Become a Salesforce Change Master in 10 Easy Steps

By Eric Dreshfield

Here’s one of the greatest benefits of running your organization on Salesforce: it allows you to easily customize the application to fit your unique business needs, making it agile and dynamic enough to meet the constantly changing needs of your organization. It’s also one of the greatest curses of running your organization on Salesforce – with so much flexibility and power, it can be a nightmare to keep up with all the changes. 

As your business evolves, your Salesforce org becomes increasingly complex. Over time, you may realize that multiple changes, legacy implementations, and hotfixes have filled your Salesforce org with many unused and unassigned components, an overabundance of automations, duplications, and technical bugs. 

Implementing necessary changes in your Salesforce org then becomes very laborious and risky, making it even more difficult to meet the needs of your business or spark new innovation. The fact that there is often limited documentation of the legacy implementations makes it even harder for you to manage. 

There are simply too many unknowns due to unclear dependencies and relationships. When you cannot understand, in advance, exactly how and what will be impacted by a planned change, unexpected errors and complications cause delays, frustrations, and backtracking. It may make you feel like you’re losing control of the system. 

But fear not! Here’s how you can regain control and master Salesforce changes in 10 easy steps.

Step 1: Start With a Discovery

Business teams may often approach you, as the Salesforce org manager, with very specific change requests – for example “Please build a new Field, or create a new process”. Those are not really requests for change. These are really solutions that have already been identified before the problem needing to be solved has been properly determined. Your job is to look deeper and to ask the right questions to understand their goals and business objectives, to discover the right issues and ultimately design the right solutions.

It’s your responsibility to ask and answer the following questions to determine the best course of action and/or solution:

  • Is the business team simply unaware of an existing option, feature, or capability in your Salesforce org? If so, training is all they need.
  • Can the defined need be met with an improvement to the current build? If yes, the next step is designing an enhancement.
  • Or is a deeper, more complex and comprehensive change needed? If that’s the case, you may need to develop a new build from scratch or seek out a solution from the Salesforce AppExchange.

You need to make sure you are solving the right problem and picking the right solution to help the business teams do their jobs better. This is what will ultimately ensure the success of your planned change.

Step 2: Plan it Right

Having clearly defined your goal, the next step is to accurately define the scope of the change to be made. Be sure to prioritize the must-have, high-value elements over the other less urgent items.

Absolutely critical to your success is having a map of your Salesforce landscape, as well as a clear view of the relationships and dependencies among all components (e.g. Apex classes, Process Builders, Flows, Fields, and more). This will help you understand, in advance, the direct and indirect impact of any planned change, so you can decide what should be built from scratch, updated, or deleted.

Try to select the right tools to help you avoid risk. Change Intelligence tools like Panaya ForeSight will enable you to analyze your org’s metadata during the planning stage, and will provide you with a visual dependencies mapping of your org’s structure. With these insights at hand, you can fully understand, in advance, exactly how and what will be impacted by the change you are planning. It can help you predict high-risk impacts and determine development scopes. 

Tools like these will help you stay in control, save time, avoid the unexpected errors and frustrations, and will also allow you to continuously make changes and innovate in your Salesforce org. 

Once the scope is defined, you can more accurately estimate the resources and time needed for your project. For example, it will let you know if a code-based component is involved in the change you are making – in this case, you may need to involve a developer in the change.

Don’t forget to add time (and dollars) for contingencies as there are almost always unexpected developments.

Next, recruit your stakeholders and ambassadors. In each team, office, or region, select champions who will follow up with their peers and can provide highly targeted mini-training sessions for specific user groups. Work with them on quality assurance testing, as they will have the most practical insights about the intuitiveness of the process you are designing and whether it provides the value users will expect. Their feedback can be gold!

Step 3: Document, Document, Document – Everything!

Documentation is critical to sustainable success in your Salesforce org. This includes both technical documentation for the Salesforce team, as well as user-facing business documentation and guides for the Salesforce business users. 

Technical Documentation will help you and your colleagues be up to date on the recent and planned implementations, and allow you to provide ongoing and professional services to the business users. Some examples of such documentation could be: Populating the descriptions in Salesforce fields for proper documentation of the field’s purpose, or setting a naming convention for Salesforce validation rules so it is easy for all Admins to keep track.

Business Documentation will improve adoption and make Salesforce easier for the business teams. Don’t leave them guessing or having to remember a series of actions to achieve what they want. You can populate help texts on fields or create go-to guides for them. 

Regardless of where, how, or what you document, always make sure it is simple and intuitive; keep the documentation short and to the point, and make sure it is easy to locate, organized, readable, and up to date. There is a fine line here though – you do not want to overdo it with documentation!

Step 4: Train Well and Train Early

Plan user training sessions as early in the process as possible. You will avoid dropping a sudden change on the sales teams, and instead promote trust, visibility, and an open line of communications. Be creative with training and make sure it’s productive. Here are some ideas: 

  • Let users know what’s in it for them: They need to see the value and benefits they will gain from upcoming changes to be willing to adopt it. Even if the new process will require them to spend time or do more in Salesforce, they will follow it if the value for them is clear.
  • Make it easy to follow the new processes: This can include sharing step-by-step guides and cheat sheets, or any other innovative method that will help produce results.
  • Use gamification: To encourage solving problems and updating behaviors, you can motivate users by creating performance dashboards, noting ‘Winners of the Week’ or using Salesforce Celebrations.

Let users know that Salesforce has a wealth of options they can take advantage of. Drive home the idea: “If it’s not in Salesforce, it doesn’t exist.”

Finally, collect feedback and leave room for Q&A. This improves communication and visibility by letting your colleagues know they are being listened to. This also tends to positively influence user adoption. The feedback can serve as a sanity check for you, and it indicates if your planned change is, in fact, built correctly for the purposes intended.

Step 5: Create a Success Checklist

Each change or development project in your Salesforce org comes with a risk. Whether making a small tweak to a Field, or creating a new automation – something might break, and users may get stuck. If you plan properly, you can minimize and mitigate those risks.

Creating a “checklist for success” for your release date will help to ensure there are no loose ends. The checklist should include the following:

  • A list of exactly what changes and enhancements are going to be deployed – this will help you prepare in advance for change sets or packages.
  • A list of actions that need to be done manually in production, such as activating a flow – you need to be mindful of these actions to ensure you allocate time for them on release day.
  • Make sure everyone needed for the project is available – whether that is developers or remote teams/contractors, make sure they are on-call in case their expertise is needed.
  • Be sure to plan the release to go live during the least busy day and time possible to minimize disruptions for stakeholders.

When it’s ‘go time’, you will know exactly what needs to be done – just follow the steps and stick to the plan, and you will be able to lead a seamless and successful release.

Step 6: Communication is Critical

Some of the tips thus far have included suggestions aimed at increasing communication with the sales teams and other members of your organization. As a general rule, do not surprise anyone with a Salesforce change and be sure to communicate every single change – that’s new features, enhancements to existing functionality, and bug fixes. Make it a habit to provide the relevant stakeholders with status updates along the way, including risks, possible delays, and successes. 

This approach creates a high level of trust and increases visibility. Members of the organization who are involved early on will feel more committed and engaged and this will ultimately translate into successful user adoption.

Step 7: Measuring and Monitoring

It is important to track performance and adoption in your Salesforce org, so you can ensure it is running smoothly and determine if additional training or implementation are needed. Measuring and monitoring your org allows you to proactively identify inefficiencies before the business users even raise any flags. Keeping track of your org will help you recognize components that are not being used, or even discover repetitive tasks that can be automated.

In addition, make sure you revisit the implementations within your org periodically. As Salesforce constantly evolves, new and enhanced solutions become available; what you previously built may no longer be the best solution. 

Most importantly, encourage your team to share knowledge and lessons learned. Sometimes implementations may not work as expected, teams might complain, and bugs might appear. Create a positive space for the team to share their experiences, and of course, celebrate the successes together.

Step 8: Test, Test, Test!

The beauty of Salesforce is that so many out-of-the-box functions can be adjusted to meet the needs of your business. But, as any seasoned Salesforce professional will tell you, building applications is the easy part. The real challenge is ensuring they do not break over time. Having a robust testing procedure in place will allow you to continue to build – and experiment – without fear of failure. Whether you are making a small tweak or planning a major release, take the time to test your development before you deploy the change.

Determining what to test to minimize breakage in production is a critical part of establishing your Salesforce testing strategy. The potential for missing critical steps in your testing plan is large and high risk. By using the right tools that integrate multiple elements of your design and testing process, you can quickly identify what changes in your deployment have the highest risk of breakage and focus your test efforts around preventing that. With Panaya Foresight, you can also consolidate your test feedback and streamline your documentation creation.

Include accelerated testing alongside your test automation management as a holistic solution. Accelerated testing is not always the same as test automation. UAT testing still has to be performed by a human. However, manual testing activities can be accelerated and streamlined by using Panaya to centralize your test criteria. 

Step 9: Use Your Sandboxes Appropriately

Business teams are often quite demanding and expect aggressive delivery timelines. This leads to frequent releases and raises a classic dilemma: Do you make a change fast and risk potential errors in production? Or do you make a change right, and spend a bit more time preparing and testing it? 

The customizations and complexity in your Salesforce org could be a great source for unexpected troubles (i.e. those ‘too many unknowns’’ we mentioned above). What looks like ‘just a small tweak’ can easily lead to an unexpected ripple effect that will disrupt your Salesforce org. So, whatever you do, do not work in production.

Step 10: Deliver Quick Wins

A good way to constantly deliver value for your organization is by delivering quick wins as often as possible. Constantly create momentum and prioritize the high-value, low-effort deliverables. 

The quick wins ensure the business teams are not kept waiting needlessly, and help the Salesforce team demonstrate fast delivery and capability. By delivering quick wins, business teams are happy with the results and your team stays motivated. This builds relationships that are based on trust, commitment, and delivery. 

Do not forget to celebrate those quick wins and milestones. Acknowledge excellency and achievements, and keep the teams engaged. This will make the Salesforce change management process more innovative and fun for all the teams that are involved.

As you implement change intelligence best practices, success will heavily depend on using the right tools. That is where the advanced technology of Panaya comes in. 

From an interactive graphic visualization of the dependencies in your Salesforce org to automatic impact analysis reports, Panaya ForeSight provides the real-time visibility and risk-based analysis needed for informed development decisions. With a clear, in-depth understanding of your org, you can implement changes faster, avoid errors, and easily investigate inefficiencies in your org.

Final Thoughts 

Best practices need the best technologies. Panaya is your partner for effective Salesforce org management so you can meet your goals, achieve your business objectives, and lead successful releases, every time.

Take advantage of everything discussed, and you will quickly become a Salesforce Change Master too!

The Author

Eric Dreshfield

Founder, Midwest Dreamin'; Salesforce MVP Hall of Fame; Principal Consultant, Dresh For Success LLC

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