Salesforce Architects design end-to-end solutions that are robust despite system pressures and scale alongside the businesses that use them. We Architects spend a lot of time drawing, discussing, establishing and considering solutions – and then we spend even more time enabling our clients.
Salesforce Architects are the #1 Salesforce role in demand, proving two things: that Salesforce is being adopted by larger businesses that have a more complex system infrastructure, and also, that Salesforce customers are prepared to implement strategically, with the bigger picture in mind.
I’ve seen companies invest huge amounts into Salesforce projects that don’t deliver the transformation they’ve been looking for. I believe this is because they made all the strategic technology decisions before an Architect had her boots on the ground. The results? Long delays while decisions are revisited, and increased costs associated with re-working solutions when the project starts up again. It ends up being a source of frustration, a waste of money and energy across your organisation.
As an experienced Salesforce Architect, I am often deployed to projects that have come unstuck in some way. Of the 70-odd projects I’ve worked on since 2008, about 30 of them were rescue missions or stopped mid-flight. Consultancies generally assign professionals where there’s a match with their skillset. In my career, it’s not only 18 certifications and a few implementations that have earned the trust of my customers – it’s my technical experience coupled with the ability to apply well-rounded knowledge at the right time, with empathy and understanding of the current environment. Culture, motivations and behaviours are just as prominent as the technology and process challenges.
What if there was a way to avoid project rescue missions in the first place, with the right skillset in the room when the decisions were being made, and a strategy that goes beyond just process and technology?
This is what I hope to address here. In this post, I will talk about who Salesforce Architects are and how they create success in Salesforce projects.
Who Are Salesforce Architects?
The term “Architect” is thrown around a lot these days and is the subject of much debate. Personally, I think there are multiple flavours of Architect – yet, whether technical or not, there are shared characteristics. Salesforce Architects are:
- Highly knowledgeable, ‘been there, done that’,
- Leaders in their chosen field(s),
- Operate with the bigger picture in mind,
- Understand the wider impact of design for people, business and technology,
- Adjust their communication styles for multiple audiences,
- Accountable for the quality and performance of solution design,
- Facilitate a learning experience for all involved.
They make up roughly 1% of the total Salesforce talent pool, which means they’re sought-after and expensive.
Types of Project Architects Get Involved With
You are most likely to find an Architect working on enterprise implementations of Salesforce, where Salesforce forms a large part of the technical landscape and customer experience strategy. But the role is not limited to that enterprise environment alone. Architects get involved in projects where any type of complexity exists. Complexity becomes apparent when multiple teams, other workstreams, other systems, stringent security requirements, existing solutions and cultural changes are involved – including where:
- Salesforce will be supporting significant organisational change programmes
- There is significant integration between multiple systems
- There are enormous volumes of data in play (>10m records per object)
- An org becomes out of control due to ineffective governance
- There’s been a high turnover of staff taking care of Salesforce
- Mergers and acquisitions mean that previously-used CRMs may be retired and integrated into Salesforce, or Salesforce is being retired in favour of another CRM solution
- Org merges are required (two Salesforce instances are combined into one)
- Projects involve remote development teams
- Retirement of previously-used AppExchange packages that have become entangled in other configuration and code added since they were installed
1. Architects Reduce Risk
Having such a customisable platform is both a blessing and a curse. Good Salesforce professionals – Admins, Consultants, Trainers and Developers, have learnt to solve business problems succinctly by working with an Architect.
While a Consultant would gather requirements, interpret them and configure Salesforce, an Architect would collaborate with a consultant to produce the overall design. The Consultant gains by seeing how their work fits in the wider solution, and together they can discuss the pros, cons and impact of the configuration approach on training, business process, data flows, reporting and user experience.
Strong Architects see their role as enhancing both skillset and mindset, so they ask questions and raise challenges to encourage lateral thinking. It’s easy to examine a requirement, say “that’s a checkbox field”, then go and build it. Architects encourage lateral thinking by asking simple questions, like:
“Why is it a checkbox? Who should tick it? Will people tick it? What decisions will be made from reports that include this checkbox? What other systems need to see that this box has been ticked? Is this data so sensitive that it needs double the security cover when in transit?”
We’re not trying to annoy everyone! Our job is to make sure the solution is optimised. We are accountable for quality and leadership.
It’s worth spending more on technical resources for the peace of mind that all possible solutions have been considered and the trade-offs are understood.
2. Do You Want Options or Recommendations?
A Consultant will give you options, an Architect gives recommended solutions that are optimised within the business constraints. Companies that use a Salesforce Architect benefit from the vast experience they bring, coupled with the business acumen required to ensure solutions remain relevant, performant and secure year after year. Projects also have more relevant requirements when there’s a good understanding of technical and business architecture, coupled with empathy, right from the outset.
3. A Smoother Project
In any relationship between customer and supplier, some things are lost in translation. Having an Architect sitting independently can make consultancy relationships more productive. How? By making sure you’ve considered everything, setting design standards that align with the vision and ensuring solutions are fully tested and released at the right time.
Salesforce customers can get a second point of view, while consultants can gain clarification, thus saving time to deliver high quality. Architects primarily work with people – ensuring alignment and owning the success of the project.
How Do I Justify the Cost?
It can be hard to justify the cost of an Architect – we’re expensive! Speed to value is our driving metric, and long-term savings are how we prove our worth.
Being a technical leader means having to let go of the hands-on in favour of guiding and coaching others, therefore we play a significant role in supervision and in growing the talent pipeline. You could buy cheap shoes that need replacing in a year, or you could invest in higher quality shoes that last for years and influence the type of shoe you buy in the future.
In a nutshell: less rework, fewer nasty surprises, an enriched implementation experience, engaged and motivated staff, performant, scalable solutions and reduced technical debt.
Architects take great pride in designing solutions that grow with your business. They can be hard to find and even harder to retain, since the demand for our skills is so high.
When interviewing for an Architect role, be sure that the person calling themselves an Architect is a leader. Be certain they can articulate pros and cons while inspiring your delivery teams. And think longer-term. You might find it harder to justify the upfront cost of an architect, but consider the future savings you’ll make because your approach was future-proofed. The great experience you’ve had with your implementation partner may be because an Architect was there to enable everybody. And the trust you gain with your stakeholders, because you made wise, well-informed decisions under an architect’s guidance.
If you would like to know where to find an Architect for your Salesforce project, look no further than The Architech Club. A Registered Salesforce consulting partner, we’re passionate about enabling Salesforce Architects to do their best work without constraint.