Salesforce is the first choice of a wide range of enterprises not just because it resolves clunky processes, but also because it truly is a holistic enterprise platform which enables digital transformation. Although Salesforce is popular for being a well-equipped and easy to deploy platform, it is at times taken for granted by several organizations when it comes to Salesforce implementation. Salesforce customers report an increase of sales revenue by 37%, 45% higher customer satisfaction and 43% better marketing ROI. But these facts alone don’t guarantee you a smooth Salesforce configuration and desired outcomes if you are unaware about the best practices associated with the implementation process. A lack of a proper implementation strategy, inaccurate planning of project time and budget, the ignorance of common implementation risks and measures for user adoption can put you at the risk of starting the Salesforce implementation project on the wrong foot.
To help you get started and make the process as pain-free as possible, we’ve put together an implementation roadmap that you can follow throughout your Salesforce configuration. Think of it as the blueprint of your implementation, just like the one you would have in hand while building your dream house – a carefully designed plan which you can refer to whenever you feel stuck!
Setting the Stage – Preparing for Implementation
Find your WHY
Sure, you’re taking a big step and are about to embark on Salesforce implementation, but before that, let’s focus on defining the ‘why’ aspect’. Ask yourself, ”WHY are you going to implement Salesforce”?
Hopefully your answer doesn’t start with “ I like everything shiny and new”, as this may not ensure a smooth ride!
The key here is to set your primary goals while evaluating Salesforce as this will indeed turn out to be your high level requirement moving forward.
- Where do you see your business heading in the next one year?
- What pain points prevent you from your business growth?
- What processes need a massive overhaul?
- How would you like to make a change in the sales department?
For instance, if you currently do not have a customer relationship management system in place and are heavily dependent on traditional spreadsheets like Microsoft Excel to manage your leads and customers. This has made your sales process cumbersome and it is now witnessing lead leakage and low conversion rate. After carefully considering several options, you’ve chosen Salesforce with the expectation of becoming a sales-focused company. Now, where do you see yourself after the Salesforce implementation project is successfully accomplished? Would you be able to
- Alleviate lead leakage?
- Better monitor account activity?
- Provide better organizational and reporting capabilities?
- Get real-time, accurate and deep insights about your customers?
- Deepen engagement with your customers thereby delivering personalized experiences?
- Increase sales pipeline visibility?
Inorder to have a proper visibility of these end goals, you need to first discuss with the key stakeholders within your organization and know what they really want from the Salesforce investment. Have a detailed discussion to better understand their needs, current business processes, and expectations from Salesforce. For that you need to know whom to involve from your organization as the executive sponsor.
Who do you consider as your key decision makers? Most of the time, teams from marketing, sales, IT, customer service and so on will be potential Salesforce users, so they may need to be involved in the meetings. List out these key users with their name, role and the reason why they should be part of this event. That said, every group will have a different take on the subject. Hence you will need to find a common ground in those varied inputs. But remember, adoption is a key end-goal for any implementation. and you need to make sure everyone is onboard with it right from the start.
Develop a rollout plan
Before you start, determine the type of implementation support you need- are you going to use a Salesforce implementation partner or self-implement? Be mindful that there will be a lot of leg work involved in this stage whether you are migrating from a legacy system to Salesforce or adopting Salesforce for the first time. From mapping out all of your data, finding how and where it will be moved to, it requires immense technical prowess.
If you consider yourself a small -mid sized enterprise and have decided to take full ownership of your Salesforce implementation, we would recommend you to take baby steps in the beginning. Make your end users comfortable by first introducing a subset of functionalities available in Salesforce and introducing the key features into the process. Then as you begin to expand, add more additional features during later stages.
The Salesforce environment becomes complex as time progresses which makes it difficult to fully comprehend the impact of planned customizations and changes. This could eventually lead to unplanned costs, risk and complexity. An experienced Salesforce implementation partner can help you gain a holistic view of the impact of change, take an innovative approach to risk mitigation and what you need to do in order to fix them. This way you can be rest assured that the Salesforce implementation is carried out with greater speed and quality.
If you are a small to mid-sized organization, you might be skeptical about the terms ‘team structuring’ and ‘resource allocation’. Although size and scope do matter when you decide on your resources, be aware that almost all project teams would include the following team members.
|System Administrator||Day-to-day management of application|
|Project Manager||The person who leads the implementation|
|Power users||The first line support who can be used to test and provide feedback during implementation|
|Training Team||User adoption enablers|
|Implementation Team||This can include external consultants, in-house specialists, or board members who can guide you all throughout the implementation.|
Define Success Metrics
The thought of Salesforce implementation might make you go over the moon. But when it comes to your specific project, setting a realistic plan with measurable goals will be the best way moving forward. If you are from the sales department, you will be familiar with the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. The way we see it, It’s better to keep your goals clear and doable in the beginning stages.
Pro Tip: The best method is to map out these goals even before you begin your CRM shopping!
Choose Project Methodology
The two most popular approaches adopted by organizations are the ‘waterfall’ and ‘agile’ methodologies.Some prefer the waterfall model as it gives you a clear-cut implementation timeline. But companies looking for flexible options turn to the agile approach as there is enough room to constantly build and revisit even small units of functionalities.
Set communication channels
Having a project manager on your team will make sure your project is progressing as expected. A project manager takes care of the entire implementation and will act as the main point of contact in case any concerns arise among the team. Afterall, Salesforce implementation is all about team work and hence requires precise and clear communication between the team members. Keep the following pointers in mind when defining your communication channels:
- How to document changes as and when there is a user feedback?
- How to tackle obstacles during the implementation process?
- How to plan ahead when there is a particular work you know will take longer than expected?
- Do you plan on running a daily standup meeting?
Setting up your CRM
Now that you have mapped out your requirements, resources and derived what changes each stakeholder wants to bring into their individual processes through Salesforce implementation, the next big step is to set up the CRM. You can start asking these questions before beginning the process:
- Which users need Salesforce licenses?
- What permissions can be assigned to users and what are the limitations?
- How to control data access? Can you share this access?
- Are custom fields required?
- What type of reporting features are you going to use?
- Are you planning to use Lead Functionality?
- Are you planning a data cleansing?
The initial stage involves data cleansing and data mapping, which is highly critical in ensuring data quality. Failing to cleanse your data before migration may bring you to a complete halt. According to Gartner, the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is around $9.7 million a year. They also reported 40% of businesses fail to meet targets due to poor data quality.
Needless to say, this is the stage where things start to get complicated which even drives businesses to a state of total confusion. If you underestimate the amount of technical knowledge you need while migrating data from your existing CRM to Salesforce, you will feel overwhelmed and lost over the course of time. So instead of waiting for things to get completely out of your control, hiring a Salesforce implementation partner would be your ideal choice.
Salesforce Deployment – Preparing for Go-Live
Although a highly configurable and extensible cloud based app, the ultimate goal of Salesforce deployment is to bring growth to business and the people using it. Hence your Salesforce solution requires end-to-end testing as it helps in understanding whether the system meets the hype! There are two phases in testing:
- Functional Testing
- User Acceptance Testing
This is the first phase of Salesforce testing post development. It is mainly done so that you can check if the new features work well alongside the existing org. This way you can be rest assured that your solution definitely works and has not unnecessarily broken anything that already exists.
User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
As you prepare for Salesforce deployment after functional testing, the next big step is to conduct UAT. This is where your end users need to be involved regularly. It will help you to understand if the current Salesforce solution satisfies their requirements defined during the initial phase. Do make sure of their active presence during UAT as otherwise the project timeline will get extended and eventually turn into a costly affair.
Before you do anything else, you need to set up a Sandbox. There are three types of sandboxes available: the Developer Sandbox, Partial Data Sandbox and Full Sandbox. You can move your entire configuration to a full sandbox environment to learn how it performs under large data inputs. A full sandbox as opposed to a developer or partial sandbox is a test environment which contains exact real-life data replicas such as customer details, deals etc., before deploying to production.
If you have access to all three sandbox types, well and good, but we would recommend a Full Sandbox for UAT. Although small and mid sized organizations may not see a Full Sandbox as a necessity, it is definitely the best method to throw light on potential issues which can occur after roll-out.
Train the end-users
Training end-users before roll-out can go a long way in user adoption of the newly developed Salesforce solution. You can train them in a sandbox environment during UAT and they can learn with hands on exercises through a given subset of data replicas specifically meant for training. Do make sure to do the training close to your go-live data as they will be encouraged to use it more often after the launch and you will get immediate responses and feedback.
After Launch Plan
Driving user adoption
Just because you have trained your end users on using the new features and automated processes doesn’t mean that you have done your part in Salesforce implementation. You can consider yourself successful only when they unanimously adopt Salesforce in the long run. Lack of Salesforce adoption results in:
- Low login rates
- Reluctance to part ways with traditional spreadsheets
- Irregular data updates
- Negligent data entry
So how do you increase Salesforce adoption? It’s not a cakewalk and hence you need to carefully plan ahead for each step. Keep these points in mind while driving user adoption:
1) User Training: Your employees need to be continuously trained after the launch. There are several training materials available in Salesforce Trailhead or you can use any other third party trainers. Or else if you are hiring a Salesforce implementation partner, you can ask them if Train the Trainer services are included in the package.
2) Measuring adoption: Don’t underestimate the power of documentation! To really measure the success of Salesforce implementation, you need to derive solid data regarding who is using Salesforce and which features are still under utilized.
Support and Maintenance
Now that you have mastered how to engage end-users and to make them continuously use the platform, ongoing improvements should be the next priority in your list. You will need to provide ongoing assistance for at least 1 month as they are getting adapted to the new system. If you are considering a Salesforce implementation partner they should be able to deliver after-launch support services which includes fixing minor bugs and performance issues. Also, as Salesforce releases three updates a year, you may need help to fine tune Salesforce processes to comply with these updates and user requirements.
Develop a Change Management Strategy
Another important part of your Salesforce rollout plan is how to manage the change for your Salesforce end users when they move to an entirely new territory. Like we discussed earlier, failing to train users ahead of time can put your project at risk. For that, first you need to know the pulse of your company-for instance, are they up for this change? What are their impressions and apprehensions on the new solution? How well prepared are you to mitigate those obstacles? Knowing this will help you develop a successful change management strategy.
That being said, executive leadership must be actively involved in this process. Why? Because they are the ones who can turn this initiative into a corporate mission, who can give factual reasons as to why the company needs this change.
Well! Does that feel like a lot to take in?
Perhaps.. But the important question here is, now that you have a clear-cut blueprint, can you build your house all alone? Or are you sure you will learn how to do it yourself? One of the critical decisions you will need to make now is whether to use standard Salesforce features and functionality or use your savvy internal resources to build customized apps, or use a Salesforce implementation partner to help you do the heavy lifting!
If you are interested to learn more, let’s get on with a free 1:1 consultation right away.
Or if you want to consider your options, you can check out our piece on how to select your Salesforce implementation partner in our Ultimate Salesforce Guide.