How to manage your Salesforce rollout communication plan.

It’s Go Time. Requirements? Gathered. User Stories? Groomed. Sprints? Sprinted. UAT? U-A-Tested. You’re counting down to deployment, and tomorrow morning, your end users are going to be so psyched to log in to experience their new awesome Salesforce instance!

Or are they.

Does everyone know this Salesforce deployment is happening? Do they know how to use the new instance? What’s different? How to ask for help if they need it? What to do if something’s broken??

In the flurry of making sure that every technical element of a new Salesforce experience is running like clockwork, it can be easy to forget the importance of a robust communication plan. To truly be successful, your users need to adopt and adapt to their changed experience, to take advantage of all the benefits that accrue from the effort you and your team have put in. Otherwise, you could meet enough resistance to your awesome changes that you end up reverting back to “how we’ve always done it.”

So how do you make sure that your users are ready, eager, and confident going into deployment?

Create and implement a stellar communication plan, leveraging the channels available to you – and maybe creating some of your own!

To help set your implementation, and your end-users, up for success, a communication plan needs to be an integral part of your overall project plan, from the very beginning. Using all the channels, resources, and personnel available to you to communicate early and often about the coming changes will ensure that no one is left behind come go time.

Salesforce Rollout Communication Plans – What Not to Do

Is this scenario familiar? A Big Update is coming – it’s going to make everyone’s lives easier! You’ve heard about it in a couple of meetings, and you think you’ve seen emails about it? There was definitely a link to a training video … somewhere. You’re not sure when it goes live, but you think it’s in a couple of days? Weeks? Definitely sometime next month. One morning, you log on, and suddenly the whole UI is different, and you have NO idea how to even start your work, or who to ask for help!

We’ve all been there. A new system or even just UX update goes live, and all heck breaks loose. In the above scenario, the project team probably thought they had a solid communication plan. They sent emails! They dropped in on team meetings! They spent HOURS creating a painstaking walkthrough video of all of the changes!

So what went wrong?

This project team may have created and deployed communications across multiple channels, but they didn’t provide any accountability to confirm that their message had been *received and understood.* All that hard work, and both the end-users AND the project team ended up frustrated, feeling like their time had been wasted, and unsure what went wrong.

It’s not enough to craft a pitch-perfect message – you have you ensure and verify that it’s received by your audience, and that they understand it. If there’s a gap in understanding, you need to be able to identify it and provide a clear path for your audience to get the answers they need.

Let’s take a look at the key components of a solid Salesforce rollout communications plan, from who’s on your team, to how you craft your messaging, where to get the message out, and when to deploy each component.

Salesforce Rollout Communications Plan – What You Should Do

Communications Team, Assemble!

When thinking about assembling your Salesforce rollout communications team, it’s essential to think outside your immediate delivery team. You need to pull in leaders and other stakeholders, SMEs, super users – personnel from every organizational level. If they or their team will be impacted by your new Salesforce deployment, THEY need to be on YOUR team.

To that end, as you begin meeting with stakeholders, let them know that part of their role in this project will be to serve as evangelists to their teams. Communication isn’t just about emails, posters, and training – it’s about the one-on-one conversations that invested, enthusiastic stakeholders, have with their teams and peers, long before rollout. You want your leaders and super users to start laying the groundwork for more formal communications later on in the implementation life cycle. While this is a more informal period of communication, it is important, so you don’t end up scrambling to make up ground closer to deployment.

At this early stage, it’s also important to bring in any internal communications teams that your organization might have, as well as the training team. Training is definitely a part of communications and one of the key channels you can leverage to ensure a successful deployment. If the training team is going to have to create comprehensive documentation, and a series of walkthrough videos, you want to make sure they have enough time to complete their work and deliver it before go-live. Is there a company-wide campaign scheduled to culminate right when you plan to deploy? You’d better get on the HR or communication team’s calendar ASAP, so you’re not trying to compete with overwhelming communications static for your end-users.

What Do We Say? Hurray!

Now that you’ve gathered your stakeholders, leaders, SMEs, superusers, communications specialists and trainers, it’s time to craft your message. What does your audience need to know? Do you have multiple audiences? How does messaging need to differ depending on that audience? Does your CEO need to receive and understand the same information as a frontline end user?

While it’s important to communicate the hard facts of a new Salesforce implementation – what it is, when it’s happening, who will be affected, how it will impact your audience – it’s just as important to communicate why, as early and often as possible.

When it comes to communications about any implementation, a key thing to remember is: This implementation is solving a problem. There’s a pain point (or points) that your organization has dealt with long enough, and the challenge of change has been eclipsed by the pain of persisting down the same old path.

And this is a reason to celebrate! If this implementation is being driven by issues that your end users have been raising for forever, let them know that their voices have been heard, their concerns matter, and your organization is actively working to make things better. When crafting your message, identify the problems this implementation is solving. Make sure everyone on your communications team knows what they are – these are a key part of that early, informal evangelizing that your leaders and super-users will be doing. By laying this foundation, you’ll go a long way to reducing your audience’s natural resistance to change.

Here, There, and Everywhere

Now that you know who will be crafting and delivering your message, and what you’ll be communicating – where should this communication happen? A short answer is – everywhere it can!

Meeting people where they are makes communication much easier, and reduces the anxiety associated with the changes you’re communicating about. If your audience works on-site, plan physical meetings to talk through the coming implementation, put up posters or flyers with important information as go-live gets closer, and arrange to have a physical reference sheet dropped at users’ work area.

If your audience works remotely, schedule a video conference, create a Slack channel, or make sure that your internal home pages or portals have a section where you can post a series of messages about the upcoming implementation.

Should you send email updates? That’s up to you. If your audience is consistent email users, then leveraging email for communications meets them where they are. If they’re not, direct your energy to a more effective channel of communication, where you know they’ll receive and process your message.

Salesforce Rollout Communications, When?

As we talked about earlier, you want to communicate the good news about your new implementation early and often. Take a look at the project timeline. Work backwards from the go-live date, and based on how big the change is, plan a series of different communication events. Make sure that for go-live, end-users know how to ask questions and get help. Maybe the implementation affects a small team, and you’ve designated one of your super-users to be on question-answering duty that day.

If you’re working on a completely new implementation, your users will likely need training, ahead of deployment, ideally just a few days before go-live. You’ll need to make sure that every user has time to complete training, which will require coordinating with their leaders.

Before that, you should ensure that there is at least one in-person (or in video) meeting with all of your end-users, explaining what changes are coming, and giving your audience a chance to ask questions (which can provide you with insights about how to improve your message).

When should you start communicating about your new implementation? As soon as the project starts. Keep it high level, and informal, but if possible, plant the seeds that there’s change on the horizon. This gives your audience the opportunity to work through their anxieties early on, and complete the journey to enthusiastic advocates well before go-live.

Message Received

Remember our example scenario at the beginning of this post, where the Salesforce rollout communications team seemed to check all the right boxes, but ended up falling short of the mark?

Effective communication means your audience has received and understood your message. Find different ways to check for understanding – try a quick quiz, or a game with small prizes to give away to folks who can answer questions about the implementation – when, what, and why, or any other pertinent information. Organize a scavenger hunt – post a daily question about the upcoming implementation, and put the answer in an article in the knowledge base, so folks have to search for it. Find different ways to get everyone involved that allow you to check for and track understanding.

As you think about your Salesforce rollout communication plan for your new Salesforce implementation remember:

  • Assemble your team from all your stakeholders – leaders, super users, SMEs, internal communication, and training teams
  • Craft a consistent message, targeted at your different audiences – and remember to celebrate!
  • Meet your audience where they are
  • Plan specific communications events, working backwards from deployment
  • Check for understanding – make sure your message has been received

Every implementation and organization has different requirements to bear in mind when communicating about an upcoming change. As much transparency as is possible and reasonable will always help create an environment where people can voice their concerns and have them addressed. If you integrate a clear communication plan into your implementation, you can help overcome resistance and set your users up for success, so that come go-live, they’re leading the celebration!

I hope this article was helpful for you to learn about creating a Salesforce rollout communication plan for your organization. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

About Roycon
We’re an Austin-based Salesforce Consulting Partner, with a passion and belief that the Salesforce platform’s capabilities can help businesses run more efficiently and effectively. Whether you are just getting started with Salesforce or looking to realize its full potential, Roycon specializes in Salesforce Implementations, Salesforce Ongoing Support, and Salesforce Integrations, and Development. We’re the certified partner to guide the way to increase Salesforce Adoption, make strategic decisions, and build your Salesforce Roadmap for success.