What began as a CRM solution focused on sales teams has now evolved into a suite of products, covering not only sales, but also service, field service, marketing, eCommerce, automation, integration, analytics, AI, and more.
As Salesforce’s product offerings have grown, so have the complexities in implementing and managing Salesforce implementations. Organizations embarking on their Salesforce journey are confronted with new challenges, with increased business and technical complexity plus dependencies that impact project delivery.
Surprisingly, while numerous resources exist on Salesforce architecture and technical development, there has been a notable absence of comprehensive guidance on the implementation lifecycle for Salesforce projects or programs.
This article will present a framework for approaching Salesforce implementation projects, and share guidance on setting an organization up for successful Salesforce program management.
A Framework for Salesforce Implementation
Let’s get started with an overview of the framework:
This phase sets the foundation for your Salesforce project. During this time, you will establish the project’s vision, define its scope and objectives (requirements gathering), secure the necessary budget, and start to engage with Salesforce and Salesforce implementation partners. Additionally, this phase involves the establishing a governance body that will oversee and drive the project’s successful delivery.
In this phase, the project team comes together to implement the Salesforce solution. Various methodologies exist for Salesforce project delivery. Regardless of the chosen methodology (waterfall, agile, or the illusive hybrid agile approach) the development phase encompasses detailing the scope, design, build, and testing of the Salesforce solution to ensure its quality and alignment with business requirements.
This critical stage involves deploying the solution, migrating data, training end-users, providing necessary support, and closely monitoring and driving user adoption. During this phase, it is crucial to track user feedback to make informed adjustments and address any challenges promptly. Effective change management and user engagement are key drivers of success during the roll-out phase.
In the final phase, organizations enter a state of continuous improvement. As business needs evolve, this involves managing and leveraging data as top priority while continually refining and optimizing the Salesforce org. By embracing ongoing enhancements and staying attuned to user feedback, organizations can maximize the long-term value of their Salesforce investment.
Next, let’s look at how to check if your Salesforce implementation is on track…
Salesforce Implementations: The Checklist for Success
The following sections provide some of the key questions to consider in each phase of a Salesforce implementation.
Discovery (Pre-Development) Phase Checklist
To be successful in this phase, you have to:
- Enlist an executive sponsor for your Salesforce project: This ensures that priorities are correctly established, top-down, allowing for everyone related to the project to be given time to work towards the project. Example: If this is a Sales Cloud project, the CRO would be a good option; for a Marketing Cloud project, the CMO would be best suited.
- Create a Salesforce taskforce to drive the activities: These are the people who make up the core project team, giving their input into the solution, and later on, testing before roll-out. Example: For an Account Engagement (Pardot) project, you would need input from members of the marketing team who will be using the solution, and also from members of the sales team who will be receiving incoming leads. Both teams need to work together to ensure prospect records have the correct data in order to be prioritized for the next stage of qualification.
- Create a vision for your Salesforce project: This should be aligned with your executive sponsor and key stakeholders. Think about the end goal and what metrics will indicate success. Example: Reducing down time to generate complex proposals, the number of qualified leads, the ease (time required) to qualify new leads.
- Understand why now is the right time for your Salesforce project.
- Understand your organization’s strategic situation: This includes its structure, who your customers are, your products and services, and your competitive situation. Example: Your organization is introducing a new product line to target manufacturers, and reducing the time to generate complex proposals will gain more customers, and simultaneously, beat competitors.
- Define the nature of your Salesforce project: Including the business capabilities in scope and involving end users to understand current business processes and their challenges (also known as requirements gathering). Example: You agree to tackle the configure price quote (CPQ) and proposal generation, but the portal for partners to submit leads will be left until a later phase.
- Determine the high-level technical scope (clouds and licenses): This includes technical enablers and non-functional requirements Example: How many users need access to configure price quote (CPQ)? Are there sub-groups of users within teams, and should their permissions differ based on what they need to do/should only have access to?
- Decide how to deliver your Salesforce project: Choosing the delivery methodology for your Salesforce project. Example: Waterfall is a methodology where one phase is completed and signed off before moving on to the next phase. Agile, on the other hand, means that the development teams work in sprints (short periods of time) and can embrace last-minute change. Typically, project tasks are arranged into columns using Kanban.
- Consider your project and roll-out phasing approach: This covers geography and scope. Example: Are you phasing the project to deliver some functionality first, then revisit more in a further phase? Are you delivering functionality to all regional teams, or starting with one region to pilot the functionally?
- Determine your change management and communication strategy.
- Envision your Salesforce Center of Excellence (CoE): Including creating a charter, determining the structure and responsibilities of the CoE, and creating a roadmap for your Salesforce program.
- Secure funding for your Salesforce project: By defining KPIs and targets, creating a financial forecast, calculating ROI, and payback of your Salesforce project. You will also need to present your Salesforce project business case to senior management.
- Evaluated and selected an implementation partner: Be mindful in describing the responsibilities of each party in the contract.
Development Phase Checklist
To be successful in this phase, you have to:
- Ensure the required internal resources were allocated to your Salesforce project: This includes the development team who will build the solutions, and members of other teams who are your stakeholders and will need to take time out of their days to clarify details and test the solutions.
- Involved end users in the ideation of future business processes.
- Make sure the product owner(s) is suitably qualified: They need to be empowered to detail user stories and provide acceptance criteria on behalf of the business stakeholders.
- Determine how much architectural runway you want to create before starting development: This is the foundational components of the system you will need in order to build/customize Salesforce according to your near-term development plan.
- Understand what degree of customization your Salesforce solution will have: Building on Salesforce is one aspect, but being confident in who and how much effort it will take to maintain is a key aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked. Consider that the more customization is done, the more effort it will likely take to maintain.
- Established your team’s development process to build and test your release.
- Consider putting in place the following mechanisms to govern your implementation:
- A design authority to ensure proposed solutions adhere to your target solution architecture and development guidelines.
- A change control board to have a forum to discuss and approve or reject proposed changes or new requested scope.
- A steering committee to guide and govern the delivery of your Salesforce project.
- Put in place an adequate testing regime: This will secure a high quality Salesforce solution. Testing properly lessens the risk that releases will cause errors, and therefore ensures business continuity. Deployments with bugs will mean the team will need to roll-back changes, causing delays to the development roadmap.
- Understand the key methods to track progress in the development phase: For example, will the development team be working in an agile methodology, with regular sprint reviews? Will there be tools to help organize work to be done, for example, Jira or Asana.
- Create your data migration strategy and plan: Data migration will differ depending on the size, format, and accuracy of the source data. The work required before the actual transfer is the most complex part, which is why planning in advance is essential.
Roll-Out Phase Checklist
To be successful in this phase, you have to:
- Have perfected your deployment plan and checklist (deployment runbook).
- Determine who should participate in and drive user acceptance testing (UAT).
- Have executed at least one successful dry run of data migration: This should be done in a staging environment (sandbox), and the business and technical stakeholders who need to sign off the data migration should have it scheduled in their calendars.
- Communicate the data migration plan to the wider team: Including any expected downtime associated with it.
- Plan, communicate, and manage the change to come: For this, you need to clearly understand what will change and for which stakeholders and create a change management plan which can be adapted as you progress with your roll-out
- Determine your mix of training methods.
- Determine your ongoing support process: This includes deciding the criteria for transitioning from hypercare (in the first days/weeks/months) to ongoing support. It will depend on the severity of the changes to people’s workflows, and the complexity of the solution/s. For example, moving from manual quoting to a full-blown CPQ solution will be a significant change for the sales team.
- Set up methods to monitor and drive user adoption.
- Evaluate how your business is performing against the original business case.
Continuous Improvement Phase Checklist
After the first go-live with Salesforce, you should:
- Make sure your Salesforce program, platform, and organization’s vision are still aligned.
- Update your Salesforce CoE with core roles.
- Update your Salesforce roadmap: With what functionality you will hope to add in the next quarter, year, two years, etc.
- Began to transform from funding discrete projects (statements of work) to funding your Salesforce program as a whole: This can be done with consistent agile product teams.
You should continuously:
- Enhance your understanding of product organizations and drive the transformation to become one: This puts how you market and sell your products/services at the core of your operations, and then is reflected in how your Salesforce org functions.
- Regularly facilitate user feedback forums.
- Monitor and understand your users’ adoption and usage of new and existing features.
- Govern the health of your Salesforce platform: This includes conducting regular health checks using the tools embedded in Salesforce, and possibly third-party tools.
- Move toward smaller, more frequent releases.
- Evaluate your Salesforce DevOps capabilities: Then drive actions to enhance them.
- Govern and improve your Salesforce data quality.
- Assess your data maturity: This is done by determining the nature of your data analytics (descriptive-diagnostic-predictive-prescriptive-cognitive). For example, if you are intending to do predictive analytics, you will need sufficient data in order for the system to make accurate, unbiased predictions. Data will need to be of good quality and be in a format that the system can ingest.
- Enhance, govern, monitor, maintain, and improve your data analytics, automation, and AI services.
- Share your knowledge and experiences: Now you have been through the process, you can inspire and engage with the peers in your organization as well as in the Salesforce Trailblazer community.
How to Deal With Issues in Salesforce Implementations
We will all face challenges, risks, and issues in a Salesforce implementation, but it’s how we deal with them that will ultimately determine the success of the implementations – and shape us as Salesforce professionals.
Visit the Salesforce Implementation Help Center to find common issues and strategies for mitigation and prevention.
Implementing and managing Salesforce implementations can be very complex, so it’s necessary to have a thorough plan and checklist of tasks that need to be completed at each stage.
This article is informed by my book, Salesforce End-to-End Implementation Handbook, where I offer insights into what I have seen work (and not work), so that you can learn from them.
I’d love you to share your experience of Salesforce implementations in the comments, and together we can create better Salesforce delivery!