Priming for a Successful Salesforce Project

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I was reading an excellent article written on Vantage Consulting‘s blog yesterday: “Finding the Right Salesforce Partner for your Business“. It was clear and concise, and laid down very simple steps on making sure you put down the groundwork to ensure a successful project.

Business Change element

A key part of the whole process is business change, and managing this successfully generally sits with the client. Yes, they can hire a business change or a management consulting team to assist, but a lot of the hard work and elbow grease will be required by the client, because nobody knows their business better than they do.

That is where I see most projects fail. We can go in and design and implement the slickest, sexiest beast of a CRM, only to have all that dismantled because of lack of user adoption or other reasons unrelated to the technology, platform or actual implementation.

It is very common for clients expect the consulting partner to come in and get the job done. Without too much effort on their part.

“So, now that you know what our woes are, you’re going to go away and come back with a magical system that will fix everything, right?”

A lot of the times, what ails the business isn’t just the lack of a new CRM system. Oftentimes it’s a complex layering of business culture, “it’s how we used to do it over here” viewpoint, and internal politics as well as the more common issues of having disparate systems and ways of working that had cropped up such as random excel spreadsheets or old applications built on MS Access.

Generally – it’s much easier to ‘fix’ the system and process issues than the people ones. This article focuses on the software side of things, in the form of implementing Salesforce and/or other business software application.

Coming back to the point – there is a lot more work required on client side than just telling the consulting partners their tales of woe especially if they want to give the project the best chances of being implemented successfully.

Your Salesforce Champion

All businesses should have a solid CRM strategy, and in fact – they should hire a key individual who will sit within the leadership team whose sole job is to drive its success within the business.

Someone who knows and understands the power of the technology, and can envision how the features can be leveraged to “power up” business processes and make the lives of users so much better and delightful.

This person should understand business processes, has strong relationship with business stakeholders so that she is able to help with gathering requirements and interpreting them accurately when working with their Salesforce Consulting Partner.

It would be useful for this person, or someone in their team to be experienced in Salesforce, as their job should be to administer and implement request for changes for the business. It is also in their interest to help support the business case for the system change is solid, and to follow through after implementation so that benefits are realised. The end goal should be positive impact to the bottom line.

A strong Salesforce champion, whose key strength is managing internal relationships with stakeholders and communicates well with external vendors, is an investment that will pay for itself many times over.

The business will also need to understand that a lot of work will be required from them during the project. These include attending workshops, and helping to map their current business processes as well as review future state processes (which might include workflows and other automation). There would be system design decisions to be made, that could impact future operations, relationships and conflicts to manage, artefacts like letter/email/SMS templates and reports, and a myriad of other things.

Depending on the team and workload, it may be necessary to hire temporary staff to take care of the Project Team’s day job to enable them to focus solely on getting the project done well. What generally happens is that the project team become overworked and stressed, as they have to do project activities (such as attend workshops or review documents, or even testing) as well as their normal day-to-day activities.

Making it all work

The two key things that will make all the difference in drastically increasing your chances of project success:

  • Establishing your internal team with strong individuals with the right experience, and
  • Selecting the right partner to help you reach your business goals

As a client, you’ll want an ongoing relationship with your partner built on trust, and rapport. Studies* have shown that such types of relationships result in successful implementations where the happiness index impacts profitability in a positive way.

Make sure you select the right partner (see Vantage Consulting’s blog). On top of common criteria like cost, references, experience, way of working, aligned values, I’d say that something that is often overlooked is your gut feel.

Do you get a good vibe from your interaction? Do meetings with the account manager and project or engagement manager energise you? Above all, do the people and interactions give you a good vibe?

There will of course be unforeseen challenges, technical or otherwise, and you need to be able to feel that your partner is someone you can trust. Someone who listens, and understands, and who you can depend on. On a personal note, I’ve pulled many all-nighters alongside my team with clients to resolve P1 issues before the critical go-live day.

Consulting partners love working with clients who know what they are doing, and have a strong internal team to help make the magic happen. We really do. Our lives are back-to-back projects on the spectrum from “Character Building” to “Amazingly Awesome (in that ‘I learned a lot, Go-Live went swimmingly, and the client was so fun to work with’). So having one towards the right end of “Amazingly Awesome” makes our Consulting life so much more enjoyable.

It all comes down to basic human interaction. And it can be applied to all parts of life and work. Understanding and creating strong human connections makes challenges easier to overcome.

And that is how you prime for success. For Salesforce Projects, and almost any endeavor. But I’m betting on Salesforce in the foreseeable future!

* I just made this up. But it sounds like it ought to be true!

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