Salesforce Implementation: Advantages, Risk and Mitigation Measures

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There are many Cloud CRM applications in the market today. These CRM applications in general boast about many common advantages over on-premise CRM applications among others. Typically, all of the top-of-the-line solutions offer a single, secure, and scalable platform that’s easy to configure; does not take much to customize and provide easy upgrades without major investments. Some of these CRM applications are industry-specific and most of them provide general CRM features with varying degrees of advanced capabilities. Smaller platforms focus heavily on one CRM feature or another such as Field Service scheduling, campaign management, or support.

Where Salesforce has edge over others is – a very strong scalable platform that has been named as a leader for many years1, extensive prebuilt applications through partner network and development of industry solutions (e.g. Telecom solutions with Vlocity2, Salesforce Financial Services Cloud3) that are prebuilt as a package for faster implementation and better adoption. Salesforce CRM application is more modern looking and user-pleasing than older applications. Addition of Lightning is a feather in the cap.

Mobile-enabled out of the box

All your standard and custom objects are available in Mobile out of the box with little to no development. Although it is no brainer that business users’ preferences and data that they want to see and its sequence may need to be adjusted, but the out the box application becomes production usable with minor tweaks, if at all required.

Pre-integrated applications

Salesforce ecosystem has more than 4000 pre-integrated applications on AppExchange. It extends power to sell, service, and market with pre-integrated apps on AppExchange, the world’s largest business app marketplace.

Productivity increase

Create the experience employees need to sell faster and get more done with its Lightning Platform. Proven to drive efficiency and growth, this suite of market-leading products both increases revenues and decreases costs.

Trusted by Industry leaders

Gone are the days when industry leaders shunned from using Cloud-based CRM solutions for critical enterprise applications. Today, industries across the spectrum are already on Salesforce platform without any reservations.

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Faster initial deployment, faster feature development, and pleasing user interface make it successful from the start. But this increases demand for more and more. As additional departments and lines of business onboard, demand for more CRM capabilities – e.g. Analytics, Marketing, Field Service, Partner engagement, customer engagement increases. New customizations and configurations expand quickly. As you start to code custom features, it becomes expansive to maintain.

Complexity increases with onboarding additional lines of businesses and extending it to diverse departments on the single instance. As the expansion progresses, updates and changes to existing applications becomes sluggish and innovation on the application slowed to a crawl; and agility & flexibility slows with it. Every change can risk breaking your customizations, data, integration, and third-party app add-ons – breaking processes. To mitigate this, thorough regression testing and expensive impact analysis is required which takes away the very benefit of Salesforce.

Salesforce’s early benefits that drew customer was a SaaS application that was suitable for a variety of customer needs – Salesforce automation, Customer Service, Marketing, eCommerce etc. With the passage of time, it became more than an application for customers. It has become the platform for the enterprise and Salesforce has listened to such demands.

Salesforce ecosystem is one platform that benefits all, it has evolved over time and it is still developing for advanced features and industry solutions. On the other hand, some features that seem to be basic CRM necessity – e.g. state transitions, joining data tables for better data representation, different labels for same fields for different LOBs are still not available.

Risks

  1. An agile platform and ease of implemental have downfalls as well. It is a misconception that agile platforms remain stable irrespective of number or speed of changes. While it can be argued that every requirement should be met in the platform, it can lead to skewed priorities and bad platform design. Sometimes bad design decisions are too costly to correct. Overcoming and balancing the Agility-Stability Paradox is possible with people, process and technology.4, 5
Figure 1: Agility-Stability Paradox
  1. Although not impossible, release deployments are difficult to roll-back. In some cases, there is even a data loss risk.
  2. Bad data quality in case of brownfield implementations.
  3. Change management and deployment – This risk occurs especially when there are multiple teams/developers focusing on development in their areas without visibility to what others are doing and lack of coordination. This risk compounds when lines of businesses have siloed requirements and siloed development.
Figure 2: Silo-ed Development and Deployment

Mitigation

  1. Determine best fit and ascertain whether to use vanilla (out of the box) or customize. There has to be a balance between configuration and customization.
  2. Architect your platform wisely for organization’s vision as focusing on solutions alone might be skewed. Keep a watch on Salesforce platform’s future direction. You don’t want to build something which you might get out of the box in future.
  3. Since businesses require agility to respond to market faster than ever, it is possible that single instance becomes very complex in short period of time. While agility is one of the very important advantages, it can also lead to uncontrolled development. Hence, governance to manage changes is very important. COE and governance processes should be instituted and followed religiously.
Figure 3: Coordinated Development and Deployment
  1. Single authority (i.e. Product Manager) should be established that has visibility of business needs of all lines of businesses and organizational short team and long term vision and in turn, requirements.
  2. Devise and design common data model, common services, and common processes. There has to be fine balance between standardization and differentiation. Both are equally important. One platform (data and application building block) for enterprise means diverse teams have to be aligned.
  3. Quality assurance – Agile does not mean cutting corners on quality assurance or lesser emphasis on basics of software development.
    • QA testing – Sufficient time and effort should be given for QA testing. Emphasis should be on given on regression testing too.
    • Environment assurance tools – Many online tools are available over the web and also in AppExchange. Seasoned administrators can create their in-house tools for build quality review to weed out manual errors, employ automation tools for deployment and testing. DevOps can be considered for mature organizations.
    • Full sandboxes – Typically organizations do not invest in more than 1 full QA sandbox. While is gets expansive with additional full sandboxes, investing in such infrastructure pays itself off in large implementations. Also, when data migration load timelines and performance testing require multiple loads, single QA environment is not practical as it hinders other ongoing feature changes.
  4. Managing data quality is no brainer. It is easy for bad data to find its way into the Salesforce org. Once it is in the org, it gets more expansive to correct it due to nature of the cloud application, especially for large volumes of data. There are many tools that can help you clean your data upfront and save adoption risks and challenges afterwards.
  5. As in any other program, there should be a balance between employing outside experts versus in-house experts. It is better to have core leadership skills in-house for long term vision and direction.

References

  1. Salesforce Named #1 CRM Provider For Fourth Consecutive Year. Retrieved April 29, 2018, from https://www.salesforce.com/company/news-press/press-releases/2017/05/170518.jsp
  2. Industry Leaders Choose Vlocity. Retrieved April 27, 2018, from https://www.vlocity.com/
  3. Supercharge advisor productivity to focus on client needs with Financial Services Cloud. Retrieved April 27, 2018, from https://www.salesforce.com/solutions/industries/financial-services/financial-services-cloud/
  4. The 3 Secrets to Overcoming the Agility-Stability Paradox. Retrieved April 20, 2018, from https://devops.com/3-secrets-overcoming-agility-stability-paradox/
  5. A CIO’s DevOps approach to resolving the agility-stability paradox. Retrieved April 20, 2018 from http://usblogs.pwc.com/emerging-technology/a-cios-devops-approach-to-resolving-the-agility-stability-paradox/

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