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3 Tips for Building a Strong Technical Foundation With Salesforce

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IT teams can deliver results faster by prioritizing out-of-the-box functionality before considering custom development.

To help our customers achieve positive outcomes faster with Salesforce, our architects are sharing implementation best practices in a new expert insights blog series. Pushpi Mandal, architect director, contributed to this post. 

As Salesforce architects, our top priority is helping customers quickly design and implement new solutions to meet the ever-changing needs of their business. And while speed to value and fast implementation are critical, we know from experience that one of the key success factors is taking time up front to develop a design with a scalable and performant technical architecture. Why? It enables companies to make future decisions with confidence and consistency.

When working with customers, we often use the analogy of building a house, where a strong foundation ensures that the house is sturdy, livable, and set up for success. It’s the same mindset with the Salesforce platform. When you take the time to set up the technical foundation, you build a strong framework for your Salesforce platform for the short and long term. 

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We know what it takes to help you get the most out of your Salesforce platform. Recently, we wrote about how to prepare your organization for your Salesforce implementation, and earlier described how our Assurance Services offerings provide the fastest path to achieving your vision with Salesforce. 

Today, we’ll share three tips to build a strong technical foundation for your Salesforce solution. Taken together, all of these insights and best practices help ensure amazing results. 

1. Deliver faster results with out-of-the-box functionality

Speed and agility are important to our customers. You can deliver results faster by prioritizing out-of-the-box (OOTB) functionality before considering custom development. Too often, in the spirit of trying to deliver something unique, customers try to create custom solutions that ultimately slow things down and introduces complexity and technical debt. Undoing technical debt takes time, energy, and commitment, which slows the delivery of new services and capabilities.

Instead, we’ve seen the most successful customers focus specifically on capabilities business users are looking for, and then working with the OOTB functionality to deliver on those capabilities. Oftentimes, it’s a good idea to create a decision matrix, which helps guide teams as they evaluate and make decisions on the tradeoffs between custom and OOTB implementations. 

Finally, a decision-making framework is only as good as your ability and willingness to enforce it. Make sure that each time you build something new, you use this approach. Why? Because it’s critical to driving consistency and transparency, two crucial elements in maintaining the health of the platform.

For example, we recently worked with a customer who had to find a way to more safely engage with customers as a result of COVID-19. Since this was a unique process and use case, they did not have a solution. But instead of creating something custom, they used configurable Salesforce Lightning Layouts and Lightning Flows, which allowed them to create a new call center solution in just a few weeks. This allowed them to respond to customer inquiries fast, but in a scalable and simple way that adhered to their existing framework.

2. Focus on the foundation

Before releasing any services, apps or capabilities to production, you must ensure the soundness of the technical architecture upon which the foundation is built. As with the construction of a house, a solid foundation is critical to the success and longevity of what’s built on top. You should establish a set of design standards and practical rules that align with your vision and strategy. That way, each time you create a new feature or solution, you’re using the same repeatable principles and guidelines. This leads to a consistent development process, user experience, and greater end user adoption.

When IT teams build new features on a faulty foundation, it leads to more complexity that becomes harder to undo over time.

Unfortunately, stakeholders and developers, who may be in a rush to hit aggressive milestones, may set up their foundation incorrectly. This not only hinders the foundation, but also creates a domino effect, impacting downstream processes and users. We’ve seen it happen. IT teams build new features on a faulty foundation, which leads to further complexity and issues that become harder to correct over time. For example, if you build a faulty or incomplete data model, any user or process that uses that data is impacted by that decision, which causes ripple effects for any downstream process or user. 

When you take the time to develop a solid technical foundation, including defining key design principles, you have confidence to build and deliver solutions faster. These key design principles help everyone, including major stakeholders, understand the potential tradeoffs in subsequent feature or functionality decisions. In other words, when someone makes a request, they can understand how that request impacts everything else. 

3. Create a playbook and process for delivering new features

Eventually, as you begin to roll out new features, your end users and stakeholders will make requests and ask for new functionality. A playbook and process for managing these requests will allow you to scale, and prioritize the requests against key business needs. 

We cannot stress enough the importance of spending time up front creating a strong technical foundation.

In this playbook, you should have a process for capturing requirements or requests, documenting changes and standard protocols for managing your solution and keeping it clean. Oftentimes, when customers omit these things, questions arise that nobody has the answers to. When that happens, people keep building and building, which leads to significant technical debt that can be very hard to undo.

With a playbook and process, you can accurately assess the tradeoffs for your decisions. While there will always be costs and benefits to every decision, users or stakeholders are not always aware of the implications of what they ask for. The playbook should therefore be shared with stakeholders, so they can understand the potential impact. This transparency not only helps you manage expectations, but can also help your end users and stakeholders creatively come up with solutions that are optimized for customer use cases. 

We cannot stress enough the importance of spending the time up front creating a strong technical foundation. It will help you implement your Salesforce solution faster, while setting up your platform and business for long-term success. By focusing on OOTB functionality, creating design principles for your technical foundation, and thinking through opportunity cost, you’ll have a repeatable process for making sound technical decisions that allow you confidently release new features and solutions for your end users.

Learn more about how you can accelerate your path to ROI using Salesforce technology with the help of Salesforce experts

Debbie Kuklis Architect Director

Debbie has spent 19 years at Salesforce and 30 in the technology industry. She has helped large Fortune 500 customers in a wide variety of industries including health care, financial services/insurance, media, telecommunications, high tech and manufacturing drive results using the Salesforce platform.

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