Thought I would share a journey … well, more a labour of love with you
We’re trying to choose a hosted client relationship management (CRM) system and a project management system and thought we’d share our journey with you. These really are just my views but I’d love your comments if you wish – am I going barking mad? Too fussy? Something else? Let me know in the comments at the bottom 🙂
Our CRM system is simple right now – it’s various physical whiteboards, online address books, calendars and anything else required to fulfill very simple CRM needs. Evolution, and rapid company growth mean we now need to quit this and join up our CRM-world online.
Our project management system is slightly better – we use Basecamp to track a lot of projects, and also use Microsoft Project for the hard graft, along with scheduled client calls/meetings/demos/etc as required.
We’re currently using Basecamp from 37Signals.com for our project and tasks management. It’s a great app, beautifully simple to use … ahhh, that’s the problem – like so many others have said, the app is very simple and lacks some really basic features of “real” project management – such as:
- you cannot assign tasks to multiple resources
- you cannot view the project/task breakdown as a gantt chart – in facts, there’s no charts, reports, anything – it’s merely data entry. We love to use gantt charts with our customers – both in simplified forms in our quotes, something a little more concrete in our terms of agreement/contracts and in as much detail as necessary when moving through the project – it’s a great visual representation of status and time.
- it doesn’t link to any CRM system. I know 37Signals have Highrise, but in their infinite and isolated wisdom, the two are not linked up. So a company wishes to move from leads, prospects through to clients … but the IT systems provided by 37Signals don’t do that. I get it’s their call, their apps (I bought and read with great enjoyment their book “Rework” and love all their principles) so following their principle – their product is not for me anymore.
So what is the holy grail for me for CRM and Project management apps?
I don’t think my demands are too high or extreme. Here’s what I need:
- A price-point of £20-£25 per user per month and no more
- A beautiful looking, simple interface, with all the bangs and whistles of complexity hidden behind well-designed UI/UX
- Preferably an iphone and ipad app or interface that’s a paired down version of the website but allows me to carry my projects, tasks, clients, proposals, key contacts, etc, with me in my hand
- A simple dashboard view of our sales pipeline that emulates as closely as possible the whiteboards in our office – that covers cold leads, leads, hot leads and proposals, with scope, value probability against each
- Ability to see what’s coming up, who we are pitching to, what the status of our proposals/quotes are in, etc, all in one place
- Nice to have – share data with MailChimp or at least have a great import/export function for key data fields
- Nice to have – lead nurturing – that’s time/event-driven follow-up and emails following requests/responses to clients – so an example might be a proposal is sent on the Thursday. A reminder is auto-created to follow-up on the Tuesday … and if the proposal goes cold, an email is sent 5 days after thanking them for their time to be able to quote and if there’s anything else they need, don’t hesitate to contact you, and so on
- Project management
- Ability to import/export to MS-Project – this is because I find Microsoft Project really fast to sketch out an entire project with phases, tasks, sub-tasks, inter-dependencies, resources, timescales – it takes minutes to do in this app, and if I can create it to start on my PC and then upload easily, that would be great! The alternate to this requirement, is that the online app equals or supersedes the desktop app in terms of usability or functionality
- Ability to create phases, tasks and sub-tasks on a project – not just a simple list like Remember The Milk – our projects work better structured more than that
- Ability to state dependencies/predecessors on tasks and phases – so “turn kettle on task” cannot start until “fill with water task” is complete
- Ability to assign multiple resources to a task
- Ability to see a dashboard of all projects, what stage they are at, and what’s next, by whom and by when against each project
- File/document storage
- Store documents anywhere in the system, against companies, contacts, projects, tasks, and version control those documents
So what CRM and project management apps have we seen so far? And what’s our feelings?
Well, this is a real, big time, dissapointment. The thing is – I strive for simplicity. I get what Steve Jobs is doing with Apple, and I totally get what they’re saying in their Rework book, but it just isn’t big enough a tool even for our small business.
|Not so good:|
|Overall:||Keeping Basecamp until the replacement is in place!|
I wanted to love this product. Looking at the website it does everything we want today, and can want in future – including bug tracking/helpdesk/ticketing, billing, invoicing … the lot. So what went wrong for us?
|Not so good:|
|Overall:||Would love to love it, but not just now|
|Not so good:|
|Overall:||Like the price, but even free isn’t good sometimes|
|Not so good:|
|Overall:||So frustrating, we would be signed up if it was integrated to any CRM system|
We’re currently evaluating this as it seems to provide everything to everyone, in bite-sized chunks
|Not so good:|
|Overall:||Will keep evaluating and report back – not sure, the jury’s still out!|
Just about to start evaluating this on Monday! Will update this blog post when we’re a week down.
|Overall:||Looks great, seems to cover everything we need. Let’s see!|
Like Norada Solve360, we’re also going to start evaluating this on Monday. It looks like it will do everything we need – but it’s more expensive then the alternative options above, and it looks like it doesn’t allow sales activity history to be saved on the “Professional” version we wish to trial/purchase.
|Overall:||Again, looks great, seems to cover everything we need. Let’s see!|
An awesome online project management app that, like Proworkflow seems to not only lack any CRM/lead tracking but also any ability to link to any other system providing the functionality. I’ve contacted the guys at Copper to find out what they say 🙂
|Overall:||Will start trialling if they can answer the CRM question|
So the story is not yet complete. The winner hasn’t been decided. And the game is still on. Which will we decide and why? Which would you choose and why? Have we missed looking at any other system that fulfils the goals above and doesn’t fall into the traps we’ve found from others thus far?
Gladly add any comments you wish – this isn’t just me shouting out, but also looking for anything from others.