What makes a (not so) good Salesforce implementation?

Picture of a box marked "fragile", upside down and open

Written by Eli Kaufman

2nd August 2022

Every now and then I come across horror stories (or plain tales of disappointment) of Salesforce implementations not going well. How come this keeps happening despite everyone’s best intentions?

Here are a couple of typical examples along with insights how things can be done differently.

A box marked "fragile", which is open and upside down!

Scenario A: Let’s Start Using It Out Of The Box

Salesforce offers a lot of great functionality, used by many successful organizations, so we can go ahead and start using it out of the box, right? Hmm..wrong!

When you sign in to Salesforce for the first time, you will see a standard setup of all the key components. But not all of them are relevant to how your organization actually runs. In order to make the most of the system, it’s important to customize the components that your team will be using on a daily basis, to hide fields which are not relevant to make the user interface simple and uncluttered and to show the relevant charts on the dashboard. All of this improves user adoption and the likelihood of long term success.

Someone wiping a board, whilst simultaneously about to trip over something that's been left on the floor

Scenario B: Let’s Start Building and Do It Fast!

So your organization decided to go for Salesforce, got a trustworthy party to help with the implementation but did not spend much time (or no time at all) capturing the stakeholders’ needs and requirements.

Fast forward to the big launch date. It turns out that basic functionality is missing. So “obvious” that nobody thought of mentioning it upfront. Now the system is not very useful and the team goes back to using spreadsheets, emails and other means to capture data.

Turns out that effort spent on capturing the requirements upfront is translated to good solutions by the end of the process. Trying to cut time by skipping this stage doesn’t save costs but rather creates additional costs later when the system has to be redesigned.

Very person indents (roundels) with comments alongside, and someone else putting these into place.

Scenario C: Did Anyone Mention Support?

Team is on board and excited, requirements gathering has been properly done, a quality implementation delivered. All boxes ticked. Now the project is complete and we can surely move on? Not quite!

If the solution is going to work well over time, there needs to be resources (time and budget) available to maintain it going forward. Every organization changes over time leading to the need to adjust processes; systems constantly evolve to tackle real world challenges; new integrations are needed to support them. If your organization cannot commit to ongoing support, chances are it’s going to stop being useful at some point.

A person with three balloon

This sounds daunting. Is there any way an implementation could be successful at all?!

Sure thing! That’s where experience and best practices come handy. Start with tackling one process instead of trying to solve everything on day one. By having a holistic view and working in stages, this can be managed at a sustainable pace. At every stage you will learn, and be able to put those lessons into practice when you move on to the next part.

A critical element is always going to be getting the team’s buy-in. When the team is consulted in advance and their requirements are taken into consideration, there are better chances for success. On the flip side, a system incorrectly setup which is difficult to use will be more difficult to gain the team’s trust.

Eli has been working with medium and small organizations for the last 10 years, helping them implement solutions based on Salesforce. More recently his focus has been on organizations in the Effective Altruism community, where he strives to combine his expertise with amplifying the impact organizations make.

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