7 Steps to a Successful Salesforce Project: from Kick-off to Deployment

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Working as a functional Salesforce Consultant, one of my biggest challenges is to design a project plan to ensure that both large and small projects succeed.

In this post, I will share each step of my proven 7-step methodology.

Why 7? Not only has time and experience allowed me to form the perfect combination of steps, being Portuguese, 7 is our lucky number, thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo. Maybe both factors contribute to one successful project after another!

Step 1: Project Kick-off

A kickoff meeting is a presentation to anyone who might have an influence on the project. This is so that each individual feels they are an integral part of the salesforce growth from the beginning. One of the biggest reasons for project failure happens when people do not feel included in the project.

Tip 1 – It is important to engage from the C-Level to the end user, never de-value the lower levels of the organisational hierarchy, often this is where you will find your biggest sponsors.

For my presentations, I organize the session agenda like this:

  • Teams: Explain exactly who is who within the teams. The teams must always be Salesforce Consultants, client-side project managers, and business representatives;
  • Implementation Approach and Project Overview: Explain the project, its goals, and what the various phases consist of;
  • Project Timeline: Display a project timeline with the different milestones for each wave with deadlines;
  • Achievements: This slide should accompany all presentations, and serves to identify 6 major client-side challenges that you will want to see at the next meeting; in this way we put tangible challenges that measure the success of the project (e.g. all discovery sessions complete before X, have the first release on day Y);
  • Concerns and Actions Plans: Identify potential project risks (eg. lack of key users in a complex discovery session) and their action plan in order to minimize them;
  • Project Name: We play a short fun game to define the name for the project, which allows all parties to become familiar with. This name must always be related to the client we are working with;
  • Hot Topics and QA: Summarize the most important topics and make room for any other project issues that may arise;

Tip 2: A picture is worth a thousand words. I advise you make a light and fun presentation, taking a maximum of 45m / 1 hour. Everyone is fed up with traditional powerpoints!

Engaging presentation example: Agile Method applied to Salesforce Project

Step 2: Discovery Session

This phase marks the moment when our team is with each business function to listen to all their needs.

It is important to make sure all areas working with Salesforce are well identified (eg. Financial/Sales/Customer Service), and giving special attention to one-on-one sessions, which keep the team members motivated and open, so they know they are being heard.

Discovery sessions should always be split into 3 large blocks:

  • Listening: Listen freely to the users, imagine their work routines and where their greatest difficulties lie. This phase is critical to understand the business’ current state;
  • Drawing: Drawing current processes with users helps us be certain we are meeting their needs. This should be done on a large board or paper to be interactive;

Data Definition: A document identifying all the objects and the various groups that will exist, i.e.  identifying the profiles, validations, help text and labels;

  • Integrations: If there are integrations it is very important to document everything from the beginning, with a document that maps all integration points;

Wrap Up Session: At the end of each session, always wrap up with the project team to set priorities and confirm the customers’ requests.

Step 3: Document

After all the Discovery, it’s essential to document everything. Documenting means listing all the inputs from the sessions (Discovery / Flow Design Notes / Data Definition / Integrations) and produce a formal document with all the needs and the corresponding solutions.

This process should always be done in-house, and should be discussed and reviewed by the various Salesforce experts.

Tip 3: It is important to validate this with the project manager (client-side) to ensure it is understandable – not all of us speak the language of Apex!

Step 4: Approval

Have an approval session with the consulting team and the project team. Present back the needs that have already been raised in the Discovery sessions, and offer a clear explanation of what is going to be developed and what the goals and objectives are.

Step 5: Build

This is the fun part! Once the documentation is approved, it’s then time to start shaping Salesforce!

Tip 4: Be creative, think outside the box, and remind yourself that there’s a high chance that someone has already faced the same challenge – so talk to the community!

Step 6: Get Feedback

Given that we are always working under an agile methodology, it is very important to have intermediate sessions. In these hands-on sessions, we let users play around with our Salesforce (in a sandbox environment).

Following this testing, we arrange a feedback session. These steps are critical to ensure a smooth and solid transition to take the project live, and guarantee all users are familiar and comfortable with the new system.

Step 7: Deployment and Training

Now, we are ready to deploy to production, and start training the different teams.

After the training sessions, it is always important to leave support material for the team’s progressive growth in learning to use Salesforce. Good examples include:

  • Interactive video explaining some process
  • User’s Manual
  • FAQ Manual

Tip 5: Celebrate after each successful step. If the client is open to it, you can take champagne, or invite the team to dinner. Create relationships.

Summary: The Last Tip

Take the Salesforce culture to your client, everything from the Ohana, to the Trailblazer movement, and the community energy. Build a relationship with the client; we are all people who are moved by trust, and often the secret of success lies in the relationship and trust created with the client.

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