Monday, October 6, 2008

How to use Microsoft CRM to Manage Client Projects

As a Microsoft partner, we help our clients implement the solutions they purchase. One challenge we have is how to track the project tasks so that we can:

1. Leverage the time-saving capabilities of Workflow within CRM.

2. Leverage the integration between CRM and Outlook so that project tasks appear in our users' Outlook Task lists and Calendars.

3. Keep the process simple while still providing enough control to keep the project on schedule and under budget.

Here is what we chose to do to manage our projects. Perhaps it will be suitable for you, as well.

1. Use Workflow Manager to create a new sales process for client fulfillment/project delivery.

While we could have chosen to create a new project entity, we wanted functionality similar to the Sales Process workflow available for Opportunities. Unfortunately, the only way we could do it (without a lot of custom coding) was to use the Opportunity entity. Sales Process workflow is not available for any other entity.

We created a new Sales Process called "CF - CRM", with a description of "Client Fulfillment - CRM Project Delivery." This naming convention separates the project processes from the true sales processes (they start with "LC" for Lead Conversion). This is a manual rule, meaning that we manually apply it to the opportunity.

The project management Sales Process has various stages (Initiate, Analyze, Diagnose, Develop, Deploy, Operate, Close) that are based on the Microsoft Dynamics Implementation Methodology. You can use whatever you want.

The beauty of this solution is that you can have as many processes as you want and apply the correct process depending on the project.

For example, we could have a project process for Point-of-Sale projects, another one for Great Plains projects, and a third one for CRM projects. Each process could be customized with its own stages and activities.

Within each stage, there are the appropriate activities and milestones. For example, within the Initiate stage, we have tasks for "Create project charter" and "Schedule project kick-off meeting."

If there are particularly critical or time-sensitive activities, then you might want to create activities to monitor the status of them and use workflow to escalate neglected or delayed activities to a manager.

You need to be careful about the level of detail and number of activities you create. Remember, this is NOT a fully functional project management application like Microsoft Project.

You can attach supporting documents or links to SharePoint documents to the activities if you need more detail.

2. Complete all stages and activities for existing sales process on opportunity.

You are now ready to start using the project management process you created in step 1.

If there is a true sales process assigned to the Opportunity, then be sure to close or cancel all activities so that the sales process is completed.

Keep the Opportunity open once the sale has been closed. We are going to continue to record activity against the opportunity.

3. Assign the appropriate sales process for client fulfillment/project delivery to the opportunity.

Now, manually apply the correct project management process to the Opportunity. The activities from the first stage will be created and assigned.

4. Complete project activities.

No go ahead and do the work. Activities can be assigned to individuals or queues. Tasks that are not on the project management Sales Process you defined in step 1 can be manually added to the opportunity.

As you complete each stage, the activities for the next stage will automatically be created.

5. Use the Sales Pipeline report or a custom report to keep track of projects.

Since we are using the built-in Sales Process functionality, you can easily run reports showing the progress of the projects. You will probably want to create your own custom reports using the standard Sales Pipeline report as a template.

6. Close the Opportunity upon completion of the project.

Once the project is completed and all activities in the project management Sales Process are completed, close the Opportunity.


As you have seen, Microsoft CRM can be used in creative ways to help you best manage YOUR business. Using it for simple project management is a great illustration of the "Affordable Adaptability" of Microsoft CRM. Using this illustration, think "outside the box" to come up with other ways to use Microsoft CRM to support your business. Be sure to let me know what you come up with!

Michael Cross is a Microsoft Certified CRM Professional with Small Business Systems LLC. Visit to learn how Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0 enables your people to work the way they want to work, while providing you wih the data you need to increase the number of customers, provide the quality of service your customers expect, and increase your revenues.

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