#NovelEconomy: Transforming the Salesforce Implementation Lifecycle to Prepare for the Post-COVID World

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Many industries recognize that they are going to have to change their business models, not just a stop-gap for the next few months, but permanently change the way they operate.

For some, this has been a function of demand evaporating (which will be very slow to come back), for others, customers have had their expectations of delivery or service changed and finally, there’s been surprising, prodigious demand for the lucky few organisations.

Industry leaders, including Salesforce, have identified 3 phases that organizations are going to go through in their recovery: ‘Stabilize’, ‘Reopen’, ‘Grow’.

Organizations are currently adapting in the ‘Stabilize’ phase, which is about reacting to crisis. Forward-thinking leaders are transforming their businesses digitally due to a change in customer expectations and the markets in order to be effective in the ‘Grow’ phase. COVID-19 has accelerated this agenda. Salesforce will be at the heart of these transformations as they will be centered on a 360 degree view of the customer.

In this guide, I will discuss two frameworks that organisations will need to depend on to quickly optimize their business models (people, process and technology) in response to dynamically changing conditions. I will start by outlining the 3 phases towards the ‘next normal’, and how I see organisations who will, or won’t, get to the ‘Growth’ phase quickly. Then, using the ‘Rapid Response Cycle’, I will describe the approaches to change management of organizations that will succeed in the long term, despite rapid progression through the 3 phases ‘Stabilize’, ‘Reopen’, ‘Grow’. By the end, you will understand the importance of technology and documentation in successfully navigating the ‘next normal’.

#NovelEconomy: Preparing for the Post-COVID World

What is clear is that the future is not clear. But, what is certain is that companies that adapt to the new post-COVID19 world to stay engaged with their customers will survive and thrive.  Speed and relevance are critical metrics.

Brian Solis, Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce describes this as the #NovelEconomy.

“Novel represents a new strain of market conditions that are not fully identified or understood. Thus, we have no pre-existing defences or experience against this level of astonishing disruption. We were all simultaneously thrust into a melee of panic, fear, confusion, and disorder. There’s really no widespread expertise, playbooks, or best practices to guide us. Nor, is there a preventative business vaccine to protect us from this or future disruption…yet.”

3 Phases Towards the ‘Next Normal’

As I mentioned in the opening to this guide, Salesforce has set out the 3 phases to get to the Next Normal: ‘Stabilize’, ‘Reopen’, ‘Grow’.


Mitigate short-term risks and stabilize operations.

This has been the last few weeks for everyone. Companies are doing what they can to shore up business, throwing apps together, making changes on the fly. It has been a reaction to changing circumstances which are not expected to be the long-term norm.


Plan and orchestrate a return to the workplace.

The next phase is getting organizations back working. Leaders need to put in place the planning, logistics, and communications to resume operations while protecting employees.


Accelerate change to grow in the next normal.

This phase is building a highly agile business to be able to adapt to changing business models and priorities in the short to medium term. The forward-thinking leaders are already planning for this phase. Their focus will be on delivering digital transformation which is robust, agile and compliant.

Most organizations are in the midst of the Stabilize phase and are planning the Reopen phase – but leaders should be looking how to be best positioned to Grow. 

To do so, the focus has to be on optimizing business models that are relevant now and sustainable over the next few years. Digital transformation is at the heart of this, plus picking the best from what was thrown together in the Stabilize phase.

Blunted Agility: Challenges Salesforce Customers Face

Many organizations are unprepared for the pace of change that will be required. All of this is massively disruptive and also a huge opportunity that should not be missed – that will accelerate the pace of digital transformation inside organizations as a result.

According to research in Harvard Business Review, of the $1.3 trillion spent on digital transformation in 2018, an estimated $900 billion was wasted when initiatives didn’t meet their goals.

Many are overwhelmed by the idea of having to redesign their entire operation and do not have a blueprint to implement a transformation.

When it comes to Salesforce orgs, high levels of technical debt, long Salesforce implementation release cycles and low adoption rates have blunted the agility of organizations. Even the largest and most mature Salesforce customers say they do not have a platform that provides centralized documentation and impact assessment to allow them to make Salesforce Org changes at pace.

In the interests of speed, the business is tempted to take shortcuts or leave out key steps. For example: rushing straight into build without bottoming out the requirements or thinking through the architecture.

Without documentation and impact assessments, they suffer from an increased level of technical, business and governance (regulatory) risk. Simply put, they are not exploiting the potential power Salesforce offers.

The Salesforce implementation lifecycle, itself, needs to be digitally transformed. There should be a natural flow of documentation along the lifecycle. Every phase should use the documentation from earlier phases.

Currently, vital time and information is lost transferring from document to spreadsheet to app and then back to document:

  • There is no reuse of information,
  • Information is not present in the correct contexts,
  • The power of the Salesforce metadata APIs is not exploited,
  • There is no impact analysis, traceability or governance.

It does not have to be this way: the power is in building on the previous release.

Getting to the Growth Phase

What is clear, is that every organization needs to get to the Grow phase in the best shape possible.

As Salesforce points out, some organizations there will be overlap in the phases as business units operate at different speeds based on geography, markets and the maturity of the operation.

Rapid Response Cycle: Analyze, Build, Deliver Operate

The Salesforce Org should become more valuable with age – rather like fine wine or classic sports cars. It should get incrementally better every hour, every day, every release.

What is required is a centralized platform designed to support rapid business change and Salesforce releases. It coordinates the development and reuse of all documentation around the lifecycle and provides impact assessment to reduce risks when making changes.

The tactical benefits of using a centralized platform to drive more rapid and controlled change release cycles can be:

  • 25% process improvement savings,
  • 80% reduction in impact assessment effort,
  • 20% increased user adoption

All of these underpin and accelerate the digital transformation agenda (which is the far larger prize). So, there is an immediate return, that will keep paying back long after we have forgotten COVID-19.

Digital Transformation Agendas on Steroids with Salesforce 360

Digital transformation means streamlining processes and enterprise applications to improve not only the customer experience, but also the partner and employee experience.

Digital transformation needs to be led from the top, endorsed by IT, and supported by all business units. The promise made to the customers at the front end needs to be able to be delivered by the back office.

Salesforce is perfectly positioned since digital transformation will require a far more customer-centric perspective than seen in previous business models. Salesforce can become the single master view of customer data: Customer360.

Above: predicted changes in IT spend by industry. Constellation Research from their post-COVID-19 playbook.

Change Management: Not a Simple Digitization of pre-COVID-19 Business Models

What makes the ‘Grow’ phase even more challenging is that organizations have a limited view of what shape the new business models would take to work best. The challenge will be for organizations to iterate their way towards the right answer.

A core skill for organizations is change management – at pace.

This is the ability to rapidly change the business operations (people, process, technology), whilst keeping everyone on the same page, realizing that the page could look different tomorrow.

This level of change will put a huge strain on all areas of the organization. If a lack of oversight and governance was acceptable – or at least ignored –  during the ‘Stabilize’ and ‘Reopen’ phases will not be tolerated in the ‘Grow’ phase.

Formula for Change Management

Here is how I boil change management down into a formula:

The organizations that will come out on top will empower talented and motivated people, who are consistently following easily understood business processes, supported by intuitive, integrated applications.

Back in 2004, the founders of Elements wrote a book called Common Approach, Uncommon Results which has a simple formula R=I x A2 (Results = Initiative x Adoption squared). The main point was that adoption is the end goal, and is far more important than launching yet another initiative. Adoption of:

  • New working practices (processes).
  • New technology/apps.
  • New skills.

That message is the same today, except COVID-19 is driving extreme urgency.

That book had several examples of companies in every industry taking a process-led approach to drive user adoption and getting remarkable results. This concept has not changed. However, in the 16 years since the book was published, we now have cloud-based apps that are built for rapid innovation, with the ability to configure using clicks not code. This should make it easier to drive change, yet, barriers remain.

Rapid Response Cycle Revisited

Earlier, I said that a centralized platform will be required by every organization using Salesforce, designed to support rapid business change, coordinate development as part of Salesforce releases, reusing documentation around the lifecycle, and providing impact assessment to reduce risks.

The platform would comprise of:

  • A list of requirements and user stories
  • A library of process diagrams
  • A metadata dictionary for every metadata item in the Salesforce Org, with metadata automated and manually added documentation
  • Library of end user help topics and feedback

The Rapid Response Cycle underpins and accelerates the digital transformation agenda (which is the far larger prize that will keep paying back long after we have forgotten COVID-19). I will dive into more details of each of these phases in this section.

Analysis Phase

  • Process mapping
  • Requirements
  • User stories
  • Org impact analysis

Process mapping:

Process diagrams describe how to deliver a digital experience that will wow customers, that can be delivered by the organization, and are scalable.

Engage stakeholders to design the new end-to-end business processes in a live workshop. These process diagrams are easily understood, version controlled, using the simple, proven UPN (Universal Process Notation).

The process diagrams will be reused for testing and training because they can be delivered very quickly, collaboratively and remotely.


In these workshops, you bottom-out the requirements for the new apps or changes to the existing apps. Requirements are linked to specific steps in the process diagrams to give them context.

User Stories:

From these requirements, you can create user stories. These are prioritized into Sprints which are then synced to Jira, Salesforce Agile Accelerator (or an alternative tool) and used in the next phase.

Build Phase

  • Configure
  • Code
  • Org documentation
  • Test

Org documentation:

User stories are related to the metadata items in the Salesforce metadata dictionary that have been created or changed.

The metadata dictionary is kept in sync with the 10,000s of configuration items that make up the Salesforce Org: objects and fields, page layouts, automation, reports, Apex, Managed Packages etc. The metadata dictionary will sync with production and all sandboxes and track metadata changes and documentation through the deployment pipeline.

This provides traceable documentation with minimum effort and is an approach that supports both Salesforce declarative tools and code.

The metadata dictionary evaluates the impact of changes on other metadata items and external systems to establish the risk and delivery timelines – this is an important step that is often missed because it is so hard to accomplish manually! Skipping this step has dire consequences.

The metadata dictionary understands all the metadata inter-relationships and can automatically generate “system” documentation – metadata summaries, dependency maps and impact assessments.

Manual documentation on metadata changes improve future impact assessments:

  • “What was done”: what the automated/system documentation provides. You can link metadata items to process diagrams, requirements, user stories, dictated notes, photos of whiteboards and screenshots or any URL link to provide the…
  • “Why we did it”, which also provides information about external relationships, interfaces to 3rd party systems that cannot be built automatically by the metadata dictionary. This could be as simple as a quick note, link or photo.

User Acceptance Testing:

The process maps are used for User Acceptance Testing because they are a description of the desired business operation that the app needs to support; catching problems here is significantly cheaper than after go-live!

Deliver Phase

  • Backup
  • Deploy
  • Data load
  • Release

The metadata changes must be driven through the deployment pipeline: Dev testing → UAT →  training → Production. Tracking these migrations improves traceability and is the final chance for an impact assessment of the changes. Prior to the final deployment, a backup of metadata should be taken to make roll-back possible if required.


Deployment can be done with Salesforce change sets, but these are time-consuming; readily available commercial DevOps tools can accelerate this phase.

Operate Phase

  • Monitor
  • Feedback & help
  • Compliance
  • Restore

Training & Adoption

The aim of rapid cycles is to be able to quickly iterate change, responding to the market needs.

In-app self-help is what users now expect. Minimizing the fields on screens, hiding complexity with automation and providing in-app help in page layouts increases user adoption, reduces user frustration, and reduces training time and cost.

The field impact assessment will identify the key fields that require help to improve data quality. Documentation in the metadata dictionary (video, notes, process diagrams) linked to objects, fields and record types can be made to pop-up on user screens.

For highly regulated operations, tracking the training that users have accessed can provide governance as training records. Completion of training could even control user access to fields or page layouts.

Feedback & help

Capturing feedback, soliciting or encouraging users to rate will keep the organization responsive.

Feedback must be captured in context and managed centrally. Some feedback can be resolved in minutes with tweaks or additional training content because it is not tied to the Salesforce implementation cycle. Other feedback will generate new requirements and the cycle starts again.


As organizations iterate and try to optimize their business operations they need to rely on solid metrics. Existing dashboards and reports will have to be updated for the new operational reality. Executives will want to try and find leading, not lagging, indicators so that they get early warning. Looking at the process will help identify the key upstream metrics.

Using the metadata dictionary impact assessment of dashboards and reports can validate the accuracy of the data that is feeding them, giving executive management confidence in their decision making.


The overall benefits of digital transformation are unequivocal and organizations that can respond quickly in the Grow phase will ultimately emerge as the overall winners. The tactical benefits of using a centralized platform to drive more rapid and controlled change release cycles can be as high as 25% process improvement savings, 80% reduction in impact assessment effort and 20% increased user adoption All of these underpin and accelerate the digital transformation agenda which is the far larger prize.

The kicker is that none of this requires a huge change in the way that teams are currently working. It is just putting in place a centralized approach for management of the flow of documentation. So, there is an immediate return, that will keep paying back long after we have forgotten COVID-19.

About Elements.cloud

Elements.cloud has been designed as a digital transformation platform that can scale to the largest organizations worldwide to support rapid pace of change, with confidence, collaborative oversight and governance. It is tightly integrated into the Salesforce platform and is based on 20+ years of proven projects.

Salesforce COVID-19 Response Playbook

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