Salesforce implementation guide: strategies, challenges, and risks
Salesforce is a leading CRM platform that supports businesses of different sizes all over the world. If implemented right, Salesforce can significantly transform your business, with tedious tasks automated, a complete view of the customers for sales and marketing teams, and an overall productivity increase.
On the other hand, if you take a hands-off approach to the implementation, then Salesforce might leave you with just an expensive fancy system that nobody wants to use.
To help you avoid this worst-case scenario, Itransition experts have compiled a three-step guide to a successful Salesforce implementation.
Step 1. Define your implementation strategy
When developing the Salesforce implementation strategy, you should consider the current state of your business and your business goals. Here are two dichotomies you need to solve:
One cloud vs several clouds
You can go for one Salesforce Cloud if you need to improve your high-priority business processes, like sales or marketing, and don’t need to sync it up with other operations, such as customer service or commerce.
However, if you aim to automate and sync the processes of several departments, then you should implement several clouds all at once, for example, Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Service Cloud. This way, you will help break the interdepartmental silos and deliver an omnichannel experience for your customers. Note, however, that multiple integrations in an all-in-one solution increase the probability of issues like data loss, corruption, or duplication.
Hired consultants vs in-house IT team
When you start building your Salesforce implementation team, you need to decide whether you’re going to use your own forces or turning to Salesforce consultancy. A typical Salesforce implementation team should consist of a project owner, a project manager, a system administrator, and power users.
If your own IT team and business analysts have never worked with Salesforce, then consider engaging Salesforce consultants for the initial stage of your project. They can help with the development of a rollout plan or advise on the most fitting subscription plan for your company.
As for hired consultants, you can opt for freelancers if your project is small. However, when you have a large project and a sufficient budget and want to implement Salesforce fast, then cooperating with Salesforce consulting partners is your best choice.
Step 2. Develop a rollout plan
A rollout plan is similar to a chain-reaction machine – if one element is missing or placed incorrectly, it won’t work. Here’s how you can properly prepare for the implementation, adoption, and maintenance of your new Salesforce system.
Data cleaning and migration
Begin by ensuring the quality of the data sourced from your old system prior to its migration.
- Inspect data structure, formats, relations with the legacy system objects, and existing business workflows
- Map corresponding objects and fields in Salesforce
- Run a data quality check
- Introduce duplication rules
- Automate data migration
- Build a data model prototype with an entity relationship diagram which will show the relationships between different data types.
Consider migrating test data first with your tool of choice, transferring a small part of the records to see whether there are any issues with both your data quality and your tool. When you’re positive about the result, complete the migration.
Customization and integration
Salesforce has great modification capabilities by default, so with the right resources, you can significantly tailor the system to your needs.
You can configure Salesforce, which requires no programming skills and can be done with default point-and-click tools. With code-based customizations on the basis of Salesforce’s Lightning Platform, you can get more profound modifications, like highly customizing workflows or developing custom AI-powered apps.
Testing and deployment
When your data migration and customization are over and approved, it’s time to test your solution. First of all, move the entire configuration to a sandbox environment to check how the exact platform copy with your production data works under large data volumes. At this stage, you can spot and fix issues, such as downtime, latency, or heat barriers, prior to going live. While in the sandbox, you can also introduce your end users to the full functionality and get their feedback.
User adoption plan
Once the platform is up and running, it’s crucial to get the actual users on board, or all your efforts will be a waste of time and money.
A Salesforce user adoption plan should include four important components:
- Role-based user access
- Thorough training
- Motivation and encouragement from the leadership
- Appointed admins
Step 3. Embrace implementation challenges
Salesforce will change many processes in your company, so it can be hard to forecast what can go wrong. Here are the common challenges faced by Salesforce adopters.
The implementation timeline heavily depends on the scope of features you plan to introduce. Automation of the existing processes can take just about a month, but building a system from scratch will easily take a year.
Relying on the defined timeline, make sure to minimize project interruptions and prevent the Salesforce project’s overlapping with other internal projects.
Estimating a Salesforce budget is tricky because there’re lots of hidden costs as well as costs that you might overlook when calculating the overall spending:
- Products and editions – each product is purchased separately, with four editions of each product and a $25-$300 price range.
- The number of users – the more users you have, the larger the budget you need.
- Data migration and customization – the costs depend on your data set size and customization plans.
- User training – the price of training Salesforce users and admins also varies considerably.
- Support – whether you plan to allocate in-house IT specialists to support Salesforce in the future or hire a dedicated team.
With so many features available, you might want to make the system as functional as possible and instead end up with a pack of unnecessary features. To prevent this issue, think first about the changes you want to get and the Salesforce tools you have on hand or need to achieve them. If your customization needs are great, you can deliver crucial functionality incrementally and let users get accustomed to it first, gradually adding more and more features.
A steep learning curve
Salesforce can be overwhelming for everyone involved. But you should remember that your employees are the ones who will use the system, so the success largely depends on them. It’s important to engage users right from the prototyping stage and train them up to the moment you see results.
Also, when users feel they have a gap in their Salesforce knowledge or run into some technical issue, they should always know where to seek support, be it from Salesforce admins or user guidelines.
The bottom line
Salesforce implementation can take a lot of work, but if done properly, you will see impressive productivity improvements.
You should start Salesforce implementation with a detailed milestone-based plan aligned with the goals and needs of both your company’s leadership and Salesforce end users. Also, keep in mind that there are lots of proven implementation practices and certified professionals who can help you overcome all potential challenges.