Planning tips that propel successful Salesforce implementations

If you want a successful implementation, you take one part leadership, and mix it with one part planning and one part communication.  We talked earlier in the week about leadership so let’s segue into planning today.

Now, I grant you that planning may not sound like a very sexy activity but it’s highly important so let’s talk about that today.  If you fail to build planning into the mix then you’re well on your way to failing.  Why?  Talk a page from Thomas Edison:

“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”

As with previous discussions, although I’ll focus discussion around Salesforce, these are tips that you can employ for any major strategic initiative.


The benefit of well-defined processes

Chisel what you’re about to read in stone because if you get this, then you get it all.

Your solution will only be as good as your defined business processes.  That means that if your processes are ill-defined, then all Salesforce will do for you is help you do the wrong thing faster.

That’s not a malfunction of the part of Salesforce by any stretch.  It’s a truism of all CRMs or other business automation solutions.  Know it. Understand it.  Live it.


Planning arenas

You have three general areas of planning that you must undertake in order to ensure your success with your Salesforce initiative:

  1. Business process definition.
  2. Requirements definition and documentation.
  3. Plan for organizational change.

It goes without saying.  You can implement Salesforce on a small scale but the more expansive you wish to employ its functionality, then the more you need to consider phased roll-outs in your implementation. By all means consider the big picture in your plan, but make the phases be digestible for both your IT team (whether internal or outsourced) and your users.


Business process definition

Implementing Salesforce, or expanding its use, is a great time to re-evaluate your business processes.

Be objective but be eagle-eyed and honest with yourself about your company’s strengths and weaknesses.  This isn’t about finding fault but rather about seeking ways to bolster your company’s weaknesses while further strengthening what you already do well.

The best approach will be to more a multi-disciplinary team comprised of members from every impacted functional area and I discussed leadership requirements in this article.  The value of such a team is the holistic consideration of your business processes rather looking at them in departmental isolation.  Any processes you implement should seamlessly flow from one department to another.

Ultimately you end goal will be to implement the best complement of best practices that make sense for your company and industry situation.  And give your company permission to find your own best practices too.  As part of the equation, you’ll want to have processes that can be tangibly measured so that you can gather hard analytical data of what truly is best for your company.


Should you hire an outside consultant?

If you’re company lacks in-depth knowledge of business process design or Salesforce feature functionality, then you may want to consider employing an outside consulting team knowledge in both arenas.

What you want to look for in a Salesforce third-party solution provider is a firm who’s members have hands-on business strategy and process knowledge – and domain expertise in your functional area of interest.  Additionally, you also will want the selected firm to have in-depth technical expertise with Salesforce and integration to other or back-office applications.  This latter consider will be of most value if you’re company plans on integrating Salesforce into your other IT solutions.

The one-two strategy of a consulting firm with experience in process strategy and solution best practices will help ensure you gain the maximum value from your Salesforce implementation.


Requirements definition and documentation

As you move along the implementation lifecycle, it’s important to remember that while IT owns the Salesforce implementation, your company’s departmental leaders “own” Salesforce itself.

What that means is that your business leaders from every impacted department (a.k.a. your Salesforce team in this case) should be an active contributor in defining and preparing requirements documentation.

We coined a term here at Intellicore Design Consulting that we call User Experience documentation.  That’s what we call a plain English documentation of what the user experience for your solution should be and it should be prepared by your Salesforce Team.

Once the plain English User Experience document is completed, then turn it over to your friendly, neighborhood IT team and let them translate the information into a technospeak detailed Requirements document.


Elements of User Experience Documentation

For simplicity, let me just bullet these babies.  As a general statement, keep in mind that the more detailed you are in your documentation, the more likely your IT team will succeed in meeting your requirements.

Again, keep in mind the user experience documentation is a plain English description.

  • Business imperative and solution definition.
  • Process definition (flow charts or other visuals are helpful).
  • Licensing.
  • Data fields and tabs.
  • User experience.
  • Workflows (validations and triggers).
  • Reports.
  • Expected deliverables.
  • Milestones.
  • Metrics to be used to evaluate project.

If you want a cheat, you can download a User Experience template we use from our Intellicore Design Resource Center.


Planning for organizational change

I’ve actually covered this topic rather recently in my article 7 Tips to stimulate user adoption so I won’t repeat myself here.



There’s a lot of press out there about CRM solutions that fail.  The most likely reasons for such failure is poor leadership, insufficient planning, and a failure to stimulate user adoption.

Your company can land on the success side but it’s not enough to select a wiz bang solution, even one as powerful as Salesforce.  It’s like anything, if you want success, then you’re going to have to invest in it.  Invest in planning – and tie it to leadership and communication -- and you’ll be Tom Edison-like in the Salesforce world.

Give me a shout if you have any questions.  Stories from the trenches are always welcome.  Let me know if you think I left anything out.


Related content

7 Tips to stimulate user adoption

Leadership tips to foster successful Salesforce implementations


Tips for Successful Implementations – This is a webinar that combines content from this article and the two above into a single presentation.