Why You Should Run Project Management NATIVELY on Salesforce
Updated: Jul 31
Are you considering a change to your Project Management (PM) tools or are you maybe outgrowing those tools? Are you a Salesforce customer wondering what it might mean to run project management on the platform? You have a lot of options! There are currently over 120 apps on the AppExchange in this category, and of those 30 are NATIVE.
In this article, I'll outline key benefits you can realize by running PM natively and also shed some light on the reasons why people decide (sometimes poorly) to go with off-platform solutions. I'll address common objections to moving PM inside Salesforce and share my thoughts on the reality of today's PM app space and why I think NATIVE SOLUTIONS ARE THE WAY TO GO.
Before we jump in, let's clearly define what NATIVE means.
Simply put, native solutions are built wholly on Salesforce. They are 100% comprised of Salesforce custom objects, fields, page layouts, and code. Contrast this with "off-platform" apps that run completely outside of Salesforce via a proprietary infrastructure.
This on/off-platform characteristic is key point of differentiation that you need to pay attention to when evaluating solutions.
Native solutions can be extended using Salesforce customizations (fields, objects, page layouts, validation rules, etc), automations (Process Builder, Flow, Apex), security (Roles, Profiles, Permission Sets, Sharing), and reporting (reports, dashboards, custom report types, list views, etc).
Off-platform solutions rely on proprietary functionality to accomplish all of the above.
What benefits can be gained by running Project Management on-platform?
The fundamental promise of CRM is a 360-degree view of the customer - projects are a key piece of that view. Customer onboarding, product implementation, and service engagements are just as critical in understanding a customer as sales, marketing, and support interactions. Housing all of that data in the same system gives you a great ability to understand customers and analyze processes to drive success throughout the customer lifecycle.
Salesforce native AppExchange apps have become incredibly robust. Beyond being full-featured, solutions can be tailored (heavily or lightly) to your specific use cases and business processes.
Cross-departmental automation possibilities are endless with projects running on-platform. Imagine onboarding resources escalating product issues to support via Service Cloud and then having ongoing access to support status - all without leaving the project screen in Salesforce. Dream about clicking a single button at the end of the month to generate all invoices for your time and materials projects. Think about leveraging email campaigns to re-engage contacts on stalled projects so your project resources can stay focused on priorities. What if a confirmed bug Case auto-created a hot-fix project? What if an approved sales request auto-created a trial install and setup project? I think you get the point...there are so many ways you can drive value with projects inside Salesforce.
Resource forecasting is perhaps the greatest potential differentiator of on-platform PM. Resource forecasting must include the sales opportunity pipeline in order to show a complete picture of capacity and resource needs. This is hard, I mean really hard, to accomplish when your sales data and project data reside in separate systems. With projects running on-platform, you can realize a real-time resource forecast that is integrated with your sales Opportunity pipeline.
There is true potential of bringing all corporate projects (external and internal) into a centralized portfolio running on a common tool in Salesforce. This is the Director of PMO's dream.
PM app support and enhancements can be provided in a centralized fashion by your Salesforce admin. You can leverage your existing CRM support process and investment in admin expertise.
Native apps are frequently upgraded and customizations are always compatible. Native apps benefit from frequent Salesforce platform upgrades. Your PM tool customizations are just as stable as your other CRM customizations during an upgrade. Most AppExchange ISV's do a good job of releasing new features with similar frequency as Salesforce.
Why would a Salesforce customer decide to run Project Management off-platform?
By now, you might be sold on the idea of a native PM app. However, there is always someone on the evaluation team that poses an objection or a negative opinion. Common objections are not rooted in reality!
OBJECTION: Salesforce PM solutions are too light-weight.
REALITY: This is simply an inaccurate categorization. Maybe this was the case 10 years ago or the last time you looked at a clunky free app before writing off the idea altogether. Today, things are much different. In the same way that the PM space outside of Salesforce provides plenty of options along the spectrum of simple to enterprise-grade, so does the AppExchange. Salesforce ISV's can go feature-to-feature with anything off-platform. Plus, given that no software in the universe can nail every edge case you throw at it, Salesforce-native solutions can be easily customized to meet those fringe needs.
OBJECTION: The total cost of ownership of Salesforce PM solutions is too high.
REALITY: Show me the TCO analysis you're doing that shows Salesforce licensing + AppExchange licensing + Setup as greater than what you'll pay off-platform. I'll quickly point out that you have not considered off-platform costs for integrating with Salesforce, administrative overhead (IT support and system administration), reporting overhead (FP&A time to consume/ETL data from off-platform), and many other efficiencies lost by introducing an off-platform silo.
Regarding the pre-requisite Salesforce licensing required for your PM tool users, remember that some of your team members are already using Salesforce for things like Case management and sales forecasting. Anyone that does not yet have Salesforce access will certainly benefit well beyond what you're providing in the PM tool. Once you start thinking about wall-to-wall Salesforce licensing across your enterprise, you'll be amazed at how many new ideas for efficiency and silo reduction arise. Sure, it's hard to work that into your TCO calculations, but a CIO with vision should appreciate the possibilities.
OBJECTION: The best PM solutions must be dedicated to the PM craft and thus must be proprietary.
REALITY: Modern ISV's can deliver exceptional experiences and functionality natively on the Salesforce platform. In fact, by taking all concerns about infrastructure and security frameworks out of the mix, Salesforce-native ISV's can be even more dedicated to the PM craft than proprietary competitors.
OBJECTION: Our experienced Project Managers prefer traditional solutions like MS Project.
REALITY: Modern project teams prefer tools that make their lives easier and that drive successful projects. Customers expect real-time visibility into project status. Nothing contributes to project success more than visibility and efficient communication. There is no debating that fact. Salesforce-native PM solutions can easily be exposed to customers via communities or public-sites to give everyone the visibility they need. Communication and collaboration features like Chatter and Quip provide familiar and simple ways to stay in touch and share updates.
So while your seasoned PM team may prefer to keep doing things the way they always have, that doesn't mean your customers and services teams have to suffer under their control.
OBJECTION: We want our project teams to have the freedom to use their own tool outside of Salesforce that they can self-manage and administer.
REALITY: What you really mean is that you want to introduce a silo of information that you can control. You are afraid of visibility. This line of reasoning should be a major red flag for the COO and CIO. You bought Salesforce to reduce and eliminate silos.