A Salesforce Implementation Plan to Minimize Time, Cost and Risk

Salesforce Implementation Plan Best Practices

Salesforce is a powerful Customer Relationship Management platform with near limitless possibilities. But that can be a double-edged sword.

If a Salesforce (SFDC) implementation is left to a best guess approach the effort will surely be diluted and protracted. Users will be unimpressed, and results will disappoint.

But, if it is lead with a proven and repeatable Salesforce Implementation Plan, you can adopt clear and actionable techniques to reduce risk and maximize results.

SFDC implementation tasks vary based on company, industry and the specific application software. But the plan itself follows a short list of 7 critical success factors.

Here are the 7 success factors that should drive your Salesforce Implementation Plan.


Design Thinking

SFDC is an innovator that appeals to innovative customers seeking digital and business transformation. But don't be tempted to believe you are going to achieve these types of business results without a focus on a short list of the biggest outcomes.

This application is most successful when the project starts with specific objectives designed to satisfy the most important user, customer and company business outcomes. And the method to surface these results is Design Thinking.

Design Thinking

A one-day Design Thinking workshop with a cross functional team can determine the highest impact and most important technology success criteria; measured in user, customer and business outcomes; and according to the people that will most use or benefit from the new application.

What makes this approach different and better is that it's fast and it shifts CRM objectives from being measured in software features and functions (which most users and managers don't care about) to being measured in user and customer business outcomes (which users and managers care deeply about).


Change Management

No Salesforce implementation plan should be without change management.

A SFDC implementation will bring new processes, automation, information, responsibilities, and control, or oftentimes an actual or perceived loss of control. That's a lot of change, and the problem with change is that it causes anxiety for many users.

Change Management Statistic

Change is always endorsed by the few imposing it. But it's not always so well accepted and is quite often contested by the many receiving it. To bridge this gap, use a change management program to systemically shift individuals and lines of business from a current state to a defined future state while mitigating productivity loss during the transition, creating an environment for sustained change, and realizing the benefits of change more quickly.

Unlike CRM software, people are not so configurable. But early adoption of a change management program will directly impact staff participation, implementation progress and ultimately, business transformation results.

The SFDC Benchmark Report revealed that implementations with active change management programs realized a 9% shorter deployment period, 21% higher user satisfaction and 19% higher average user adoption, measured 90 days after the go-live event.

Change management programs are your best tool to ensure that resistance to change will not delay or derail implementation objectives. Your change management program will also be the single most influential activity that determines whether Salesforce user adoption is enthusiastic, sluggish, or challenged.


Business Process Improvement

This application is well suited to automate business processes. However, that's only a benefit if the processes are effective. Bad processes that deliver inconsistent or poor user and customer experiences are not helped by technology. Nor do they permit the company to scale.

You cannot refine a process before it is consistent. You can't improve it until it's measurable. And you cannot automate it before it's streamlined. Otherwise, you are just automating a mess which exacerbates inefficiencies.

"Eighty-five percent of the reasons for failure are deficiencies in the systems and process rather than the employee. The role of management is to change the process rather than badgering staff to do better."  —W. Edwards Deming

Most businesses have well defined and relatively consistent processes for Accounting, Billing, Procurement, HR and IT. But that consistency often evades marketing and sales organizations. Too often, marketing and sales processes are handled like one-time or ad-hoc events with insufficient planning and results based on hopeful expectations more so than data driven realizations.

Business process improvement or reengineering is a prerequisite to technology automation.

Customer facing processes should be designed for effectiveness, then streamlined, then made efficient and then automated with technology, in that order. When done correctly, streamlined processes not only deliver repeatable outcomes and quality results, but they also create confidence and trust.

There are four ways to automate business processes in SFDC. You can use the Flow tool, declarative customizations, custom programming and third-party apps on AppExchange. But don't be tempted to apply module or function-based process design as that will deliver piecemeal results that fall short when those business processes extend to other areas.

Instead, use a process driven technique to drive process definition. From our three decades of experience in CRM process design we find Agile Value Stream Mapping is the technique that best eliminates non-value-added activities and streamlines everything else.

Agile Value Stream Mapping

The combination of business process improvement and SFDC automation will also provide a powerful offense in securing user adoption.


Agile Scrum

Agile methods provide the most flexibility and adaptability to SFDC implementations.

Agile is a framework of governing principals. Scrum is the most popular Agile framework and brings prescriptive and measurable execution to deployment projects. Scrum is particularly well suited to SFDC CRM implementations.

Most know agile as a sprint-based method which applies an adaptive and iterative deployment process. This framework gives users more control over the final solution as they can vision short term goals, quickly iterate and affect the solution's progress and direction from one sprint to the next.

Agile CRM deployments replace an all-encompassing build phase with several short build iterations. Work is performed in smaller increments which define requirements in real-time and demonstrate value to stakeholders in shorter timeframes.

Agile Sprints

Agile implementations embrace adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery and continuous improvements. This makes the deployment nimble and highly adaptive to change. Agile deployments deliver value to the business early and often, and thereby increase performance visibility and decrease project risk.


User Training

Start your training with Trailhead, SFDC's free online learning platform. It's an impressive offering of more than 1,000 learning tracks and bite-sized, conversational content organized by roles and experience levels.

Salesforce Trailhead

But even with Trailhead, experience shows that software training fails to get the focus it deserves in most deployments. Here are the 4 reasons new software training generally disappoints.

  1. It's typically approached with what I call a car wash mentality: You're in, you're out, and you’re on your way. But this isn't how real learning happens.
  2. Most Salesforce implementation plans under-estimate the hours needed for training and that directly impacts your staff's ability to fully leverage the new application.
  3. Most training is not contextualized for the users. Instead, too often, trainers focus on software capabilities in a vacuum, and not on the capabilities that drive the objectives and processes most important to the users.
  4. Training is too often a one-time event. It consists of a train the trainer process, followed by minimal trainer delivery to end-users.

We advocate a different path. Our training approach is evolution instead of revolution. That means it's a shift from a one-and-done event to a process of continuous learning performed during each sprint.

Cognitive science shows that to learn something, the brain must build upon existing knowledge. Progressive training delivered with each sprint creates bite-sized learning sessions and realizes true learning where the brain converts information from short-term memory to longer-term retention.

Bite sized training programs make training more focused, faster to consume and easier to remember.

Salesforce Training Program

This approach also shifts user training from software instruction to achievement of the business outcomes identified in the Design Thinking workshop. It also satisfies the role based WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) capabilities identified in the Change Management program.

Remember two things. It's not about training, it's about learning. And users don't care about software, they care about what it can do for them.


Data & Analytics

A new system will capture plenty of data. But value is not achieved by putting data into a system, its realized by getting information out.

Fortunately, SFDC and Tableau decision support tools are effective at churning through large volumes of customer data and delivering insights and recommendations that are just not possible otherwise.

The goal of decision support is to get the right information to the right person at the right time. That empowers employees to deliver improved customer experiences, make better decisions, and make adjustments when performance is not going as planned.

That last point often leads to the most significant performance improvements. Timely variance notifications permit course corrections before problems exacerbate.

If your analytics are not triggering shifts in execution and course corrections, you're doing it wrong.  — Chuck Schaeffer, CEO of Johnny Grow

The upside opportunities for analytics are almost endless. Here are a few examples.

  • Sales analytics can surface revenue opportunities, such as which customers, leads or sale opportunities are most likely to close. They identify variances in real-time, such as revenue leakage, which may include sales leads not being followed-up or sale opportunities not being followed-through. They quickly identify business process failures such as a quoting or order entry problem. Swift course corrections prevent the loss of short-term revenue.
  • Marketing analytics show the most effective campaign component assemblies. They apply multivariate propensity models to show the combination of offers, content, channels, and call-to-actions by customer type or target audience that optimize lead acquisitions, lead conversions and sales pipeline growth.
  • Customer service analytics identify the high volume of low complexity calls well suited for customer self-service channels. They can aid proactive customer support by resolving issues before they happen. They apply data patterns to detect the correlation between new incidents and existing products, extrapolate to other customers that have those products and proactively fix them before those customers incur the failure. Customer service analytics can detect customers at risk of churn and suggest retention levers to save them.

But to achieve these types of insights at scale, a mix of information reporting tools may be needed. SFDC offers many tools. But time and budget are limited so prioritizing the most effective decision support tools will lower investment and accelerate results.

For most businesses, customized role-based dashboards built with Tableau and predictive analytics created with Einstein will deliver the most value and financial impact.

The most successful companies are defined by their ability to collect and curate the right data, use data to deliver differentiated customer experiences and apply analytics to make insights actionable at every customer interaction or customer decision point. That is, those points where customers choose whether to do business with your company.


Project Governance

No Salesforce implementation plan is complete without governance.

But while everybody knows governance is needed to shepherd enterprise software deployments, not everybody knows how to do it. Governance is really about 4 things.

Governance Tower
  1. Transparency, to share the measures that most clearly show project status and progress, and whether the project is on track or not
  2. Inspection, with a regular meeting cadence and agenda to review the most essential measurements, vet progress and ensure understanding
  3. Adaptation, to implement changes when progress shows variances from plan, or to steer the project toward an outcome or implement a course correction, and
  4. Accountability, to ensure each person knows and delivers their commitments

There are many tools and artifacts to aid governance. They include things like roles and responsibilities documents, RACI schedules, RAID (Risks, Assumptions, Issues, Dependencies) reports and steering committee reports. One tool that we routinely use is an executive success factors dashboard like the one shown below.

Governance Dashboard

Effective governance avoids confusing activity with progress and separates the urgent from the important. It brings clear eyed rationalization when confronted with competing priorities or emergency issues that seek to divert resources from their planned roles and contributions.

Effective governance is proactive and empowers the steering committee and project team to view the project through the front windshield, and not just the rearview mirror. That's essential to steer the project to a planned destination, and not just be along for the ride. If you intent to incur any type of digital or business transformation, governance is likely the single most important part of your Salesforce implementation plan.