30-Second Summary:

  • Having CRM software with basic PM functionality may be a good option to start with, but here’s why it’s recommended to keep them separate. 
  • CRM and project management tools share these functionalities that could be useful for small businesses.
  • It’s important to note that no CRM tool offers the full functionality of a PM tool. 
  • A PM tool focuses on internal projects and internal business goals with clear start and finish dates, deliverables, budget calculations, etc. Read on for the most popular PM software. 
  • A CRM tool focuses on selling, upselling, cross-selling various products, as well as covering the customer lifecycle from start to finish. These are the leading CRM providers.
  • Businesses may come across these difficulties when dealing with an all-in-one solution.

With the evolution of cloud-based technologies, it has become somewhat of an unspoken rule for many vendors in the SaaS market to add as much functionality as possible to their products. It’s another way of trying to beat the competition simply by offering more functionality than others. Is this always a good thing, though? That’s a deceptively complicated question.

Getting straight to the point of CRM and PM software. Most tools on the market offer basic cross-functionality to a certain extent. Because of this, many articles around the web treat one or the other like an addition, a feature, or an add-on of the other, and it’s mainly (not always) considered an advantage.

However, the thing is that these two pieces of software, while having a number of similarities, are being used by different people for different purposes. PM software buyers, in the majority of cases, aren’t salespeople, and CRM buyers typically are no project managers. There is also the cost to consider. Most commonly, if a CRM software offers some type of PM functionality, it will cost more money regardless of the pricing model (subscription-based, per-user payments, etc.) This is true the other way around, as well.

If you’re a small business owner and use neither of these solutions, having a CRM software with basic PM functionality may be a good option to start with, but it’s still recommended to keep them separate.

The Overlaps of CRM and PM Tools

When talking about the similarities, some CRM and project management tools share the following functionalities that could be useful for small businesses:

  • Project management or project planning features.
  • Email marketing or email integration features.
  • Task scheduling and time tracking tools.
  • Mobile integration and/or a mobile app.
  • Contact management features.
  • Employee KPI reports.
  • Deals and Projects reports.

These similarities are the main reasons for the confusion, which leads to thinking that a PM tool can be used for CRM purposes and vice versa. To put things into perspective, “how” both tools are used is very similar – both utilize time tracking, task scheduling, mobile, email, etc. That being said, no CRM tool offers the full functionality of a PM tool.

The Distinctions of CRM and PM Tools

The truth is, there are far more differences in the two types of software than there are similarities, and this exactly why they need to be separated from one another. A CRM tool is designed to offer mainly external-oriented functionality to businesses, which focuses on selling, upselling, cross-selling various products, as well as covering the customer lifecycle from start to finish.

A PM tool is, first and foremost, focused on internal projects and internal business goals with clear start and finish dates, deliverables, budget calculations, etc. Also, while PM tools can be used to complement both external and internal developments (think back-office functionality, or building an e-commerce website), all the action happens inside your company, which is the key distinction.

 Again, to put things into perspective, below you’ll find mostly CRM-related features:

  • Visitor tracking and conversions.
  • Social media integrations and automated profile enrichment.
  • Sales performance reports and management.
  • Follow-up tracking and reports.
  • Interaction tracking and behavior-based analytics.
  • Quote and proposal tools.
  • Customer support service.
  • Referral programs, tracking, and analytics.
  • Call center management features.

Some of the leading CRM providers include Monday.com, FreshWorks, PipeDrive, and InfoFlo.

Likewise, here is a list of PM software functionality:

  • Advanced workflow management and analytics.
  • Task completion tracking.
  • Project portfolio management.
  • Project planning.
  • Agile components and support.
  • Gantt charts.
  • Budget management and planning.
  • Advanced collaboration features.

Some of the most popular PM software are Wrike, Project Manager, RingCentral Glip, and FunctionFox.

The Problem with All-in-one Solutions

When considering everything we have talked about with regards to CRM and PM functionality, a natural question comes to mind – why not simply have it all? This is what some vendors have made an effort to accomplish and created an all-in-one solution for marketing, sales, and projects for every business. However, there are a couple of catches here, as well.

1. Different Goals

At the end of the day, CRM and PM tools have different mindsets and are meant to accomplish different goals, and while marketing and sales software share similar values and can be stuffed into a single solution, PM tools simply have another purpose.

The primary role of a CRM tool is to extend the customer lifetime value, and focus on the long-term success of clients because that’s when your business becomes extremely cost-efficient. A PM software, on the other hand, is project-based and every time it has a clear start and end-date, as opposed to the dream of maintaining an existing client forever. While your business may be doing a number of various projects for the same client if you managed to build the relationship well-enough, it still makes sense to keep the two software separate. There is no reason to clutter sales-related information for project management teams since a lot of the time, it will be irrelevant and simply cause nuisance.  

2. Extremely Costly

All-in-one solutions are a lot harder to build due to all the complex functionality that they need to include, and naturally, they are a lot more costly. One such platform is HubSpot, which offers all marketing, sales, and project-related functionality that you need. However, it will cost you a couple of thousands of dollars each month if you’re looking to utilize all the features, which may simply be out of the league of small businesses cost-wise.

The Way to Go – Integrating Your PM and CRM tools

When talking about the differences between PM and CRM tools, it’s important to also stress the potential value that both systems carry for the overall success of the business. Integrating your CRM and PM software to enable complete data sharing is an incredibly potent thing that is highly recommended to all business owners.

It allows you to get 360-degree visibility regarding your existing clients and their needs and preferences. PM software holds a lot of useful data for salespeople including project invoices, business orientation, budget, planning, etc. Having access to such details allows your sales team to craft incredibly detailed and personalized offers, which will be hard to refuse.

Similarly, having access to the sales-related data of each customer, project managers can make more informed business decisions and build excellent relationships with their stakeholders, thanks to high-quality customer support. They can also spot new opportunities to upsell projects to existing clients and spend less time on gathering customer intelligence for new clients, allowing them to focus on the important tasks right off the bat.