10 of the best CRMs for project management

Keeping track of one project can be hard enough, but what happens when you need to manage a multitude of contracts?  This can be a tough ask for any company, particularly when it comes to keeping the client up-to-date and monitoring project lifecycle.  When you have certain deliverables to track and key dates to adhere to, you need much more than a whiteboard and an Excel spreadsheet.  


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Rather than try to juggle a variety of paper and computer based systems, using a CRM system with project management functionality is incredibly helpful; departments will be able to see what each others doing and data can be kept in one central place.

Here are a selection of ten of the best CRMs that provide project management features. This isn’t a definite ranking - each will suit different business needs - but should be an excellent place to start creating your shortlist.

1. Work[etc]

Suitable for: small businesses looking a powerful but affordable all-in-one CRM

Work[etc] provides a CRM solution that encompases project management and billing functionalities. Price-wise it is one of the most affordable all-in-one solutions on the market. This makes it attractive to small businesses who need a  solution to fit a workforce that wear many hats.

The project management side of the CRM includes built-in project budgeting, the ability to attach key documents to a project, and a clever feature that allows you to create dependency between tasks and trigger alerts once certain tasks are complete. Work[etc] offers a variety of different ways of viewing a project - from Gantt charts and graphical timelines to budget and progress focused views.

Reviewers loved the range of features Work[etc] offers for its price point, and were generally happy with how it integrated with their existing software. Some small businesses were initially concerned about investing in an all-in-one solution, but report that post-implementation the system has paid for itself.


2. Apptivo

Suitable for: those looking for a feature rich CRM with a flexible modular structure and first class customer support

Apptivo is a web-based solution comprised of over 50 ‘apps’ (modules) that businesses can pick and choose to create their own, busine . The ‘build it yourself’ approach and affordable price point will appeal to small businesses who want to combine several business processes into a single software package - as well as project management and CRM, Apptivo offers apps for HR management, supply chain management and financials, to name a few.

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Their project management app offers a comprehensive set of collaborative tools, offering the ability to oversee an unlimited amount of projects at once, fully interactive Gantt charts and customizable project templates. Apptivo also offers integrated project billing, so that users can specify how they want to invoice for a project - whether as a flat rate, phased-based payments or total hourly rate.

Reviewers were near unanimous in their appreciation of the customer support, and also loved the price point of the software. For startups who want the option of CRM, project management and potentially more covered by one solution, Apptivo comes highly recommended.


3. SugarCRM

Suitable for: companies who want an easy-to-use and quick-to-implement system with a range of integration options.

SugarCRM has been offering project management functionality since back in 2007. These are available in all of SugarCRM’s product editions, and whilst the minimum ten user license will put off the smallest organizations and early-stage startups, more established companies will find the software reasonably priced for the features it offers.

With SugarCRM’s project management feature, companies can take full control of campaigns and how they progress. Users can view and track activity easily using Gantt charts and customizable project dashboards, share project information and collaborate fully by attaching meeting notes or store call records, and also export data to other programmes such as Microsoft Project.

Reviewers liked SugarCRM’s were impressed at how easy the system was to customize - this is largely thanks to the range of third party integrations it offers and the database of add-on apps. It also scores highly for flexibility and ease of implementation, making it ideal for those looking for a system that can evolve with changing business needs.


4. Insightly

Suitable for: small but ambitious companies who want a fully-featured and flexible CRM that will grow with them

Insightly’s small business CRM provides a full set of project management features at a very reasonable price. These are fully available in the free version of the software - for up to two users - making it a perfect option for early-stage startups and sole traders who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Clients can switch up or down to any of Insightly’s five pricing plans at any time, offering an unparalleled amount of flexibility for high-growth companies.

Users can view project progress using both pipeline and milestone-focused views. Insightly also doesn’t forget the basics either - the ‘recurring tasks’ feature allows people to set task alerts to recur at regular intervals to ensure that regular check ups are done on client accounts. Project status reports are simple to produce and easy to view.

Reviews frequently mention how easy Insightly is to use, and were full of praise for its intuitive interface and range of integration (G Suite, QuickBooks, MailChimp, Outlook…).  Whilst the reporting functionality isn’t customizable enough to meet everyone’s needs, Insightly provides a solid set of tools for companies who would otherwise be priced out of an all-in-one solution.


5. Podio

Suitable for: companies who require a broad spectrum of software integrations.

Podio is a CRM and project management tool provided by Citrix. It will appeal to companies looking for a robust and adaptable CRM tool that integrates well with existing software - Podio’s list of integrations includes G Suite, email, Excel and Gotomeeting, as well as the less common Zendesk, Zapier and FreshBooks.

Nail down your key project management requirements and select the right software for your team with this CRM selection survival guide

Podio offers a comprehensive set of project management features, including customizable project views, task alerts and automated workflows. API access allows those with the know-how to create their own apps and add-ons, whilst the Podio App Market offers a wide range of free pre-built apps which can expand the software’s functionality.

The flexibility this offers for a mid-market price point was praised by reviewers, who also liked the frequent updates, range of integrations and user friendliness of the platform. Whilst some mentioned that the reporting functionality could be more advanced, users were generally very happy with how Podio’s features met key business requirements.  


6. Apollo HQ

Suitable for: companies looking for more of a project management focus than a CRM one.

Unlike most other systems on this list, Apollo HQ is best thought of as a project management tool with added CRM functionality rather than a CRM with added project management functionality. If you have extensive project management needs but only limited requirements for CRM, this could be the software for you.  

Unusually and refreshingly a chunk of Apollo’s development is user-led - you can vote for features you’d like to see in upcoming releases on their website. All plans offer unlimited project users, and features include time tracking, customizable task list templates and the ability to merge related projects together to reduce confusion and administrative workload.

Reviews praise Apollo’s user interface, particularly the use of tabs to switch between projects and the ability to create project shortcuts with just a couple of clicks. If you’re looking for a fully-featured CRM alongside your project management tool this probably isn’t the system for you, but the contact management and sales pipeline tools provide a solid baseline functionality in these areas.


7. Zoho

Suitable for: companies who want their CRM to do absolutely everything (and have the resources to customize)

Not only do Zoho produce a great CRM with the ability to provide in-depth analytics; they also offer a bolt on Projects module which is free of charge when you purchase the Professional and Enterprise editions.  If you already have this version of their CRM in place, then all you have to do is download the Projects add-on.  

Here you will find some powerful tools such as the ability to track timelines, check on the adherence to milestones and make use of Gantt charts.  All this comes with detailed analytics and planning options, as well as cross-team access and visibility.

Reviewers love the scope for customization Zoho offers and were positive about the add-ons on offer in Zoho Marketplace. For companies that can spend the time and resources customizing their software, Zoho can be adapted to suit their business processes perfectly.


8. NetSuite SRP

Suitable for: ERP-using companies who want a fully-integrated project management tool

NetSuite’s SRP is unique in that it’s the only cloud solution that unites ERP and professional services automation in one software product. It’s not technically a CRM in itself - but NetSuite do offer a companion CRM product (CRM+) that integrates easily. SRP is therefore ideal for companies who need ERP, but want fully-integrated project management functionality alongside it.

As with all of NetSuite’s products, SRP offers a range of powerful features, including customizable timesheets and billing and invoicing management. The project management solution aims to deliver complete visibility and control over a project, with users able to collaborate in real-time, create detailed project level budgets and track all key financial metrics of projects they work on.  

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Reviewers liked the powerful reporting features SRP offers, and found the software easy to customize and highly flexible. They were also very positive about NetSuite’s ability to seamlessly integrate front office functions (CRM, marketing, support management) with back office functions like accounting and project management. SRP won’t suit everyone - but for companies that need some ERP functionality and are willing to purchase CRM+ alongside it, it’s a uniquely powerful tool.


9. TaskRay Project Management for Salesforce

Suitable for: companies who use Salesforce and want to expand its project management functionalities

TaskRay is a project management solution native to the Salesforce platform, meaning that all information contained within the app can be tied to existing Salesforce data like accounts, opportunities and contacts. As it is available on the AppExchange, TaskRay is particularly easy to install and implement for Salesforce-using companies.

With TaskRay, project managers can visualize their data in the way that best suits them - a range of project overview screens are available, including Kanban, calendar and Gantt chart-based views. The app also offers robust reporting features,  cloneable project templates and repeating task automation, which allow users to cut down on the administrative burden of starting a new project.

Reviewers like the visualization options TaskRay offers and how intuitive the software is to use - they were particularly impressed with the drag and drop and how easy it is to customize the software. Support was rated as first class.


10. Crowe Project Management

Suitable for: Dynamics-using companies who want extended project management functionality, but don’t want to replace their CRM

Crowe Project Management (formerly AbleBridge) is a powerful add-on that expands Microsoft Dynamics from a sales-focused CRM into a project management tool.  Suitable for companies of all sizes, it takes care of project management seamlessly.  Whether you are the manager of the project or dealing with customer service, it will keep everyone in the picture when it comes to time-related tasks, budgets and general progress.  

Crowe Project Management allows users to convert incoming emails into a project task and assign resources to it from within Microsoft Outlook, and offers real-time project dashboards. While managing CRM-based projects, you can also drill down into the details for speedy resolution. Alongside this, users can automate routine processes and create customized project templates.


Review data was taken from a survey of online review sites

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Jane Tareen

About the author…

An MBA-qualified professional, Jane specializes in all kinds of copywriting and creative content production. With many years spent working in advertising and publishing, she is also skilled in editorial production and proof-reading. Whilst writing, she has a constant companion in the form of one very large Fox Red Labrador!

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Jane Tareen

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