
A number of project management tools in the market today stand separate from existing platforms like Salesforce. These applications allow users some flexibility with the outside tools that they can integrate with, perhaps offering connections not only to Salesforce but to accounting packages, time tracking and other business applications. One point to keep in mind when investigating tools that provide connections to outside applications – maintaining multiple integration points across your enterprise landscape can backfire, creating more work for your support teams, not less.
With these caveats in mind, you may still feel that a standalone solution will satisfy the requirements of your organization’s projects. Here are a few of the top contenders to consider that will integrate with Salesforce and a number of other applications as well.
Billing itself as “all in one collaboration software”, Wrike goes beyond project management, offering solutions for marketing, creative and product management teams in addition to the project management tools. While some companies may appreciate the range of tools available under one roof, others may find that they are only using a limited set of what’s available. The project management application itself, however, has all of the features you’d expect from the tool, including Gantt charts and resource management boards.
To integrate Wrike with Salesforce, you must request the integration instructions from the Wrike team through your Salesforce interface. Once set up, teams can be siloed but have access to project information. For Salesforce authorized users, Wrike tasks can be assigned and the status of tasks can be viewed all without leaving Salesforce. For project teams that don’t have Salesforce access, tasks can be worked on as assigned and updated within Wrike.
Trello has an interesting, and non-traditional approach to project management. This SaaS application is made up of boards, much like a Kanban board. Boards are completely flexible – they can represent teams, workflows, projects, or any other collection that requires the completion of tasks. Within each board, users can create lists. Again, these lists are flexible and can be organized to reflect the needs of the team using the board. Also within the boards are cards. Cards represent projects, tasks or other units of work or collections. Cards can include team members, can be assigned due dates, contain checklists and house important documents and communication threads associated with the task.
This means that everything from boards to lists to cards can be adapted to meet the needs of each team or project. It also means that there isn’t much structure or process associated with the creation of a board or its components. Also, the traditional project management tools are missing from Trello – it doesn’t contain features like resource planning, Gantt charts and so forth.
Trello integrations are called Power Ups. Power Ups are added at the board level, so each board that needs to connect to Salesforce needs to add the integration. Once added, each card will contain a Salesforce button that can be used to attach a lead, contact, opportunity or case to the card. The Salesforce information is now available in the Trello card, meaning project managers and team members can view the information directly within the card, without needing to log into Salesforce.
Clarizen is the most robust of the Salesforce integrated tools reviewed here. It’s planning features include resource planning and automation of project plan creation, and project features include stakeholder collaboration, schedule and timeline reporting, scope management and risk monitoring. At the team level, Clarizen has time tracking and expense reporting as well as a centralized document hub. There is some flexibility in the application with custom fields and actions, but users are limited in how much they can do depending on their licensing level.
The Salesforce integration is also the most extensive of the packages in this category. Once implemented, project data can be viewed in Salesforce as well as project reporting. Users can trigger actions and workflows within Clarizen with Salesforce events. The integrated data can then be used to create dashboards and reports for clients and executives.
Native Salesforce Project Management Tools
For some companies, sharing limited data between Salesforce and their project management application of choice may serve their purposes. But there are a number of advantages to choosing a app that is native to Salesforce.
First, a native application will share your Salesforce database. No missing data or synchronization issues to contend with. It also means all your data is stored within Salesforce, providing protection for your data and simplifying backups. And since Salesforce applications use the same security model as Salesforce itself, your data is secure.
Applications built within Salesforce share the interface and controls with the platform, meaning that if you’re used to one, you’ll be able to quickly pick up the other. With interface sharing comes the integration with other Salesforce features, like Chatter. You’ll also have access to all the other apps and integration tools in the AppExchange. Plus, you’ll be able to use all the built-in tools you currently use for reporting and dashboards.
But most importantly, you’ll be working with a vendor dedicated to the Salesforce platform. Integration may stop being supported by a vendor, but by building the application natively within the platform, there is a commitment to customers that the application works, and will continue to work, with Salesforce.
TaskRay is a native project management application that offers several features, including the ability to automate parts of your post sale process. Project templates are cloneable, and tasks can be repeatable. TaskRay also supports a number of ways to visualize project information that align closely with Agile methodology, including Kanban boards, Row View, Plan View and Calendar View. TaskRay is Lightning Ready and optimized for Salesforce 1 mobile.
Cloud Coach tracks a number of project management responsibilities beyond tasks and timelines. Resource allocations can occur based on skills and availability, cross-project Gantt charts can provide visibility into multiple work streams at once, and costs can be tracked along with time and resources. In addition to tracking projects against Salesforce CRM data, Cloud Coach also heavily leverages the Chatter platform, creating a Chatter page for every task to enable team communication. However, while Cloud Coach is a SalesForce native application, at the time of this writing it is not Lightning Ready or compatible with SalesForce 1 mobile.
FinancialForce is an integrated professional services application that also includes project management features. The application connects opportunities to projects, transferring the relevant information in when the project is created. Resource management based on skills and scheduling can be done within the application, and a full view of project revenue can be accessed across the entire project lifecycle. Although FinancialForce is a native application and Lightning Ready, it is not compatible with SalesForce 1 mobile at this time.
Xpeditor – a New Approach to Project Management
All of the above applications are executed against the same school of thought – a project is a project, with tasks, deadlines, and resources. And while some of the native applications connect projects back to opportunities and clients within the CRM, by and large they do not connect those projects to the larger organization.
That’s where Xpeditor comes in.
What is a project, really? It’s a set of defined tasks, assigned a timeline and utilizing a set of resources to get the project done. All of this is managed to reach an end goal – to deliver the project, in scope, on time and on budget.
But projects are not the only elements of a business that follow a sequence of events to reach a specific goal. Processes, like projects, have steps that are followed to reach a business objective.
Among the differences between a process and a project is that a process is not assigned to a specific timeline, and a project, while likely similar to other projects, has distinctive elements that require customization in the planning and execution. Yet businesses have both processes and projects. At its core, a project is really a unique instance of a process that has a timeline associated with it.
But processes and projects have always been documented and mapped in separate ways and with distinct software applications. And to some degree, this makes sense. Project managers and business process analysts have different skill and knowledge sets, and need different tools to map their work. But in the end, the two are still related./
This is why Xpeditor was created. Xpeditor is a process-driven project management application. It is a single tool that supports both elements – processes and projects. There is no need to import information from one application to another, or duplicate it due to a lack of integration. Instead, there is a single interface for both process design and the management of projects.
Xpeditor enables the creation of a repeatable and well-designed process that can then be used for an instance of a distinct execution. Users can take responsibility for design or management within the tool, based on their skillset. Time becomes an element in process design, projects have insight into how individual tasks fit into the larger picture. These two interlinked business elements are brought together in a single application.
And because Xpeditor is built within Salesforce, it provides all the benefits associated with a fully native app. As part of the platform, Xpeditor enables communication to occur in a number of ways, including SalesForce’s own collaboration tool, Chatter, through email and even with SMS. Plus, Xpeditor is Lightning Ready and Salesforce 1 mobile enabled.
Project needs differ from company to company, and in some cases from one department to the next. But no matter how large or small your organization is, one thing is true – your processes are the support mechanism that your projects execute against. Picking the right solution can be a challenge, and one that can have long lasting effects. When narrowing down your choices, consider a proof of concept to help you understand what works best for you. There are many options for project management that either integrate with or work directly on the Salesforce platform, and which direction you choose to go in will depend on what is the best fit for your organization now, and in the future.