by Deirdre MahonAugust 6, 2020
Governance is something that all users should be aware of. The main questions are: Who should set the system and data governance rules? And who is responsible for ensuring that teams stick to the rules? When it comes to review or audit time, how are rules, workflow, and process steps modified, and who is responsible for tracking so you continue to iterate and improve? The sales team cares about the pipeline, forecasting, revenue, booking commitments, and of course business KPIs such as coverage, capacity, and commissions post-contract close. Regardless of organization size, sales rarely operate in a vacuum, and inevitably other business functions become intertwined. And so, it is important for sales to understand the pulse and health of the business overall. Irrespective of ownership, these questions remain: Who governs how the Salesforce CRM system is administered and used? What does that process look like?
Whenever you roll out new processes, it can create headwinds unless you apply rigor and clearly communicate to all stakeholders. Essentially, you are asking users to follow new rules that will take time to understand, learn, and practice. In the beginning, it feels laborious or awkward, but once followed a few times over it becomes second nature and eventually, users don’t even think about it. It’s the same feeling you get when you jump on the treadmill for the first time in months and you quickly run out of breath. You need to practice a few more times and work up the stamina, then it becomes much easier as a daily routine. Salesforce governance is no different. It’s imperative to document, clearly explain, follow, and improve.
What are the minimum viable sets of practices you should establish in order to keep Salesforce humming? How do you get the most out of your investment, and produce reliable reports that drive decisions?
Your CRM system is the heartbeat of your business operations. Assuming the sales team is using and relying on the app daily, it’s continuously updated as you communicate and transact with customers along their buying journey. The age-old problem of not updating opportunity stages or documenting the next steps in the cycle causes frustration and poor planning. The mad scramble at the beginning of each quarter to validate opportunities probably sounds familiar. Sales reps may hang onto opportunities with ‘happy ears,’ which often results in a shared grievance when management and account planning comes around. Avoiding such friction is something that governance will alleviate.
Is your business not yet the size at which you need to have dedicated ops or IT function responsible for creating a center of excellence? That’s just fine. You still need to define policies and adhere to governance practices.
Here are the top 6 practices we recommend:
Capture, Document, and Review User Community Feedback
The best ideas and suggestions come from those who use the app daily. Points of friction such as page layouts, consistency for custom field naming, field pick-list adjustments, field data validation, and requirements rules to ensure data quality, are all worth paying attention to. Salesforce rarely operates on its own, so how other tools are integrated should be documented and reviewed to make sure teams are using them appropriately.
Ultimately, you need to assign ownership and responsibility to a team member or a group of users and operators. Without this practice, users will go unheard, become frustrated, and short-cut their way through critical steps and system updates.
Establish Executive Sponsor(s)
Depending on your org size, this could start out as a sole department executive who oversees and governs how users adhere to workflow, rules, and changes. As the org grows and the business scales, it will likely involve multiple stakeholders from different parts of the business–global regions, marketing, finance, and customer success–who together prioritize, and make investment and resource-based decisions. Sales can lead the charge and more often we see a dedicated business operations team, led by finance or a COO with others acting as the ‘voice’ for their respective teams.
Regardless of how you shape sponsorship, you must have a senior team member who takes responsibility for driving how the system is used and how it evolves to meet the business needs. Inevitably you will invest in peripheral technologies that require integration and consulting, so someone with budgetary sign-off and accountability is ideal. Without a sponsor and owner, it’s an uphill battle all the way. Users will suffer and ultimately the business will slow down.
Change Management & Continuous Updates & Roll Out
At a certain point along your Salesforce journey, you will need to invest in a sandbox environment to execute new development, testing, and validation before rolling out to the entire community of users. All too often, young companies give admin access freely to a variety of ‘super-users’ that claim to be confident to make ad hoc changes. That can quickly become system sprawl which turns to user confusion and lack of adoption. More importantly, the underlying data needed for critical reports starts to become unreliable with further downstream consequences.
Narrowing down the list of super-users, or administrators by team, or function is a practice you should adhere to as early as possible. This needs to be carefully managed over time. Change requests will come fast and furious as the team grows and business complexity increases, so you must decide the timing or the highest priority changes and communicate those with ample time to learn. Users should know when to expect changes, how it will show up for them, why, and ultimately how to use it. We’ve seen far too often a new field pop-up with users asking, What is this for, why, and am I required to fill that in too?
Consider establishing a continuous delivery approach and prioritise the highest business value items. Plan to deliver in a phased approach, making it easier to manage for the operations team. More importantly, this gives time for end-user adoption and a better way to apply some rigor when measuring impact.
Set Design Standards and Establish How to Progress Over the Long-Haul
Users will embrace and adopt change if it makes sense and helps streamline how they do their daily job. Design layout and workflow steps need standards. This is especially important to establish early on. You will inevitably be faced with decisions around field consolidation, roll out, and introducing new steps. The ultimate goal is to automate as much as possible, save time, and capture the most critical information to make the right decisions.
If you are rolling out changes in a phased way, take the time to measure how users adopt. If further changes need to be implemented, post initial rollout. Running multiple new experiments all at the same time will present challenges. Beware of stacking up too many changes, especially if it significantly affects users’ workstreams.
Use one of Salesforce’s adoption dashboards to track not only who is logging in, but also the number and data quality of records such as; contacts, accounts, opportunities, and such that are being created. This will help to measure user adoption, which you can then effectively correlate with business performance and process.
Stay on Top of Security and Scale
If Salesforce is your central canonical repository for customer data, financial data, contracts, and sensitive information about customers, then you must ensure that it stays intact with integrity and accessibility. A great way to add an extra layer of protection is using two-factor authentication (2FA). Parsing what data sets can be accessed by whom is a further step as the team expands. You can detail the role-based access and permissions.
When users leave, you should follow stringent guidelines to avoid breaches or data ‘leaving your building’. Include the CISO team or a dedicated security expert as part of the Salesforce practice because most sales and business ops teams are not experts in the area of regulatory compliance and data privacy. Bring in the specialists early and it will pay dividends as you grow.
Continuously Communicate, Focus on Value-first & Always Measure
As with most x-functional systems, communication is critical. Do it early, often, and back it up with data or examples, and don’t forget to document thoroughly for your future selves. ‘Steady as she goes’ will win the day because any user confusion will cause a little chaos and that is the opposite result you are aiming for. If you are not measuring the impact of change, it will quickly spiral out of control and future change will be faced with push-back.
Finally, the system should reflect your business–ultimately, how teams use it to operate, serve customers, and drive value. If you are making changes to parts of the system that doesn’t positively impact the business, then reconsider.