Preparing for a Salesforce implementation project

I’ve been involved with Salesforce now for over 12 years, mainly as a customer but more recently as a partner, consultant and developer. In that time I’ve been involved in setting up dozens of CRM platforms for companies of various sizes here in Dubai. Knowing what I know now, what advice would I give to anybody that’s getting ready to take on a Salesforce project?

I think the following might be useful;

Be clear about your goals

Or to put it another way, ‘what does success look like?’ Like any project, a CRM implementation needs to have a clearly defined goal so that all the people involved can work towards achieving that target. The projects that achieve the greatest success are the ones where the business owner can describe what they want within a couple of sentences.

I’ve had more than a couple of clients tell me ‘I need x% increase in sales this year, that’s the goal’ – this is the perfect brief as far as I am concerned. If you multiple goals for the first phase of the project then there's a good chance that the project won't succeed. While the technology can be customised and implemented correctly, there's a limit to the amount of change that the team can take on at a time. It's better to...

Build and enhance the system over time

Neither your business nor the Salesforce project will remain the same for very long. Our most successful clients work with us to add new features or applications to their Salesforce system on a regular basis, usually as part of a quarterly formal review. If we start a project with the objective (as point 1, above) to grow sales and focus on the sales reporting and pipeline management, then phase two could be the development of the marketing automation tool, phase three the integration of accounting software etc. Elevision Media is a great example of this.

This continual development planning really helps to get more and more value from the core system, while linking all other elements of the business together over time.

The successful Salesforce clients see the system not as a project, but as an ongoing evolving platform that helps to deliver the long-term business strategy.

Describe in detail the data that you need from the system

If we could fast forward to a couple of months after we have completed the system setup, what kind of reports and dashboards do you want to see? In reality, the various managers in your business will have their own specific requirements for reports and dashboards, we need to have everybody contributing to this discussion.

The benefit of this approach is that your Salesforce consultant will be able to take these reporting requirements and work backward to define how the system needs to be set up.

Build your project team

Even the smallest projects need to have a team of people that can share the workload and make sure that the system gets up and running within the planned time frame. There’s a lot of great information online about the basics of project management (we like these guys a lot), so I’m not going to go into that in detail

I would stress the need for tasks to be shared. Very often tasks such as gathering all the client and prospect data can turn into its own mini project. Getting someone with above average Excel skills to take this on is really important. Hint; that’s usually the accountant.. Having an internal project manager should ensure that the tasks get completed on time, and an Executive Sponsor will be able to wield the carrot or stick, as appropriate, to make sure that the project is given enough clout throughout the company to attract the resources and time that it needs to be successful.

Have a plan to ensure that your staff use the system

Getting your system up and running requires a lot of effort; ensuring that your people continue to use it for the long term also requires thought and planning. The good news with this is that if the system is designed and built properly, your staff will create their own momentum in using it (it should make their jobs easier).

However, you will need to put in place some ‘top-down’ rules to ensure that not only is there good day to day adoption of the system on the shop – floor, but also that your management team is using the data to review company performance on a macro level.

Some key tips -

  • 'If it doesn't exist in Salesforce then it doesn't exist'. - Your new sales management mantra.
  • All meetings should be run off Salesforce reports. No more spreadsheets, no more notebooks

These five tips are a good starting point in the right frame of mind before you set off on the system implementation. Working with a Salesforce consulting partner like Tenacre will give you access to far more experience and good advice before, during and after the initial platform has been set up.