1. Prepare yourselves – make time and plan
From experience, one of the biggest hurdles setting up Salesforce is managing the project around existing workloads, not just for the team or individuals who will be leading the project, but also any other team using it or inputting data. Make a plan that focuses on balancing those workloads with the various activities required, primarily preparing data for importing and managing the development for that team’s users and their data. Ask for more resource if you think you’ll need it or free-up a significant chunk of one or more individual’s time. Carve out a chunk of time for that individual on a monthly basis – having the dedicated resource will make the transition process much quicker and smoother. Failure to plan and allocate sufficient time will likely result in not getting the results you’re hoping to achieve, not to mention making your transition to Salesforce slow and therefore lengthy.
2. Learn and use the resources available
An integral part of the planning process is knowing how the key areas of Salesforce work and what is required to develop the platform for your needs. This knowledge should help you to create your plan and allocate enough time to do it in, or at least have a good estimate. It’s also worth getting everyone involved in developing or working on the platform up to speed so that they understand where the data will be sitting and how it will interact with the various objects and record types. Having this knowledge will also help if you decide to use a consultant so you’ll have a better understanding of what they are proposing. From experience I’ve learnt, choose your timing carefully – getting users up to speed too early will mean they will forget what they’ve learnt, particularly if they’re not involved with setup or development.
To get the basic understanding, visit the Salesforce Trailhead page and complete some of the introduction trails and modules. For those who will be working on Salesforce in more depth, there are intermediate and advanced trails and modules which will also be helpful. Also note that it is worth including Salesforce support in your package. This will help your firm to resolve queries that the Trailhead modules or help pages don’t address.
3. Prepare your data
It’s likely that your firm will start using Salesforce because either it has no proper database already or you are moving away from an existing database. Therefore, the chances that your data is dirty (unorganised, filled with duplicates, has unnecessary or redundant records, incomplete records, contains different spelling of the same things) is high as some aspects may not have been looked at for a long time. Make sure you allocate time for the cleaning of the data and ensure it is entirely prepared before you import it into your new Salesforce database. Fixing these problems sooner will save you time and hassle later on.
4. Use a consultant
If you are completely new to Salesforce, use a Salesforce consultant, even if you only use them for guidance or to help get your team up to speed. That said they can also carry out everything from the initial setting up of Salesforce right through to developing whatever you need for your business. I recommend looking around and choosing carefully. Each consultant will likely have their own way of doing things, some may fit your firm better than others. If you do use a consultant, ensure that you communicate to them very clearly. It’s easy to start crossing wires or adding this and that to what you want them to do – keep to the plan. Also bear in mind that it’s likely that they have a number of firms that they are working with, so a little patience, clear communication and good rapport can go a long way to making your transition a lot quicker and smoother. That said, do make sure you are getting the time you are paying for.
5. Don’t ask too much too soon
It’s very easy when initially setting up your Salesforce database to start thinking further ahead, which is good, but don’t get carried away. Make sure the setup and development of your Salesforce database is broken down into clear stages with clear targets. Going all-in at the start will likely lead to mission creep and a loss of focus on what actually needs to be achieved first – getting the basics setup, data imported and colleagues clued up. My view is that it’s much better to focus on the setup first, getting the data in second and then working on the improvements and presentation of data later on. Therefore, be patient – attempt too much too soon and you risk pulling resources off essential setup and development. This could lead to mistakes and issues later on.
6. Make sure to use the Development and UAT sandboxes and develop with the future in mind
If you are new to Salesforce, there are essentially 3 environments you need to use:
- Development Sandbox
- User Acceptance Testing (UAT) Sandbox
All of your development should be taking place in a development sandbox and then be pushed into your UAT sandbox for testing using a change set. If it’s then good to go, it should be pushed into your production org ready to use. It’s very easy to get focussed on the production environment and make all the changes there and then have issues with developing your Salesforce org further. Make sure you use the development process correctly.
When setting up your Salesforce org you may also have other things to develop later on. Try to think about where this fits into the objects, fields, processes and flows that you are putting into your org so you don’t create difficulties later on. Ensure that you use picklist fields and flows where appropriate to keep your data clean in future.
7. Backup your data
Given the amount of data you will be putting into your Salesforce org, the last thing you want is to lose it all from someone mistakenly changing it or a malicious attack occurring. Not to mention all the hard work developing the layouts, flows, processes and fields. According to Ownbackup, at the start of 2020, 70% of data loss was attributed to user errors. Therefore, to prevent these risks being an issue, get yourself a cloud backup solution. There are lots of providers out there which have different focuses, price plans, ease of use and style. Choose one which works for your firm and provides what you need. Get it setup early on so you have peace of mind that your data is secure and recoverable. There is also a good chance you may get some additional tools for managing your data and sandbox environments as well.
8. Utilise – reports & dashboards
Key tools for representing and extracting data, reports and dashboards are one of the payoffs of using a CRM such as Salesforce. No longer do you have to extract data into a spreadsheet and manipulate it every month, just to then stick it in an email to your end recipient. Build a report which extracts the data you want to represent and use a dashboard to display it along with other reports. Your end recipients can then see it at any time and even subscribe to it, so they get an email snapshot of the data.
9. Knowledge, and understanding, is power
It’s important to ensure that you have as many people in your business using Salesforce as you can. If they’re using it, they’re inputting their data and therefore you can receive the appropriate reports and dashboards to really add value. Ensure that staff have the basic understanding from using Trailhead and provide some induction, training and good practice sessions. This will also allow your end users to potentially start developing Salesforce themselves for what they need and take some of the workload off the team that is focusing on larger developments.
10. Improve and build
Salesforce can be integrated with other software, websites and databases using APIs to both extract data and put it back into your Salesforce org. This is another key reward of using a CRM such as Salesforce, you can take out the manual intervention between your data sources and your central database.
In addition, keep looking at your Salesforce org, its workflows and processes and keep improving and adding to them. You can add more to it, cross reference it with your existing data and gain further efficiencies from using it. It’s also worth visiting the App Exchange to research what third party products are on offer which may help your business to better use Salesforce and the data you are capturing.
Simon Edwards, Manager, Investor Relations