I have certainly found this to be the case, and with that I have been asked to share some of my insights from all the Salesforce implementations I have worked on. While I could talk about some great pieces of work and spill a few horror stories, I’ve instead decided to offer you an item to add to your personal delivery tool kit. I’d like to share with you my 4 C’s to help with successful Salesforce implementations. These are: Communication, Control, Core, and Cake.
For any project to have an ounce of success then you need to have leadership backing. At least one leader must act as your executive sponsor throughout the process. This person needs to be the project cheerleader, someone who represents the face of the change and is the escalation contact for communications, highlighting the importance of the delivery and the one who will always have your back when progress becomes sticky.
In an ideal world, having support from all senior leadership members on a large, business transformation project helps with overall delivery. Large projects will cross many teams and departments, for example, from sales to fulfilment and finance. If a leader from one of those departments is not aligned with defined project outcomes, then they could potentially act as a blocker to its overall success.
Other communication aspects to consider are the audience, style, frequency, and method to get messages across while the project is in flight. A project delivery is all about changing the status quo. For many employees affected by the business change it can feel very unsettling. They may be concerned about their role within the company, how different it might be upon completion, or if their role will even exist in the new world. It is therefore important to communicate with the key stakeholders and the wider business throughout.
Messages should be tailored depending on the audience you are addressing. At the start of the project it is important to identify stakeholders. These can range from the sponsors, decision makers, influencers, impacted end users, and others who should be kept informed of progress. A RACI matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) can be useful to identify these audience groupings so that communications and any actions from them can be tailored appropriately.
This can be influenced based on your audience type selected. A report with top line information sharing progress updates and any escalations would be more suitable for direct project members, while a friendly email with screen grabs of a new feature could be more appropriate to potential end users of the new system as an awareness campaign piece.
Many projects now work in an Agile-related way where there is continuous delivery of new features. Frequency of communications to the project team need to be aligned with the pace of the project so that any escalations or decision sign offs do not block progress. Similarly, if new features are being released to end users then these updates need to be timely so not to bring negative surprise or anxiety to their already shifting roles.
We are graced with different communication options, thanks to technology, and all can have their place in project delivery. The core project team may use various tools to manage the progress of project deliverables with workflow tools, chat functions, and time-efficient meetings. Workshops and interviews are useful ways to capture requirements and feed back to stakeholders. Visual displays, glossary of terms, and FAQs are handy for sharing information in accessible formats for stakeholders to dip into. Don’t feel obliged to use one tool for all situations. I find that many project teams will find their preferred methods of communicating that works best for them. Let’s not forget, sometimes a quick conversation can give clarity and help to unblock progress.
Control refers to the Project Manager’s classic Quality Triangle, namely Scope, Cost and Time. If all 3 are fixed, then the project must be delivered with a tightly specified scope, against a fixed budget of funds and by a certain date. There is no room for movement but, in reality, even with so-called fixed projects, something will give.
I have found with fixed projects that, with the beauty of working with a product such as Salesforce, the client will invariably find a feature that will suddenly become a ‘showstopper’ if they don’t go live with it. Immediately scope starts walking out the door. As clients become more familiar with the benefits of Salesforce and how its features can make such a different to their business then scope can start running off down the road and into the nearest pub for a cheeky beverage.
As scope expands, the other 2 elements of the triangle are affected. If the client demands all the scope additions to be delivered within the same time and cost constraint, then the overall quality of the outputs will be significantly compromised.
This is where wiggle room comes in. All projects, even so-called fixed ones, will allow for changes, or tolerances in project terminology. Often, a Project Manager is given a budget with say, 10% additional funds to play with to allow for delays to timeline, scope changes or unforeseen costs. This budget buffer compensates for those ‘unknown unknowns’ that you just don’t know will trip you up.
It’s the same when it comes to resourcing. There could be a feature that may require specialist skills to implement and that resource could be scarce to find, impacting the timing of the project delivery.
As a Project Manager, I have realised there is always wiggle room in project delivery. Scope will always change – fact. Salesforce features are like sweeties to a child in a sweet shop. You have to act as the parent and guide them towards how many they can consume on each visit.
With cost, there is always a budget contingency that a finance person will have estimated. Be aware of it from the beginning and keep it in your back pocket for that rainy day.
As for time, I occasionally wonder how go-live dates are decided. Often a date is communicated by the client before any solution has been estimated, putting the successful delivery of a quality product at risk. Talk to your client, make them aware of the potential real project timeline and let them decide if they want all the scope they hoped for, and how that affects their delivery date; alternately, ask them to compromise on what is produced as outputs, or be prepared to throw a load of people at the task to complete on time at a significant cost increase.
When it comes to control, as the Project Manager you act as the project caretaker, so allow yourself to go with the decision-making flow. Note the decision, make everyone aware, keep the project moving within the defined tolerances, and don’t feel you have to be so rigid.
Core doesn’t just cover the functionality options, but also the approach to implementation too. Salesforce, via their Trailhead learning platform, shares insights into best practice methods of delivering new features. Anyone can prepare in advance of a build by learning about what tools to use to capture requirements, DevOps processes, change management and system adoption techniques.
For a project manager in mid-flow of a delivery, they will also be mindful of keeping their stakeholders’ demands in check, and not letting them escalate to a ‘moon on a stick’ type of request. Promoting the notion of a minimal viable product (MVP) in the first instance and then iterating upon it over phases could help speedier delivery of outputs and quicker transition to a new world for the customer.
Let me explain the Theory of Cake (not Cake Theory as that relates to Chinese economics). Imagine you have a cake and you are prepared to share said cake. You start to cut it in equal slices but one person asks if their slice could be cut thinner. Then another says that they don’t really like all that icing around the edge and could they have a slice from the middle only. Yes, of course, and you cut the cake to allow for these requests. And then one more asks if you cut the cake horizontally along the middle and add a bit more jam, to bolster the filling.
You might be wondering why I am talking about the process of cutting up a cake. Well, it can be similar to project delivery. At the beginning of a project you may have set in your mind the different stages of its outputs and delivery thereof. But then stakeholders share their opinions, and suddenly your perfect plan looks nothing like the beautiful creation that you started with.
It is, of course, totally acceptable and expected to have stakeholder input. Without it you won’t get a successfully delivered product as remember, it is for the stakeholders that you are doing this exercise for. They have to buy into it from the beginning.
Your cake, your project, will be cut into different shapes of tranches in order to meet the needs of the recipients and stakeholders. In the end, everyone will get a piece of cake. In the end, the project will get delivered, just not in the initial way it was envisaged.
I talk about Theory of Cake to remind project managers (and any member of the project team) that projects will flex and flow to the needs of the stakeholders and other factors that they cannot always control. It is to go with the flow, within the tolerances expressed in the Control section, to use Communication effectively throughout and to be guided by the Core principles to ride the project and deliver something that will be accepted and iterated upon. And that will be OK. Project perfection doesn’t exist. Best take a break and eat a slice of cake.
In summary, the 4 Cs
Projects exist to bring about change. They can be bumpy, gnarly and fascinating beasts. Any human interaction in a project will bring about curve balls that won’t have been considered, even by the most meticulous project team. Each team conducts its best to deliver outputs that are accepted, adopted and iterated from. Use my 4 Cs: Communication, Control, Core and Cake as reference points through your next project to help you deliver a successful Salesforce implementation.
Amanda has worked with the Salesforce platform since 2007 in both end user and consultancy roles across many industry sectors, including Media and Financial Services. She specialises in digital transformation and change management and promotes successful adoption of digital strategy for customers and their customers.
Amanda is a Salesforce MVP, a leader of the Salesforce London Admin Community Group, and a co-organiser of the London’s Calling Conference. She has multiple Salesforce certifications, is a Trailhead Triple Ranger, an international conference speaker, including Dreamforce, and writes the blog: http://saasyabn.blogspot.com/