When companies face unmistakable signs of being outpaced by the competition, many companies that are trying to gain a foothold in the crowded comms, media, and tech space weigh the benefits of implementing Salesforce as a technology that will help them outpace competitors and secure market share.
It’s a good call.
Research shows 47 percent of companies using CRM systems, such as Salesforce Sales Cloud and CPQ, saw increased customer retention and experienced notable returns on their CRM investment—when implemented properly and well adopted.
But before departments hear the news of potential improvements and overly anticipate the potential implications, you need a plan that addresses the impact and optimizes the investment.
One of the most common mistakes companies make is knowing that their operations could be better, but they have not taken sufficient time and energy to fully define what “better” looks like, specifically for their business, market, and customers. The first step is to evaluate the present condition and determine where you hope to be in the future (and why), before investing in technology or process overhauling. Only then can you effectively shop for the CRM tools that best serve your unique purpose.
The roadmap to a successful transition includes five points:
- Identify specific goals and expectations
- Research customization and data management
- Determine budget and timeline
- Schedule change management
- Address ongoing maintenance and support
Let’s discuss each point.
1. Identify goals and expectations
While this seems like an obvious first step to transition, it’s surprising how many companies reach out to us ready to invest but lack clarity on what they hope to achieve. That’s usually the moment a CEO says, Well, you’re the expert. YOU tell US what we need.
The truth is, nobody is more invested in your company’s success than you. So taking the time to discuss areas where innovation can truly accelerate and support defined strategic goals. For example, lowering overhead costs while implementing faster product go-to-market campaigns is a fundamental first and deliberate step in a known direction.
Talk with your department leaders and teams. Where are you getting beat in the digital space? Discuss what your competitors are doing and how you can incorporate some of those strategies. Summarize these findings and take them to the executive body for affirmation and buy-in. Use these inputs to create a comprehensive vision of where you’d like this infrastructure to be one year, five years, or even ten years from now, and describe the critical elements that contributed to how the challenges were solved and objectives met.
2. Research customization and data management tools
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a CRM transition, especially when attempting to overhaul, implement, or improve data quality and management, data or process flow documentation, systems interoperability, and eliminating technical debt. Depending on your expectations, that can be a tall order. These will influence your selection of the ideal CRM system, budget, and implementation timelines, and help you measure the expertise necessary for defining and implementing these customized digital initiatives.
Discussing and clearly communicating your specific transition expectations and boundaries will expose and help clarify a wide range of preventative measures, particularly around functionality, timeline, budget, infrastructure changes, departmental expectations, and other challenges associated with digital transformation and which constituents will feel the biggest impact. And it will also narrow down the ideal CRM platform and interrelated systems to do the job as intended.
3. Determine budget and timeline
The Salesforce AppExchange marketplace offers a staggering variety of apps, components, solutions, and services for forecasting, customization, innovation, and more. Unfortunately, no app has been released to predict the validity of your anticipated budget and timeline isn’t available (yet).
“Scope creep is common, and costly. Unless you have some kind of CRM crystal ball, you can’t foresee every additional need or issue that might rear its head once you get the ball rolling,” says Andy Mason. “But the more thoroughly you plan before you begin, the less chance there is that something will crop up during the project that will call for more funds.”
Also, be prepared to compromise on your transition wishlist. It’s common for companies to prioritize certain features with plans to integrate digitalization gradually. Maintaining a slow yet consistent pace helps monitor a tight budget and exposes the workforce to changing processes that may require adapting to a new skill set.
4. Plan change management strategy
A business survey found that almost half (47 percent) of organizations that integrate change management are more likely to meet their business objectives than 30 percent that opted not to incorporate change management strategies. Organizational change management and adoption investment are often the first to get “cut” from budgets or placed on the balance sheet as an after-thought, yet when properly funded and executed, more often than not are credited as the most valuable investment and factor in their project success.
Part of this success is recognizing that changes brought on by implementation are often welcome, but they still impact workflow and require a shift in skillset. Your teams will need time to adjust to innovations that affect their daily tasks.
“Regardless of the stated objectives for your digital transformation, the business transformation you’re looking for will not occur without a plan that accounts for your employees,” said business experts Kelly Hanratty and GerRee Anderson.
“It’s so easy for digital transformation plans to focus on the technology: the roadmap of software purchases and development, the rollouts and implementations, the user trainings. But so many digital transformations manage to forget the humans.”
Often the effectiveness of digital transformation is measured by the resilience of the company’s staff. For example, when the Simplus Change Management team worked with Ivanti, a leading IT software company, to reduce its reliance on complex, manual processes and legacy systems, the company’s commitment to preparing its workforce for new ways to do their jobs contributed to the project’s overall success.
“If you are impacting your sales team’s productivity, you are impacting your bottom line,” said Laura Stevens, Director of Change Management at Ivanti. “So if you are not very thoughtful and methodical about how you introduce change, especially to Sales, you are going to have a revenue hit.”
The focus of our support team is to ensure higher levels of adoption and productivity through proper change management, reducing the negative impact on revenue. That kind of support can also be found throughout our advisory, delivery, and strategic services teams.
5. Schedule ongoing support
Companies that have successfully completed digital transformation learn quickly that the process never truly ends. Instead, implementation transforms into maintenance and support. Why? Because tools and apps break. Because product strategies and markets change. Because data quality deteriorates organically over time, causing dashboards to need reprogramming to remain functional. New data types are collected over time, which requires further data analysis and visualization tools. Your Salesforce system is part of an evolving ecosystem that requires consistent attention for optimal performance. And, this evolution needs to stay in lockstep with and support the changes in your business’ overall strategic goals as well.
To get the most value from digital implementation, expertise in complex customization, change management, and ongoing maintenance makes a strong case for partnering with a Strategic Services team.
When companies hire a Strategic Services partner, they get on-demand access to outside experts with extensive experience configuring and reconfiguring data collection, analysis, and interpretation activities. In other words, an expert team can ensure you gain the most value from this digital transition and maintain the optimal functionality of this investment.
Partner up with an experienced team
While it may seem more cost-efficient to forego an implementation partner, relying entirely on your internal team is often a costly mistake learned during a transition.
“Implementing Salesforce without an implementation partner or incorporating third-party apps almost guarantees you’ll be reinventing the wheel, and spending more time and effort to build less effective systems than if you’d invested in the right tools and support,” warns Levi Olmstead. “Official implementation partners and third-party integrations can help you create a customized system you need faster, better, and with greater foresight than you could on your own.”
Expertise in custom applications, system integrations, Salesforce AppExchange enhancements, and other system implementations can be the dividing line between relying on your in-house IT team to handle implementation and hiring a third-party team.
“There are many ways to use Salesforce; it would take significant time and education to learn it all,” added Olmstead. “That’s what implementation partners bring to the project — they’re experts in the software and have helped many organizations successfully implement Salesforce.”
If you are considering digital implementation or transition, let’s discuss the upfront advantages and success assurances of partnering with our experienced multi-cloud Salesforce team.