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How To Prepare for Your Salesforce Implementation

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One of the best investments IT leaders can make is spending time up front preparing for your Salesforce implementation. It sounds simple and obvious but is often overlooked.

To help our customers achieve positive outcomes faster with Salesforce, our architects share how to prepare for your Salesforce implementation in a new expert insights blog series. 

As a Salesforce architect, I work alongside customers each day who implement Salesforce to strengthen relationships with their customers. Through dozens of implementations over 10 years, I’ve learned that one of the best investments you as IT leaders can make is spending time up front preparing for your Salesforce journey. This sounds simple and obvious, but it’s not always easy, and is often an overlooked element in a process that tends to focus heavily on technology. 

Starting an implementation without proper and diligent preparation and planning often leads to poor outcomes, which can require costly and time-consuming rework. Instead of making this common mistake, I’m going to share four ways Salesforce architects help customers prepare for their Salesforce projects.  We know that proper preparation sets you up for long-term success, and helps you get to your desired outcomes faster.

1. Align around a shared vision as a blueprint for success

Everyone understands that having a clear vision is critical to success. Unfortunately, not everyone spends time making sure all the right stakeholders are aligned and invested in that vision. Speaking with your stakeholders to understand objectives and creating a vision that aligns to their desired objectives ensures confidence and ownership of the vision. However, in a race to get started, or in the excitement to get new technology into the hands of users, teams often omit or underinvest in stakeholder alignment, which leads to resistance and/or low adoption, all of which leads to rework and hinders business value.

Most successful organizations take their vision on an internal ‘road show’ to drive alignment, build excitement, and get feedback.

Instead, I have seen successful teams collaboratively and collectively think about the short and long term when defining their vision for their Salesforce platform. This future-forward vision planning is not done in a silo, but with input from key stakeholders. Included in this vision are actual methods to achieve this vision, creating a blueprint for all teams inclusive of end users, executives, technical teams, and business operations. The most successful customers take it one step further, taking the vision on an internal road show to drive alignment, build excitement, and get feedback. When done right, the vision serves as a North Star that every major stakeholder understands and can easily articulate, which helps everyone move faster toward the goal.

Recently, I worked with a customer who was using a homegrown system to manage a series of processes that would not scale to support a key initiative, so we decided to move it to a solution built on Salesforce. They knew the system would have to be a complete solution that excluded manual workarounds and enabled users to work faster. However, they struggled to identify when and if their goals had been achieved. To align metrics to clear outcomes, we advised them to focus on both the exact “throughput” (volume) and exact “velocity” (how quickly requests are processed) which helped us understand if and to what degree they had achieved success. 

Many IT teams often equate a technology deliverable or go-live with success. But going live is just the beginning of your journey.

Choosing the right metrics and outcomes is critical, but many IT teams often equate a technology deliverable or go-live with success. But going live is just the beginning of your journey with technology. After all, if nobody is using it, or if people are still resorting to manual workarounds, you’re not achieving measurable results or, really, anything positive at all.

Metrics and outcomes help everyone understand what success looks like, and should align to clear business outcomes that can be tracked, measured against, and managed. This means identifying the right metric and managing it as the project evolves, since different metrics need to be measured at different stages of adoption. 

For example, when a system first goes live, success is measured by simple usage of the capabilities. As adoption increases, success may be measured in using the capabilities in the correct manner and generating good, reliable data. With the right metrics and outcomes, you can identify the projects and priorities that are most important to achieve those desired outcomes.

3. Change is hard and inevitable, so plan for it

Having a vision and establishing metrics is important, but how can you ensure those outcomes are achieved with all stakeholders rowing in the same direction towards the goal? This is where creating and executing on a detailed roadmap to coordinate everyone’s work is critical. 

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The roadmap helps project participants stay on course, prioritize activities, hold them accountable, and ultimately move faster. Many projects have roadmaps but fall short in being detailed enough to include all the teams involved in the project. A detailed roadmap should include not only what the development teams are doing and when, but all stakeholder deliverables including training, change management and the changes to the organization’s operating model. By doing this, it becomes clear how the deliverables impact all other stakeholders including business leaders, support teams, end users, and more.

Finally, planning early for messaging and training end users, and establishing “change champions” is critical. This is where having a detailed change management strategy comes in. A change management strategy should be uniquely woven into the fabric of the corporate culture, and while it’s great to utilize industry standards for change management, you also need to look deeply into the specific ways people work to ensure successful adoption for your unique needs. For example, a customer once told us its end users most relied on and placed the most trust in their direct supervisors. So we created a change management plan, designating these supervisors as “change agents,” who helped us communicate key messages to a broader swath of end users when it was time for launch. This ultimately helped drive key adoption amongst end users.

4. Establish strategies to improve speed and decision making

Even with the right planning, you still need to operate in a dynamic world where business needs and market conditions are evolving, or direction may at times be unclear. This has been put into stark relief over the last 11 months with the COVID-19 pandemic. This is where implementing the right governance model and intake process are critical to moving fast.

When done correctly, governance provides stability to ensure best practices are being followed at the right time, which allows customers to continuously innovate. Finally, putting the right intake process and structure in place for your organization drives accountability on the project, which is also why it is critical to work on this in the very beginning. With an intake and prioritization process in place, the implementation team and key stakeholders can elevate the conversation from  “how will we launch this feature?” to “how will we be able to continuously launch features?” This gets everyone into a motion of identifying future features and releases, which helps you deliver more value to your end users and your organization.

Starting your implementation with detailed and collaborative planning will be a critical component of your success. With a vision, metrics, roadmap, and governance process in place, project teams can align on key implementation decisions, release and adopt new features quickly, and have the confidence to move faster. Our experience shows us that following these steps will help you  for success, and build  a faster path to your desired business outcomes.

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

Beatrix Zimmermann Senior Director, Delivery Lead and Business Architect

Beatrix Zimmermann is an accomplished leader with expertise driving transformations with Salesforce technologies. She joined Salesforce in 2015 with extensive IT leadership experience. Since that time, she has been critical in the transformation of several large public sector accounts, including building their testing and tracing COVID-19 response systems. She currently leads a large team of architects in delivery services that are laser focused on positive customer outcomes.

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