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Why IT Implementations Fail, and How a Business Capabilities Assessment Improves Your Odds of Success

Just 16% of executives say their organization’s digital transformation initiatives have resulted in better business performance. A business capabilities assessment can help.

engineers working on project

To help our customers achieve positive outcomes faster with Salesforce, our Customer Success experts are sharing implementation best practices in a new Expert Insights blog series. 

The adage “no pain, no gain” originated a long time ago, but it could have been coined for today’s digital transformations. System integrations, culture change, lack of the right skills, not understanding the necessary business capabilities — anyone who’s been involved with a major technology implementation knows the pain. But the biggest challenge is realizing the gain.

Just 16% of executives say their organization’s digital transformation initiatives have improved performance and equipped them to sustain changes in the long term. How do you become one of the high performers? 

I’ve spent 13 years at Salesforce helping customers achieve success with our solutions. I’ve worked with hundreds of businesses through every stage of their digital journeys — from those just starting out to enterprises embarking on complex, global transformations. Invariably, I’ve found the organizations that succeed with their implementations are those that prepare well. And the companies that get the most value from their IT investments are those whose plans include a detailed assessment of their business capabilities.

Without a deep understanding of your capabilities, you won’t know what needs to change in your business. And you certainly won’t know how to change. That’s where a value maturity assessment comes in. 

What is a value maturity assessment?

The first step is to define clear, pragmatic business goals for your transformation. Then you can identify the challenges and gaps likely to prevent you from achieving those goals. At Salesforce, we call this a value maturity assessment — and it’s one of the most popular workshops I run.

By undertaking an assessment like this, you can create a roadmap for success — a plan that will turn your corporate vision into a reality. The plan should answer key questions: What business value is your company striving toward? How do you plan to achieve that value? And how will you track and measure progress toward your success? What does business value actually mean for your company?

As part of the process of assessing business capabilities and value maturity, we help customers create what we call a business value map with the following components:

Business goals

Definition: The primary outcomes you hope to achieve as part of your mission. They should be set by, or at least have buy-in from, the executive team, including the CEO.
Example: Improve customer satisfaction to reduce attrition by 5%.

Business objectives

Definition:  The strategies you use to achieve your business goals. Your objectives should adhere to the SMART framework — that is, they should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.
Example: Provide excellent service and sell 5% more products in industrial widgets.

Business capabilities

Definition: The capabilities of your organization that will drive top line and bottom line value from your implementation.
Example: Customer journeys with life events; alerts to proactively respond to events affecting customers; customer knowledge and self-service.

Success metrics

Definition: The quantifiable measures used to track progress towards your business goals and objectives.
Example: Percentage of issues resolved in the first call, average handle time, cross sell/up sell.

Which business capabilities should you assess?

When managing an implementation, it’s understandable that an IT leader would focus on the technology. But for many organizations, the bigger challenges often arise from their people and processes — such as ensuring their culture supports change and innovation, and that they have the processes and governance in place to help implementations go smoothly. It’s also important to involve other department leaders and stakeholders outside of IT in the goal-setting process.  

In fact, the most common roadblock I encounter when helping customers with implementations is a lack of executive sponsorship. Without the right person backing a project, it’s extremely difficult to drive the required change across the organization.You’ll greatly improve your chances of success if, when assessing your organization’s capabilities, you focus on all three: people, process, and technology. In fact, at Salesforce, we’ve broken these down into eight domains that your organization should focus on to excel in the digital world.

people-process-technology png

These include:

  • Vision and strategy: the project’s North Star, including your business goals and objectives
  • Governance: the guide rails that reduce risk and allow your team to move quickly
  • Operating model: your team structure and decision-making process
  • Team members: the people with the know-how to deliver the project
  • Change management: the programs that enable your people to maintain and continue to develop the new solutions
  • Business processes and value: the ability to understand your business processes and map them to your solutions’ capabilities, so you can unlock additional value
  • New ways of working: the behavioral changes needed for your people to embrace your new solutions
  • Architecture: the technology solution’s design that your teams need to understand so they can adopt best practices

Where to start

As Beatrix Zimmerman, Salesforce’s Senior Director, Delivery Lead and Business Architect, noted in an earlier post in this Expert Insight series, it’s vital to lay the groundwork before starting your implementation. And a value maturity assessment can set you on the right path.

For example, by understanding the benchmarks for success and asking some tough questions, you can determine the maturity level of your organization’s vision and strategy. How would your organization describe how far along you are with setting vision and strategy, including the success metrics that will measure progress?

Basic

We haven’t thought about our business outcomes yet.

Emerging

We have a rough idea of what we want to achieve with Salesforce.

Practicing

We have defined outcomes of what we want to achieve with Salesforce, but haven’t thought about measuring progress.

Leading

We have clearly defined outcomes of what we want to achieve with Salesforce, and how we will measure progress.

Once you’ve gone through this process for all eight domains, you’ll have a deep understanding of your organization’s capabilities. You’ll be well-placed to identify how the business needs to change and what new capabilities it needs to achieve its goals.

But it’s crucial that you and your teams are brutally honest about your organization’s capabilities. This will ensure it’s mature enough for the technology you want to implement. For example, there’s no point implementing a powerful new development environment if your people lack the skills — or any way to upskill them — to build the apps you need to unlock business value.

Who to turn to for help

Salesforce has always prioritized providing a great experience for both IT teams and end users, so our customers can accelerate adoption and time to value. Nevertheless, we understand that some implementations can be complicated — and no matter what your needs are, we know you want to get the most value from your technology investment.

Customer success is a core value at Salesforce, and our teams are ready to help you on your path to success — starting with an assessment of your business capabilities and value. With Success Plans, our experts draw on proven methodologies to help you get more out of your Salesforce project, realize business value sooner, and build a sustainable success culture.


Greg joined Salesforce over 13 years ago and is a Principal Success Guide in the Customer Success Group. Working with customers every day, he helps them drive adoption and get the most value from Salesforce by delivering best practices, tailored recommendations, and guiding them through success resources.

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