Get it right first time with Salesforce

By Paul Field – CEO @ Improved Apps

'Success Go Get It' blackboard


Although many businesses boast loudly of their strategic approach to driving the enterprise forward, the reality is that this often amounts to just one or two ‘big ideas’ strapped on to the core of the existing plan. I am sure some companies really do have a strategy that goes from top to bottom in the organisation and colours everything that they do and the way they do it….but I have certainly never worked for such a company. The main way that companies go forward is ironically by looking back – seeing what worked and what did not and adjusting accordingly. ‘More of the same’ does not, to my mind represent a strategy.

Sadly, this kind of approach is also frequently applied to implementations of business-critical applications such as CRM. The ‘big idea’ is to implement Salesforce and roll it out globally and to sit back and reap the rewards of more transparent processes, more predictable forecasts, more productive sales cycles and better customer service. All great objectives – what could possibly go wrong?

The Two Biggest Issues with CRM Implementations

Losing Sight of the Objectives

Implementations – to their detriment – often get focused on the means rather than the ends – that is to say on the tool rather than the objectives. In the case of CRM this can, for example, result in a detailed exploration of all of the different and new fields required, lots of customisations to satisfy different stakeholders and an emphasis on how to use the application instead of how to ensure that the best use would be gained from the tools.

The net effect of this is that the project becomes about implementing CRM and not about improving sales productivity and creating a more predictable revenue stream as a result of implementing CRM. Most companies will have gone through a detailed ROI exercise to justify their original investment in Salesforce but then seem to forget all of that when the purchase has been made.

Not Preparing for Success

It would be an unusual implementation that went without a hitch, so it is only once Salesforce is live that the organisation goes back to review progress to date and typically finds the following things:

  • Users are doing the bare minimum to keep Salesforce up to date
  • Data errors are rife and expensive to fix/costly to ignore
  • Nobody thought about what to do with new staff intake
  •  Any training was made largely obsolete by subsequent changes…
  •  …But has in any case been largely forgotten
  • Internal support calls have gone through the roof
  • No measures were put in place to define success or check progress
  • No real sales benefits accrued

This is the point that the implementation is re-evaluated and changes become essential.

This is also frequently the point at which businesses contact Improved Apps for assistance.

The fact is that these organisations are reacting to failure rather than planning for success.

Planning for Success

It is imperative that enterprises create a strategy that will maximise the returns that will be gained from implementing Salesforce: CRM applications are about collecting all of the organisational knowledge of customers, competitors, products and regulations and putting it into a framework of consistent best-practice process.

Must-dos for CRM project plans:

  • Consider your adoption approach: Make sure that if you are going to implement CRM you think about how it is going to be adopted by the business:
    • What does the training programme look like?
    • What is the sales skills gap that needs to be narrowed?
    • Do you have the content to bridge the skills gap?
  • Identify the desired outcomes: Why are you putting CRM in place, and how are you going to measure that it’s been effective?
  • Engage stakeholders: If you don’t have senior stakeholder engagement then your chances of success are somewhat limited
  • Design around what you can see now: Rather than taking on CRM and trying to have it do everything, focus on identifying quick wins within a three to six-month timescale

It is absolutely imperative that implementations are focussed on achieving the business benefits of CRM.

CRM as a Means and Not an End

Whether we are talking about ERP, CRM, or any other software tool, it is important to remember that they are only a tool. Just because you have bought a new screwdriver to make a bookshelf doesn’t mean that you can just sit back and wait for the result. Tools are things that are ‘used to help perform a job’ (Oxford Dictionaries). CRM will HELP to achieve your business objectives but that is all.

To make your bookshelf you will need a design, a plan to build it, wood, screws and your screwdriver (and possibly some other tools too). In the design and plan you need to have understood the use to which the shelves will be put, the likely load and the location; you need to understand the skills you have to do this and those you will need to learn; you will need to know where to go for help (e.g. a DIY book or Youtube) to design and build against your requirements.

The project that enterprises are undertaking actually is NOT to implement CRM; it is (as already stated) to improve sales performance and productivity and deliver a more predictable and cost effective revenue stream. CRM is a tool that assists in delivering those objectives and requires other tools and materials to reach the objectives.

As with our bookshelf therefore, CRM must be positioned as a tool in the context of the aims and must be accompanied by the other tools and materials that are required. We should be no more solely focused on the implementation of CRM than we would be on the implementation of a screwdriver.

What Should the Project Look Like?

It should be clear by now that attention has switched from the implementation of CRM itself, to CRM as an enabler. People and process are the other vital aspects along with any other tools required.

Sales, services and support will all form part of the project to drive improvements and they will clearly, as a base level, need an understanding of how to use the new tools, but only in so far as they will help them deliver more productively and effectively as individuals. They will also need all of the skills, knowledge and know-how that will help them be more productive. This content needs to be curated and made available to employees wherever and whenever they need it. CRM cannot natively do this, which is why Improved Apps supply the additional tools to do the job. In order to succeed, Salesforce needs to deliver benefits and capabilities to the user, and what’s more these benefits need to be aligned with those of the organisation.

So, rather than plan for or react to failure, address these areas at the outset. Provide all of the tools and materials that will deliver against the ultimate objectives and raise the sights from the functional implementation of CRM. Get the strategy sorted and then deliver on it.


Paul Field – CEO @ Improved Apps