Salesforce Consultant’s 5 Expert Tips for Your Next Project

In recent years, the RadialSpark team and I have worked on some pretty cool projects. Some of those projects come to us in expected ways (from clients), and some of them come in less traditional ways. For example, we recently worked on a project for Salesforce. Mike Salem, a Lead Sales Engineer at Salesforce, called on us to create a Heroku application he could use todemo the IoT capabilities of Salesforce and Field Service Lightning. This proved to be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the inside workings of Salesforce and to showcase our development talent.

Throughout every project, I am always learning new things. As Salesforce consultants, we see first hand just how vast and multifaceted this product is and how it continues to expand to include more offerings and features. While staying on top of every change Salesforce makes is not easy (and may even be impossible for even the largest Salesforce consulting firms) some things remain constant and have helped countless enterprise customers achieve success.

Salesforce consulting is not merely about getting your Salesforce instance up and running. It is about incorporating a tool into your business that will change the way you operate. Much like a great professor forces you to become a better version of yourself; when approached correctly, Salesforce turns your business into a better version of itself.

Salesforce consultants give you an inside track on what your business needs to do more than “get through the implementation.” We look at your entire business and identify areas that may be a bottleneck to achieving the highest ROI.

A Salesforce expert understands the ins and outs of the product and can adapt it to meet your business processes, but perhaps, more importantly, a Salesforce expert with business consultancy experience can alert you to areas that should be changed to match Salesforce — instead of the other way around.

With all of that in mind, I am sharing the top five things I have learned as a Salesforce consultant. As a developer who understands business processes and a Salesforce consultant who understands custom development, I have a unique perspective on technology implementation.

Successful CRM implementation has as much to do with preparing and supporting the business as it does with selecting a CRM provider. The topics discussed will help you understand how to prepare your teams and your business for a new Salesforce implementation and how to get the most out of an existing Salesforce instance.

#1 Understand the Power of Salesforce and Its Rich Ecosystem

There are other CRM options available, and of course, you could always build your own homegrown solution, so why assume that Salesforce is the right fit? The maturity of the platform means that it can handle nearly every aspect of your business, from lead generation to analytics to team collaboration.

Source: ScienceSoft

In addition to a robust, out of the box offering, Salesforce is further supported by a rich ecosystem of third-party developed applications. “The Salesforce AppExchange is the CRM giant’s enterprise app marketplace that houses more than 3,000 applications for things like sales, service, and marketing,” says ZDNet.

Salesforce’s $389 billion app economy continues to grow as the company provides greater incentives through new programs that encourage highly-skilled developers to contribute to the marketplace. Applications on the AppExchange allow businesses to access plug-and-play elements without the investment associated with building or supporting in-house development.

Applications can also be built on the Salesforce platform using APEX code. For everything you need to know about building on Salesforce, check out this post.

In addition to customization through the AppExchange, Salesforce has added Heroku support to handle custom development needs. Applications built on Heroku fully integrate with your Salesforce instance to extend the power of your Salesforce data throughout your organization.

#2 Partner with a Salesforce Consultant Before You Buy Salesforce

We often see that businesses wait to reach out to a Salesforce consulting firm until after purchasing Salesforce. Perhaps they envisioned going through the process utilizing in-house teams, or maybe they believed that there was no need for a Salesforce consultant until they were actually Salesforce users.

In reality, the best time to engage with a Salesforce consultant is before spending thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Salesforce is a Software-as-a-Service, which means that you begin paying a monthly fee right away.

However, we have often seen companies that overbuy initially, believing that they are ready to implement several aspects of Salesforce at once. “Understanding existing processes, pain points, key metrics, and working to define the future state vision, processes, and metrics results in a prioritized list of key capabilities and is crucial to ensuring that organizations achieve good ROI on the implementation,” says Matt Cheung.

Creating that “prioritized list” is crucial and should be done before making a purchase. We often find ways to improve a business’ current processes when mapping to Salesforce processes. “Failing to map work processes and data requirements against the Salesforce.com model before loading data and starting to use the application” is identified by Steve Susina, Marketing Director at Lyons Consulting Group, as one of the biggest mistakes companies make when implementing Salesforce. A Salesforce consultant understands the capabilities of Salesforce and its products and can help the business define requirements in terms of those abilities.

When requirements are established, your Salesforce expert can turn their attention to your existing data. “Take the time to clean up your data before importing it into Salesforce. Avoid duplicate accounts and contacts by merging accounts whenever possible. As the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out,’” David Ciccarelli of Voices.com says.

Leveraging a Salesforce consultant before making a purchase means that the business saves Salesforce subscription fees while the process mapping and data cleansing are completed. While your in-house team may need to purchase the software to understand how data should be prepared for integration, a Salesforce expert comes with that knowledge. When you are ready to implement, your data will be ready too. “Taking time to evaluate how Salesforce information could be used across the entire enterprise and training staff on proper data cleansing the first time around will make adoption so much easier,” Sharon Harry of Metropolis Technologies says.

Finally, with your data ready, your processes mapped, and your prioritized list available, you can begin evaluating licenses with a clear understanding of which products you need and those that you do not. “Making an investing into the planning phase will pay off in the long run and guarantee a healthy, trustworthy database. If you can do a few things really well in the beginning, you can grow your Salesforce platform from there,” Megan Langley of OutMarketsays.

#3 Do Not Re-Invent the Wheel

As we discussed, much of the power of Salesforce lies in the AppExchange. However, navigating through the thousands of applications available can leave some businesses believing that a custom build is needed to meet the business’ requirements. Electing to go with a pre-built solution eliminates more than just the upfront costs of development. It also shifts the maintenance burden from the business to the developer. As Benjamin Luftman notes, “We like AppExchange for its many options, and usually, we can find a solution there than can be adapted for our needs.”

Clone This User creates new users from any device, even a smartphone, without using any code. “CTU looks up existing users that serve as the basis for the new one, enters the name and email, and generates the username and password immediately,” Amanda Nelson says.

PandaDoc allows you to manage documents from within Salesforce and securely combine those documents with storage and payment solutions.

Amanda provides forensic examination of everything that happens within your Salesforce org. The application manages all types of changes, including daily modification, scheduled releases, and major projects and can help you learn which check boxes are driving workflow.

Think of the AppExchange like the App Store for your business. In fact, that is exactly what Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce does. When asked what inspired the AppExchange, Benioff answered that it was a meeting between Steve Job and himself in 2003. “Benioff brought members of his team to see Jobs who inspired the team to work on building an ecosystem for, in Jobs’ words, Salesforce’s ‘fantastic enterprise applications.’ Three years later, the AppExchange was born. In 2008, Benioff paid it forward (and back), gifting Jobs the trademark and URL for Apple’s own App Store, taking the AppExchange brand instead,” Jim Sinai, Salesforce’s VP of App Cloud Marketing recalls.

#4 Follow Good Implementation Practices

We recently published an entire post dedicated to good Salesforce implementation practices, so rather than rehash that content here I encourage you to check in out.

Just a few of the elements of a successful implementation are an executive champion, a robust training plan, and a realistic timeline. While Salesforce has an extensive training library, your teams do not want to spend hours sifting through the content to learn how to do their jobs.

Realistically, the business does not want them to learn that way either. “You want to reach the next level in your business. You’re employing Salesforce to kick your professionalism up a notch. You want high quality, standardized service from your sales and customer support teams. The only way to ensure this is to give your team high quality, standardized training,” Amad Ebrahimisays.

#5 Prepare to Leverage Analytics

The data stored in Salesforce can become your greatest asset. Learn to leverage that asset in new and unexpected ways. Begin to think of analytics as more than just analyzing your sales numbers. Analytics tools can be used to drive automation throughout your business, from lead assignment to new product development.

As your organization matures in Salesforce, your store of data will grow, and you will leverage that data to make decisions and drive processes. To drive automation efforts, develop applications that act in response to analysis results. This level of automation enables the business to respond quickly to market changes and stay ahead of the competition.

Bonus Tip: Create a Single Source of Truth

For some organizations, Salesforce becomes that only source of truth or master data layer. This is ideal for businesses that utilize few systems or solutions outside of Salesforce. Use Salesforce as your master data layer if all of the users needing access are already licensed Salesforce users and you can anticipate making a limited number of API calls. It is also a great option if your applications do not run highly-complex computations.

However, if your business needs more, you may want to turn to Salesforce’s fully supported application development platform, Heroku. Heroku is ideal for building a master data layer that requires a significant amount of integrations from outside of Salesforce and when your organization runs the risk of exceeding Salesforce’s API call limits. Heroku may also be the best approach if the application must perform complex computations in near real-time or if there is a large user base that exceeds the ROI of Salesforce Communities. A Salesforce consultant with expertise in Heroku can evaluate your business and determine which approach will work best.

Companies that implement Salesforce realize a dramatic improvement in many aspects. Collaborating with a Salesforce consultant gives you the power to achieve those successes quickly and helps to avoid falling into costly pitfalls.

Michael Rockford, CEO and Founder of Radialspark, a registered Salesforce partner and leader in custom software development and implementations.

Originally published on www.radialspark.com