Avoid the pain and frustration of a failed Salesforce implementation. This blog provides a detailed guide for success.
Executives have signed on the dotted line, or more realistically, within the DocuSign box. The whole world is now in front of you with this turnkey, ever-evolving Salesforce solution ready to fit any business need.
To get to this point, though, you have undoubtedly sat through countless proposal meetings and have put together enough facts, figures, and diagrams to make anyone’s head spin. It’s already been a journey, but now, how do you bring it to life and ensure you get the most out of Salesforce?
Planning and Preparation
Learn from those who have set up Salesforce and avoid the common pitfalls. Implementations fail because of a lack of adequate planning and road mapping, lack of ownership or clear lines of responsibility, and a mismatch between stakeholder expectations and subsequent results.
This pain and frustration can be avoided, and the list below will lay out the best ways to plan for success. Deep breaths, you’ve got this!
1. Identify and Prioritize Goals
Many clients realize immediate value from Salesforce when the implementation is broken into phases. We recommend you take the time now to lay out short and long-term goals and build your roadmap.
- Who are the stakeholders, and what do they want out of this implementation? Do they have the same goals? For example, are the goals decreased contact center costs, increased revenue, or the elimination of multiple third-party systems?
- What sold your executives on Salesforce? Find out how Salesforce sold the platform. Did the company show multiple clouds or features, and who was part of the initial purchase? If your executives are jazzed about a longer-term vision, make sure you’ve aligned the plan to deliver those expectations.
- Is the project time-bound for a specific reason? For instance, is it part of a merger or acquisition, is it part of a conversion from another software (in other words, a software that has deprecated, one whose licenses were not renewed, and more), or product launch? What is driving the need to do this now?
- Can the implementation be phased? Are there certain features you need now, and others that can wait?
- What are the risks? Will this implement net new features or augment or replace current capabilities? Make sure to structure the rollout in a way that best mitigates risk.
- Is there an existing organizational structure to support the platform ongoing? If not, this is another good reason to phase the implementation and give the organization time to hire and train the right people for the right roles.
- Are there key dependencies that need to be built into the plan? Is your ultimate vision dependent on a single view of the customer, or a master data management strategy? Does the data you need already exist? Building in updates to external systems can make your Salesforce implementation more successful.
2. Organize Your Salesforce Implementation Team
Spend the time to ensure you have the right resources in key roles. Implementations can span long periods of time, employees can leave, but if the team’s structure and roles are defined, these changes will be a lot less impactful.
Set expectations early — an implementation will require dedicated resources. Work to identify and cultivate talent internally. These folks are your rock stars who will foster adoption and even facilitate internal testing and training. Salesforce-provided training is incredibly accessible — it just takes time and a desire to dig in and learn.
Find a Great Partner Who Has Done This Before
There are many nuances to a Salesforce implementation, so find a partner with resources who has already solved problems similar to yours. Ask them about failures they have experienced and the favorite things they have learned.
The best partners will have stories to tell and will do anything they can to make sure your implementation goes as smoothly as possible. You aren’t alone in this.
Structure the Team
Here are some of the main roles to consider:
- Executive Sponsor to provide leadership and direction
- IT Executive Sponsor to help set IT priorities and strategy
- Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to help build out current state flows, understand and communicate future state requirements, and assist with user acceptance testing and training
- Project Manager to identify key milestones and dependencies, organize and phase the implementation as needed and communicate with key stakeholders throughout the project
- Salesforce Admin to assist in configuration throughout the implementation — the best option is when you have SMEs who can become Salesforce Admins, so they understand both sides of requirements
- Change Management Expert to help manage the organizational change that will need to occur, establishing and training new processes and establishing new roles.
Using a partner will ensure access to other types of key resources on the team, such as architects, business analysts, seasoned developers and administrators, as well as deployment tools and resources.
3. Understand Current State and Gather Requirements
Gather requirements by pairing key team members who understand current business processes and those who understand the Salesforce platform to ensure the most effective solutions.
Does your company have processes that have been around for years, built around a previous platform’s capabilities? This low code, high configuration platform means you may need to adjust business processes to make the most of out-of-the-box features.
Define what matters most upfront. If you aren’t sure what Salesforce is capable of, consider using a partner to help guide requirement gathering and solution design.
Common Areas of Complexity
Every company is different, so we recommend being as thorough as possible when defining the scope and gathering those requirements.
- What kind of data will you need in Salesforce?
- Will some of that data be sourced externally?
- How many integrations will you need?
- Is there an existing platform from which data will need to be migrated?
Be sure to spend the time understanding the answers to these questions.
Find the Balance
Everyone has a custom code horror story. Upgrades that couldn’t be completed, conversions or redesigns that became unexpectedly necessary, hundreds of thousands of dollars — or sometimes more — wasted because of poor design and over-customization.
Using standard features is the top priority, but, as with everything, you must find the balance. Many companies don’t fully use the platform because key processes don’t leverage Salesforce — to do so would be custom.
However, if building a custom object or component means that other beneficial standard features can be used, it is well worth it. Do the analysis upfront and make an informed decision.
Buy Versus Build
Once you determine that a custom solution is necessary, peruse that awesome AppExchange for something that could suit your use case. The AppExchange is a searchable store that showcases pre-built solutions — some are paid and others are even free.
These solutions come in two types:
- Managed Packages: Managed packages are pre-built solutions that are typically not highly configurable, but each Salesforce release will fully support them.
- Unmanaged Packages: Unmanaged packages provide an open codebase you can customize as needed. While this will potentially get you the flexibility you may need, be mindful and design carefully.
If neither of these are an option, look at building a custom solution from scratch. Custom objects and components can be designed so that an internal administrator can manage future changes. Identify where there might be a high velocity of change, and make sure it is flexible and scalable enough to ensure you aren’t custom coding every time your company needs to add a new option.
4. Decide on Metrics and Measurements of Success
How will you know the implementation has been successful? Sit down with your key stakeholders and set a clear plan for how success will be measured. Sometimes the data will be naturally occurring. Other times it will need to be baked into the solution.
Plan early. Take baselines for things like productivity and production, and use those to compare post-implementation. Leverage Salesforce dashboards and reports — use the solution to show the effectiveness of the solution.
Establish your key project metrics, time, scope and budget. If budget shifts, how does that impact the return on investment (ROI)? Play out a few scenarios, including a phased approach versus big bang. What type of information will your executives want to see?
5. Build the Timeline
Once your company spends the money, your leaders will want to start seeing that value.
When building the timeline, keep in mind that a phased approach can consistently deliver value to your users while reducing the pressure and risk of a large delivery. Also, don’t forget to include resource availability, adequate time for training and organizational change management in your timeline.
Many times, the last thing executives want to hear after making a large purchase is that you need to spend more money to get it to work. There are intricacies to the Salesforce platform, and it isn’t always easy to foresee what could drive additional costs at the time of implementation or even into the future.
Assess your individual needs based on the list below so that you can properly plan and budget:
1. Salesforce Editions
This was likely discussed during the sales cycle before the purchase. Ensure you understand the difference between editions, the features and limits of each, and your company breakpoints that would cause a need to upgrade.
There are variable costs for each edition, such as user API calls, number of custom apps or custom fields per object, and recycle bin and data storage capacity, that could impact your business.
2. Key Feature Licensing
Understand by cloud what features are included and what may need to be purchased separately. For instance, purchasing Sales Cloud licenses will not provide access to inbound support channels.
3. Support and Success Plans
Get support directly from Salesforce and ensure timely resolution to cases and other features like admin assist. This can be especially helpful if you are supporting your instance with a small team.
Customers with a success plan get access to Salesforce resources that others do not. Resources such as accelerators offer deep dives and one-on-one coaching to achieve key business objectives with Salesforce experts. Assess your own operational risk areas and see if a success plan could help.
4. Process Redesign
Implementing Salesforce may mean initiating changes to underlying business processes. This may require more licenses to cover other departments or additional costs to support ongoing operations.
Assess your current business processes and who will need access. Many companies forget about departments like business intelligence or finance, and those additional licenses can add up.
5. Organizational Change
The more internal resources within each business unit that understand the capabilities of Salesforce, the more effectively you’ll use the platform. This can take up-front time and money but will decrease the likelihood of poor design or necessary re-work.
You’ve planned the work. Now work on the plan. Unless your organization has highly mature software delivery processes, lean on a partner to guide the way.
There will always be unexpected bumps in the road, but an experienced partner can get ahead of them and ensure success.
Post-Launch: What’s Next?
Stay in the know by keeping up to date with the ever-increasing standard Salesforce features, as new ones become generally available with each three-times a year release.
1. Focus on Adoption and Utilization
- Measure utilization and focus on high-value areas for improvement.
- Provide time for your employees to complete regular training, which is free on Trailhead. The more folks with standard platform knowledge alongside an understanding of new or upcoming standard features, the better the business stakeholders can plan and prioritize future enhancements.
- Gather user feedback. Make sure they feel part of the process and that everyone has a voice.
- Communicate to your users by sending out regular updates that include what’s coming and what to be excited about.
2. Setup a Process to Continually Improve
- Ensure monitoring is in place to measure ongoing success.
- Set up a mechanism to capture and prioritize enhancement requests.
- Set expectations for delivery. Consider whether you can support agile sprints or perhaps less frequent releases that align with the Salesforce release cycle.
3. Establish Governance Processes
- Maintain ongoing stability and consistent user experiences by formalizing who can make changes in production and when.
- Establish owners of the platform, with clear lines of who owns strategic direction, portfolio management, enhancements versus delivery, and platform stability.
As you can see, there is a lot to consider, but this is the most exciting time. You have the opportunity to set the foundation for a great Salesforce implementation that truly transforms your business and your users’ experience.
While this is a high-level overview, we look forward to diving deeper into specific areas like scoping and requirement gathering. Stay tuned for more. Have questions? Let’s talk.