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7 Ways to Avoid a Salesforce Implementation Failure

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If you’re getting ready to implement Salesforce, you’ve undoubtedly invested a lot of time and money in making sure this powerful platform is well suited for your business. Now that it’s time to roll it out, here are seven things you can do to make sure all that planning pays off in a successful Salesforce implementation that starts delivering ROI fast.

Whether you’re just starting out, or already in the midst of a Salesforce implementation, let these seven steps help guide you to success.

1. Plan to use Salesforce for much more than just CRM

There are many reasons Salesforce is the best option in the CRM world. While most CRM systems are primarily designed to help sales reps close more deals, Salesforce is built on the open Force.com platform, making it so much more than just a CRM system. It offers an entire technology ecosystem in which to transform your business for the future. When you maximize the functionality, you can often streamline many other areas of your business beyond CRM such as configure-price-quote, marketing, customer service community portals and ERP. In addition to traditional functions like lead tracking, managing your opportunity pipeline and supporting customers, Force.com makes it easy to create additional custom objects and apps for your company’s unique business needs.

Quick tip: Think of business processes currently handled via spreadsheets and email, and consider moving them into Salesforce. Also be sure to look at the AppExchange marketplace, which contains pre-built apps that extend Salesforce to every department and industry.

2. Integrate Salesforce with other systems to improve business performance

According to a recent IDC study of 100 C-level executives, application integration continues to be their #1 IT goal. And according to Gartner, “application integration accounts for nearly 35 percent of the total cost of design, development, and maintenance in a typical enterprise—regardless of whether the company is small, medium, or large.” These findings clearly highlight the critical importance of integration.

To maximize your Salesforce investment, look for ways to integrate it with other business applications in your organization. Integration means having data from all systems readily accessible, being able to integrate external Web services, and connecting business processes across departments, applications and partners. Integration makes it possible to monitor business performance in real time, dramatically increase productivity and end IT bottlenecks.

Quick tip: Integrate Salesforce with your Accounting/ERP system to improve efficiencies and give users a more complete view of your customers.

3. Involve IT for more effective integrations and security

If you fail to involve your IT department, your implementation could be bumpy. While Salesforce can theoretically be managed and configured without IT intervention, it’s critical to involve IT from the beginning. The IT team should gain a clear understanding of Salesforce’s architecture and how it protects your data in the cloud. They should also sign off on the security model. Additionally, if your implementation touches other business applications, IT can help you identify important integration points and provide the proper credentials for maximum utilization of the solution.

4. Drive adoption from the top down by fully engaging executive sponsors

As with any software tool, one of the key criteria for success is the software being used consistently and persistently. That’s why it’s critical to have an engaged executive sponsor who actively—not passively—champions the product and the project, drives adoptions and facilitates change management. User adoption of the new CRM must start at the top, and executive sponsor involvement is key. Ongoing communication of critical milestones, use case demonstrations and reporting examples are all things to energize and excite the team and promote user adoption from the top down.

Quick tip: Find out which key performance indicators drive management decisions and design the system to support robust reports and dashboards which will deliver those KPIs.

5. Involve power users and key business stakeholders to foster cross-departmental success

Every department has its power users—people who know the department’s business processes and systems better than anyone else. Don’t neglect to identify and involve them from the beginning of the implementation. Engaging functional managers during all phases of the implementation is also key. Employees must be inspired to engage with Salesforce and most importantly, understand the “why” behind the implementation.

Larger organizations should also appoint a business stakeholder from each department to serve on a cross-functional team. The team should meet regularly and agree on cross-departmental topics, including how data should flow from department to department in the system. For example, What information does Finance need when Sales closes a deal? Business stakeholders should each have the opportunity to sign off on all of the completed requirements. In addition, knowing the current state of affairs (i.e., what data is required to run the business, what the pain points are and what improvements they’d like to see) will help you build much better solutions.

Quick tip: Invite power users to participate in design conversations and User Acceptance Testing (UAT), so they are engaged from the onset.

6. Clean up your data before migration, and avoid bigger data quality problems later

Big data isn’t getting any smaller or easier to keep clean. However, your CRM is only as good as the data that’s put into it—so don’t put off clean-up efforts. The longer you ignore data issues, the more complex the cleanup can be. Before migrating data into Salesforce, make sure your data is clean, accurate and relevant. If necessary, engage with a third-party data company to help validate the quality of your data. Data issues can arise for a variety of reasons—failed initial migration, integration issues with other systems, inadequate training and inconsistent adoption, lack of ongoing maintenance and more. Data concerns should be taken very seriously lest they jeopardize the investment. Encourage all users in your organization to help identify data issues and develop processes to manage the integrity of the data.

Quick tip: To realize the full potential of Salesforce, ensure future data integrity through the proper use of required fields, data validation, deduplication rules, external IDs for integration points and field level security.

7. Train users early and often for maximum business impact

If you’ve taken care to follow the steps listed above, you’re well on your way to achieving high adoption, but it’s not enough. Conduct a proper discovery session and put a solid training plan in place to ensure users understand how to effectively use the system. Think about incorporating training during UAT, rather than waiting until right before rollout. You’ll gain more traction with users, since they become more comfortable with how to use the system. Additionally, you’ll find out where your training might need to be tweaked. After go-live, measure adoption and survey your users about the system. Remember, training isn’t one and done. Ongoing training can help you avoid poor adoption, which can greatly harm your ROI. Consider, too, that poor adoption is the number one reason a company will abandon a CRM system. Successful adoption is no easy feat and isn’t a one-time effort, but should be taken very seriously considering the big investment you’ve made.

Quick tip: Consider giving users a way to log enhancement requests, and strive for continuous improvement.

Bringing It All Together

Salesforce has built a reputation as the world’s #1 CRM solution, but many organizations are challenged to leverage its functionality across the business. Do-it-yourself Salesforce implementation often leads to lackluster results, and can cause organizations to question if Salesforce was the right choice.

Following these seven steps and enlisting a Salesforce consultant from Bridgepoint Consulting can really add value to your implementation and set you up for success. Getting expert guidance on your Salesforce Roadmap, or master plan, is the surest way to reap more ROI from the system and create a real competitive advantage for your business. We offer implementation, optimization, and customization solutions using Salesforce and Force.com. Contact us today!

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About Debbie Schultz

Debbie Schultz has over 20 years of experience in Finance, Accounting and IT. As the lead for Bridgepoint’s Salesforce Consulting practice, she helps clients optimize, integrate and customize their Salesforce investments. Debbie has managed numerous system selection projects and implementations, including a large asset management company, services companies, and pre-IPO high tech companies. She has experience across a broad range of industries such as high tech, manufacturing, retail and banking.

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