The meteoric rise of Salesforce is a testament to the company’s ability to build a powerful suite of sales, marketing, and customer service solutions that clients can use to grow their businesses.
One of the huge advantages of Salesforce is how easily and quickly it can be customized. However, the main advantage of this incredible system is also its Achilles heel. In Salesforce, customization is intuitive and easy (exactly what the industry wanted for so long, remember?). Unfortunately, there is no easy way to track changes, and once you’ve made them, if you haven’t tracked them yourself manually there is no way back.
The endless flexibility allows users to create powerful business processes quickly and easily. For example, users can define teams, control access rights to particular modules and fields, change the homepage layout or modify existing screens with the layout editor, and create new dashlets from third-party data sources. They can also customize reports, modules and sub-panels to align Salesforce.com with their specific business functions.
As a result, enterprises are finding that their SFDC IT projects are spinning out of control due to the difficulty managing the frequency, quantity and most importantly quality of software changes. SFDC managers are faced with a state of uncertainty, not truly sure of timelines and impact of SFDC change.
Here are some tips to help leverage Salesforce’s best qualities for project success.
1. Change for the long run
Before changing systems to meet immediate needs, it’s a good practice to go back to basics and analyze the motivation for the change. Is this something that will be sustained over time? Are there organizational or technological changes coming up soon that may make this requirement obsolete?
Without thinking about long term needs and goals, organizations can find themselves making repeated changes and patches that add administrative complexity and begin to diminish the agility of a solution. Since customizations are introduced over a period of time, and each change needs to be integrated with previous changes, the number of patches can mushroom making further modifications even more difficult to develop, implement and test.
In addition, internal changes need to be synchronized with the three major software changes that Salesforce makes each year. When there are numerous customizations, hundreds of variables need to be evaluated to make sure the system doesn’t break before each Salesforce update.
2. Train your users frequently
Frequent software changes can result in users not understanding all of the new system capabilities. With each new product release, dozens of new features are added and IT departments need to make sure that business users are aware of how the new functionality can be used, to make their jobs easier.
Many projects don’t succeed simply because users don’t know how to use the system properly. There is a need to train new members of the business community as well as experienced users on an ongoing basis. Veterans also need frequent refresher classes.
3. Create a unified environment
Customer relationship management has evolved from being all about order and customer data to social media monitoring, collaboration and human resources performance management. Today, Salesforce is not a single solution but a portfolio of eight different applications and application-development platforms. In addition, Salesforce deployments are not implemented in isolation but are embedded in broader projects that can cross departments including customer service, logistics, or finance.
There needs to be an eye on all the points of integration before introducing new changes. Without analyzing integration points up front, the system can be in a constant state of flux. Dynamic requirements within different departments, can create a chain reaction of changes without proper coordination.
4. Optimize processes before you automate
Implementing changes to your Salesforce software is an opportunity to analyze and evaluate existing business processes to identify opportunities to introduce new efficiencies. For example, if salespeople complain that it takes too man clicks to enter a new sales opportunity and you are modifying this function revisit the whole process to see if you reduce the time it takes sales people to enter data, so that they can spend more doing what they do best, selling... It may seem quicker and easier to just keep an existing process, but it’s always better to proactively recommend improvements with every change. Revisiting processes before you automate not only ensures that there a greater likelihood that the system won’t need to be changed in the early stages, but you also have more user buy-in by which can increase collaboration during the whole project including testing and user acceptance.
Every time you reduce the time it takes to enter data, you are saving time and money. Creating and predicting the business benefits of software changes can also strengthen the return on investment for the entire project, even if it is an upgrade. An improved customer experience can result in more sales, financial rewards throughout the organization that can help justify the cost of Salesforce projects.
5. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
Since more and more projects involve joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions that, cross countries success is increasingly dependent on communications. Just the sheer number of people involved with these projects can create bottlenecks and unnecessary delays.
Despite the fact that communications is so important, collaboration is often limited by using outdated methods. Using email to communicate and replicate defects can slow down responses and result in important information being lost in an inbox. Relying on Word documents to communicate requirements for retesting, requires printing, editing, which further slows down the process. Users dread testing that’s time consuming and cumbersome.
A better approach is to utilize communication tools that will provide the most relevant information to each person at the right time. Visibility into the status of test cycles, defects that are found, and retesting can make teams more efficient, and provide a better audit trail to address quality and compliance requirements.
Salesforce makes customizing easy, but to ensure that projects stay on track, it’s important to make sure the changes are actually streamlining the workflow and not creating unnecessary complications that slow everything down. To enable software changes with confidence, automating test coordination can accelerate testing, minimize errors, while fostering more user collaboration.
Ronit Eliav, Director of Product Marketing at Panaya
Image Credit: Gil C / Shutterstock