Post Salesforce Implementation – Considerations
For an untold number of companies, going live with Salesforce is both an exciting as well as a terrifying time. If using a certified Salesforce partner, you most likely have the peace of mind knowing that the build itself has been thoroughly discussed, reviewed, tested and approved for deployment. As comfortable as you feel at this stage, you’re most likely equally anxious about how to manage and maintain the system after the implementation and the “Go-Live Support” phase comes to a close. Rest assured, you’re not alone.
If you’re a company that is used to using more rudimentary software such as HubSpot, Zoho, PipeDrive, etc, you most likely didn’t worry too much about the ongoing maintenance and configuration of those systems. The primary reason is that there really isn’t a whole lot to have to worry about. There are some configuration options that allow you to use it in a way that is unique to your business but they pale in comparison to the configurability and customization capabilities of Salesforce. There’s a reason why you decided to move to Salesforce and those are probably two of the biggest ones that factored into that decision.
So, what next? How do you make sure your company is set up for success when it comes to the adoption and ongoing utilization of Salesforce as it has been configured for you? The following are the primary areas to focus on to make sure you’re protecting the investment you made in the application and ensure that you have a greater probability of maximizing your ROI and increasing the overall efficiency of your business.
Today, businesses are changing at a tremendous pace and this speed of change will only continue to increase. In fact, change will never be as slow as it is today.
– Hans Vestberg, CEO, Verizon Communications
The number one thing to wrap your head around is that things are going to change, understand that change is inevitable and that your business needs to not only be prepared for it but eagerly embrace it. This is especially true when it comes to ongoing Salesforce management. Salesforce pushes out three updates per year and each of these updates contains a massive amount of new features that can drastically increase productivity or alter how you operate. It is extremely important to make sure that whoever you task with owning Salesforce for your company stays on top of these updates.
Once you’ve come to terms that things will change, how do you make sure that your business is set up to handle those changes effectively? It really comes down to three things: processes. communication and expertise.
The Importance of a Post Salesforce Implementation Roadmap
When you went through your Salesforce evaluation and resulting implementation, you most likely talked about building out certain features in phases. For example, you may have elected to move forward with Sales Cloud and CPQ as your initial project, with the goal of integrating Salesforce with NetSuite as a Phase 2. This is an example of establishing a roadmap and is one of the most important steps in ensuring that you understand where you’re wanting to go as a business. Now, if we go back to the “Embrace Change” section, we know with a high degree of certainty that if we establish a roadmap today, it will change five times over within the next 6-12 months. Once again, this is to be expected. The important thing to keep in mind here is not whether or not you adhere to every aspect of your roadmap but that you have one that you can use to level-set with colleagues and partners. Without a roadmap, companies tend to make impulsive decisions and hastily make changes that they weren’t prepared for and they’re constantly playing catch up.
We suggest trying to put together an 18-month post Salesforce implementation roadmap that incorporates your vision for any/all of the following:
- Ancillary systems you envision needing/wanting to integrate with Salesforce
- Additional business units that aren’t currently using Salesforce that could feasibly operate out of Salesforce to get closer to the “Single-Source-of-Truth” model
- Additional Salesforce products that you wish to implement or evaluate to meet business goals
- Additional enhancements to existing workflows or features in Salesforce to reduce clicks, optimize analytics or improve communication
In addition to identifying more defined objectives as illustrated above, we also recommend putting together retrospectives on a regular basis to establish an ongoing list of:
- What’s working well
- What needs to be improved upon
- What do we need to stop doing
Establishing Steering Committees/Centers of Excellence
One of the biggest problems we see companies run into post Salesforce implementation is in their adoption of Salesforce is disjointed communication and feature requests when it comes to making modifications to Salesforce. The VP of Sales might reach out to request an additional field with a modification to an automation that affects how the Account Management team operates, causing disruption and or frustration.
The way to avoid this is to establish a Steering Committee or a Center of Excellence. You can dive deeper into each of the technical descriptions for those types of Groups but at a high level, it’s a group of people within the company that are involved with discussions, planning, and execution of changes within your Salesforce environment. The key concept is to make sure that you have representatives from the major business units within the company, as well as individuals from IT. You want to make sure you’re outlining the changes that you’re needing/wanting, allow other departments to be aware of the change, voice concerns, and ultimately get feedback from the IT team to make sure there’s a consensus on the business value and everyone is bought in. This group should meet on a regular basis and should have an established process for making requests, justifying the need, establishing priority, determining impact, and adding to the roadmap. This leads us to our next bullet point, change management.
The Importance of Establishing Effective Change Management Processes Post Salesforce Implementation
It’s one thing to be able to discuss desired changes, come to a consensus, and then dispatch individuals to do the work. It’s another thing entirely to do that in an effective manner. As the old proverb goes “there’s many a slip twixt a cup and a lip”. Best laid plans can result in rather unfortunate and unintended consequences if there aren’t effective processes in place to ensure success. First and foremost, the gold standard is “never make changes directly in production”. Now there are those that say as long as you have the tools to measure dependencies and impacts on other features, you can make changes in Production. Predominantly, that perspective is championed by our friends over at Elements.cloud. Their software does allow for effective triaging of metadata in Production that would give you the confidence to make changes in that environment. However, unless you’re using software such as Elements.cloud, it’s best to establish an effective environment management process that requires all changes to be made in sandboxes, tested, approved, and then pushed to Production.
Change Management is more than just performing changes in one environment vs the other, there are a lot of details that go into an effective change management process that helps development teams deliver consistently. There are numerous methodologies and tools that can be used to effectively manage change but we’re not going to get into that. It’s more of a matter of whether you have a process at all as opposed to what process you use. The majority of our clients do not have experience with Change Management processes and tend to utilize the “fly by the seat of your pants” approach, which leads to very difficult scenarios that are fairly expensive to fix.
So, whether you fancy yourself an Agile type of company or a Waterfall type of company, it’s important to choose a strategy and acquire software to help you manage those changes. If you’re wanting to manage your projects within Salesforce, here’s an article that describes project management tools that can be utilized within Salesforce. Through the utilization of a project management tool, you should be able to tie all requests to detailed descriptions of what is needing to be done, the business value, and (ideally) what was done to deliver the feature. The process of documenting changes helps to ensure that new-hires can be brought up to speed quickly on a Salesforce instance and thus avoiding one of the biggest pitfalls of ongoing Salesforce management: Technical Debt.
Eliminating Technical Debt
Technical Debt can be referred to in a lot of different ways. Ultimately, Technical Debt is a result of taking the “move fast, break things” approach to software development. If you prioritize speed and agility to arrive at working functionality at the expense of testing, documentation, QA etc, then you’re racking up technical debt that will need to be paid back at some point. Ward Cunningham, one of the authors of the Agile Manifesto, put it best when describing how he coined the phrase “technical debt”:
“With borrowed money, you can do something sooner than you might otherwise, but then until you pay back that money you’ll be paying interest. I thought borrowing money was a good idea, I thought that rushing software out the door to get some experience with it was a good idea, but that of course, you would eventually go back and as you learned things about that software you would repay that loan by refactoring the program to reflect your experience as you acquired it.”
– Ward Cunningham
As you might imagine, if you speed through the design, configuration, implementation, and deployment of features in Salesforce, there’s an extremely high chance that you’ll have to go back to square one and modify permissions, update ancillary metadata, modify reports and communicate change more effectively. Essentially, through the process of speeding through change, you created a bunch of additional work that you were going to need to do at some point, it was just a matter of when. If you’re constantly following this practice, the technical debt continues to increase, leaving your team with an almost insurmountable amount of band-aids, workarounds, and hot-fixes that have very little, if any, documentation. Often times, we’ve seen companies that have acquired massive amounts of technical debt be 100% dependent upon the person who was responsible for that technical debt to make sure their Salesforce remains functional. If/when that person leaves the company, they are left in a very precarious position. Often times, the individual who took that approach was not a certified Salesforce professional and in addition to the technical debt, there are a lot of poor design choices that were made that makes it even harder to unravel the configurations and rebuild the system to align with more scalable/efficient practices.
Leaving Salesforce Architecting and Design to the Professionals
Salesforce is highly configurable, you don’t have to be a trained, certified Salesforce professional to create fields, modify page layouts, build automations or create reports. If you’ve been given System Administrator permissions, there is nothing preventing you from creating all kinds of things inside of Salesforce. There are no alarm bells that go off if you’re over-utilizing the Opportunity object, there is nothing preventing you from creating multiple process builders on the same object that would result in “SOQL 101” errors. The point here is that it’s incredibly easy to start customizing Salesforce without any idea that the configurations you’re making are putting your company at risk of the eventual loss of usability.
The phrase “knows enough to be dangerous” is extremely applicable when it comes to Salesforce configuration and customization. We’ve been hired more times than I can count to come back in and “save” a client’s Salesforce instance because an inexperienced, non-certified individual was tasked with being the Salesforce Admin for a company and after 6 months of poor design choices and uninformed decisions, rendered the Salesforce instance unusable. It’s not that the individual had bad intentions or wasn’t a smart person, it’s just a testament to how nuanced and robust Salesforce really is. Seemingly simple/innocent changes can lead to inefficient workflows, reporting challenges, and overall performance issues.
When it comes to the ongoing management, maintenance, and evolution of your Salesforce instance, it’s highly recommended that you hire a professional. In this article, we provide a cost-benefit analysis of hiring a full-time Salesforce admin or using Salesforce managed services. If your company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a state of the art HVAC system, chances are, they wouldn’t elect Carl to be in charge of the ongoing support and maintenance of that HVAC system just because Carl has a subscription to Popular Mechanics and likes to “tinker” in his garage. The same logic applies when it comes to Salesforce configuration. The problem with this analogy is that the HVAC system is a lot harder to access and is quite a bit more intimidating whereas Salesforce System Administrators just need to click a few times and they have all the power in the world. The Peter Parker principle “with great power comes great responsibility” is very applicable here, however, most companies and most de-facto Salesforce System Admins don’t realize just how much power they have and that can be fairly dangerous when it comes to the overall usability and return on investment of the Salesforce platform.
At the end of the day, you’ve chosen the most powerful, capable, and robust platform to run your business on, so you’re winning in that department. However, it’s very, very important that you come to terms with the responsibility that you now have as a company, post Salesforce implementation when it comes to the ongoing maintenance and continued evolution of that platform for your business. The concepts outlined here are paramount to making sure that your investment in Salesforce is secured and the overall utility of the platform continues to pay dividends for years to come.
Building out all of these safeguards and processes is no small feat. It’s highly recommended that you hire individuals that are experienced in software development lifecycle management and even more so, it’s recommended that you hire a certified Salesforce Architect to be the caretaker of your instance from a technical perspective to ensure the greatest probability of success. However, if those roles are not on the post-salesforce implementation roadmap and you’re not ready to take on those responsibilities yourself, we can take care of that burden for you, at a fraction of the price.
You can learn more about us, 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 during or post salesforce implementation. If you’ve just completed your implementation, and need Salesforce Managed Services, we’d be happy to discuss options with you. Thanks for stopping by the Roycon Salesforce blog.
Cole is the president and founder of RoyCon Technologies, where he marries his passion for Salesforce and it’s the capability to make business more efficient with his technical skillset and extensive Salesforce background. Cole can deliver unparalleled solutions that truly showcase and capitalize on the power of the Salesforce platform.