Peter Drucker, the celebrated management guru says, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” This is true for all tech implementations. Salesforce implementations are no different. The ultimate aim of any business is to become better and reap more profits. For success, any new implementation has to meet this ultimate objective, directly or indirectly.
Technical perfection is relatively easy. A competent team of Salesforce experts may implement challenging projects in a time-bound manner, within budget. But the implementation becomes successful only if it can meet the business objectives and goals.
Assessing the success of a Salesforce org requires a holistic approach. The implementation team needs to understand the various forces at play, and set themselves up for long-term, sustainable success. Here are the key Salesforce implementation challenges and how to resolve these challenges for post-implementation success.
- Coping with an Uncertain Business Environment
- Lack of clarity
- Complex Customizations
- Resolve HR Challenges
- Cultural Challenges
- Kinks in the End Product
- Data Mess-Up
Coping with an Uncertain Business Environment 🡪 Adopt a Structural Approach
The COVID-19 pandemic has made an already fluid business environment more uncertain. Creating an action plan for the business in such an environment is challenging. The best-laid plans may come to naught when external conditions change overnight. But this does not mean business wait passively for events to unfold.
Adopt a structural approach to tide through the uncertainty. Make flexibility integral to the business process, to enable fast decisions and become resilient to change.
Go agile. Focus on a lean approach and prepare to make fast, incremental changes. Adopt a policy of continuous iteration. Salesforce adopts the Scrum process, which co-opts with defined roles, meetings, and deliverables. The Scrum framework delivers high value to customers in double-quick time.
Go lean. The lean approach delivers value to the customer through continuous improvement. It encourages a free flow of information, enabling stakeholders to make informed decisions attuned to what the customer wants.
Lack of clarity 🡪 Get the basics right
Lack of clarity on the purpose of the tool can spell doom for the implementation. Likewise, implementation without understanding the impact of the new tool on the workforce, leads to post-implementation failure.
Many Salesforce implementations take place haphazardly. The business stakeholders, engrossed in their day-to-day activities, or firefighting external challenges, have no time to devote to the nitty-gritty of software implementation.
But when the stakeholders do not agree on the requirements or scope, the implementation team ends up grappling with confusion, not knowing what steps to take ahead. Frequent scope creep renders the implementation team unable to resolve technical obstacles. The result is faulty implementation which may cause issues such as:
- The implementation not meeting business objectives
- Retarded productivity
- Transferring unwanted data into Salesforce, or worse data migration causing data loss.
Spend time to fix requirements before starting the implementation. Any extra time taken for both parties to come to an understanding avoids scope creep and saves valuable time downstream.
Develop a clear implementation roadmap upfront. The best roadmap aligns the company’s strategic plan with the priorities of the Salesforce CRM. The roadmap co-opts the current state, gap analysis, business and functional requirements, and roll-out strategy.
Establish a consensus on the tools and technologies for the implementation. Have clarity on integration tools, deployment tools, and development tools. Have a deployment policy that provides guidelines on how to select new tools and how to implement them.
Define an engagement model that provides a collaboration framework between the client and the implementation partner. Form a governance team consisting of key stakeholders, to oversee the implementation. Include admins, solution architects, developers, department leaders, and C Suite executives in the team. The role of the team is to frame a vision on how the technology will deliver growth and boost innovation. Have a project manager from the company side, as a single point of contact with the implementation team.
Have regular follow-ups based on a pre-defined schedule, to ensure the implementation is on track. Identifying deviations as it occurs enables prompt course correction, and eliminates the possibilities of post-implementation gaps.
Assess the impact of any changes on end-users and the business. Empower the implementation team to ensure functionality requests are within the scope of the project.
Make sure the implementation team is competent. Technical skills alone do not suffice. Successful implementation depends on the project implementation team:
- Adopting the correct methodology, with the right logic and sequence.
- Using the right tools and technologies.
- Identifying underlying risks, and taking counter-measures.
The extent to which an implementation team ticks these boxes and resolves the Salesforce implementation challenges depends on their experience and expertise. A competent team covers all bases upfront, leaving little room for post-implementation gaps. Any gaps due to changing business requirements get filled easily through the agile and flexible methodology adopted.
Complex Customizations 🡪 Keep it Simple
Many enterprises falter when customizing Salesforce. At times, customization makes the implementation too complex. Other times, customization without a proper understanding of the needs, makes the implementation faulty.
Adopt an incremental approach. Divide the various features into basic, essential, and so on, in order of importance. A step-by-step approach saves budget. It also ensures the software retains its integrity after each customization, and mitigates Salesforce implementation challenges greatly.
Use Salesforce tools, such as the Lightning App Builder and Force.com platform to create custom applications, fast. The Salesforce1platform and Salesforce SDKs make it easy to develop native smartphone applications. Salesforce Canvas makes it easy to embed other systems into Salesforce screens. Lightning Process Builder enables building complex business processes without coding.
Resolve HR Challenges 🡪 Invest in Up-skilling the Workforce
The success of the new Salesforce implementation depends on getting end-users to use the new system. For instance, Sales Cloud users need not necessarily have to use opportunities or leads. They can very well use Excel or any other outside system to sell. The extent to which users adopt the new implementation depends on their comfort with the new system, and the productivity gains they perceive out of it.
Many of the existing workforces, cutting across sectors, cannot cope with the new realities. Technology evolves at a rapid pace, much faster than the time it takes for the workforce to gain familiarity. The old model of up-skilling the workforce reactively no longer works.
When employees go through a learning curve or take time out for training, work processes slow down, and delays become commonplace. An experience gap for the workforce retards performance and leads to low productivity. This demotivates the employee and leads to a downward spiral. It could descend into resentment for poor appraisals, and talented staff quitting. It gets worse, as the ill-effects impact delivery of services to the customer, leading to low customer satisfaction levels.
Analyze the skill levels of the workforce. Perform a gap analysis for each role. A gap analysis uncovers insights not clear in plain sight. For example, a highly competent employee may not have the technical skills to shift to an AI-enabled workplace.
Follow up on the results of the gap analysis proactively. Implement an enterprise-level action plan to close the gap. Organize training sessions, one-to-one counseling, and other interventions to bridge the skill gap.
The right training depends on the custom-built features or functionalities implemented in the Salesforce org. Without proper training and support, users may find even minor issues seem like complex problems.
Align workforce requirements with the company’s strategic objectives and goals. Hire for strategic fit. Revamp the recruiting system to make sure new employees come with the necessary skills. But waiting for employees who tick all boxes is impractical in today’s age of skill shortage. But make sure the recruit is willing to learn and has the basic competencies, to which they can add new skills.
Cultural Challenges 🡪 Communicate
Resistance to change is natural, as any new software will invariably unsettle cozy ecosystems. Unless there is a strong outreach to the stakeholders, even the best software will not find many takers.
Establish channels of collaboration with stakeholders, including stakeholders who do not use Salesforce. Discuss ideas to improve business processes. Identify how the Salesforce implementation can break down silos and bridge gaps.
Convince employees how the new implantation will benefit them and the enterprise. The workforce will likely resist any change trust upon them, especially at short notice. Rather, they will support an initiative marketed as beneficial for them. They will eagerly expect its rollout.
Keep the workforce employees in the loop. Inform them of upcoming changes. Curate a plan that begins early in the Salesforce implementation process.
Make regular communications to employees an integral part of the plan.
Evaluate adoption rates. Focus on personnel not enthusiastic about the roll-on. Involve them in the process. Take feedback and suggestion from them. Be open to criticism and feedback. Given the ownership of the implementation in their niche or domain.
Identify influencers and convince them to become champions of the new implementation. Make them go-to persons, whom the rank-and-file employees may approach kink out the irons in the armor, or get clarity. At times, the issue may be as simpler as the employee unable to locate an icon in a redesigned interface. Having a go-to-resource person makes it that much easier for the employee, compared to a painstaking process of reaching out to the support desk. Recognize such adoption champions through shout-outs in bulletin boards, appreciation rewards, and more.
Spread awareness that transformational change is not a one-off event, but an ongoing endeavor. Build flexibility and change into the business process.
Kinks in the End Product 🡪 Invest in user acceptance testing
No implementation is perfect. Despite the best of efforts, errors creep in. Miscommunication, bugs, faulty tools, and other issues result in the software falling short of expectations. Testing is the best way to ensure any tech implementation meets its objectives. Catching bugs or other issues early makes it that much easier to fix them.
Write test cases and conduct the tests. Make the necessary changes, and retest as needed. Do not confine the tests to assess the code integrity alone. Simulate business use cases and test if the code meets the objectives.
Invest in user acceptance testing (UAT). Empower subject matter experts knowledgeable in the specific line of business, and core business processes, for the purpose. Encourage them to take up ownership of the implementation, and become champions for its smooth roll-out and company-wide adoption.
Use sandbox. A sandbox environment helps to work out the kinks before going live, mitigating the deployment risks and gaps.
A deployment/refresh schedule makes it possible to evaluate the additional enhancements needed, in a systematic way.
While testing is good in theory, practical exigencies, and time pressure force many teams to take shortcuts. Focus on the critical enhancements at first. This keeps the project in scope and improves stakeholder buy-in. This also minimizes the risks during deployment.
Data Mess-Up 🡪 Invest in Data Validation
Data powers the CRM. Without the right data, the CRM becomes useless. For instance, an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, or the ability to generate a hyper-flexible report at will is of no use, if these resources contain wrong data and faulty analytics. Invest in automation to ensure data integrity.
Double-check the integrity of data migration and integration systems. Focus on integrations to ensure seamless data flow. For instance, integrate billing and accounting software with Salesforce to resolve gaps. Integrate Outlook contacts with the CRM for speedier and seamless engagement.
Import and export of huge amounts of data may cause practical issues, even when the technology is robust. Salesforce has some limitations and exceptions while importing and exporting data between applications. For instance, the implementation team may have to write apex batch classes to customize data import and export, as a workaround to governor limits and exceptions while integrating with third-party applications.
Cleanse data before importing into Salesforce. Use sync tools, and merge whenever possible, to avoid duplicate accounts and contacts.
Create bi-directional sync with Outlook and other apps, for contacts, tasks, events/meetings and emails, and other data streams.
Salesforce enables businesses to become better versions of their previous avatars. Enterprises committed to improving themselves invest in the latest technologies to unlock possibilities and add value to stakeholders. They constantly evaluate their implementations and strive to bridge the gap continuously.