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Salesforce Industries and the new age of Digital Transformation

2020 was another strong year for Salesforce acquisitions. They announced their largest ever purchase of messaging platform Slack, for over $27B and made two other, admittedly lesser covered moves. They purchased their first consulting organization, Acumen Solutions for $570M, and acquired the ISV Vlocity.

The acquisition we’ll be discussing today – and the one we consider most important – is Vlocity. Now rebranded as Salesforce Industries, Vlocity was acquired as part of a larger shift within Salesforce, away from solution-driven sales and towards industry-specific solutions. Historically, Salesforce has relied on tactical solutions; for example, purchase Service Cloud to streamline your customer support operations, and their sales & marketing efforts followed suit. Broadly speaking, Salesforce would focus on the features of a specific software tool and sell that suite of capabilities to a broad group.

Unfortunately, this didn’t always provide the most cohesive experience for customers. Most organizations need multiple tools to solve their problems. Dealing with account executives, sales engineers, solution architects for Service Cloud, for Sales Cloud, and yet another set for Marketing Cloud, was taxing for many organizations. This became a common stumbling block for companies attempting to embark on digital transformation through Salesforce.

A strategic realignment: Enter Salesforce Industries

In practice, industry focus provides a more holistic view that spans all of the available software tools. Rather than having a Service Cloud expert who knows all use cases across all industries, you want a manufacturing expert who knows how to handle all of the use cases across the software suite. That’s where Salesforce’s acquisition of Vlocity comes in.

Vlocity built a suite of software tools, each with a specific industry focus. As a native Force.com application, it ran on Salesforce’s cloud architecture, with customization options that were specific to an industry’s unique needs. This allowed an insurance company, for example, to install Vlocity and get up and running much faster. It also allowed organizations immediate access to common customizations that make Salesforce work for their industry.

This saved companies time in their digital transformation. It also simplified things: prior to Vlocity, if you were moving from homegrown applications, on-premise architecture, or even adopting tools for the first time, there was a dauntingly long list of tasks to manage. Instead, Vlocity had this architectural legwork pre-configured to each industry, meaning companies could spend less time customizing and more time getting users onto the system quickly.

The tool was invaluable, which is why Salesforce acquired and re-branded it into Salesforce Industries. Now that it’s up and running, this begs the question – how can a company know if Salesforce Industries is the right tool for them?

Is Salesforce Industries right for you?

If you’re part of an organization wishing to embark on a digital transformation with Salesforce Industries, there are several things you should consider first.

#1 Is your industry a fit?

If your organization falls into one of Salesforce Industries’ target industries, it’s almost guaranteed that Salesforce Industries will increase your implementation speed.

Increased implementation speed means lower implementation costs and reduced customization overheads, so you can see why this is beneficial. Moreover, using the pre-built platform tools allows Salesforce to provide the updates and maintenance, rather than your internal team. This will likely save you money too.

If your company isn’t in one of those industries, there may still be value in doing feature comparisons. For example, the payment model introduced in Utility Cloud can also be applied to other usage based scenarios. And some manufacturing and healthcare companies utilize a consumables model that could fit within that framework.

Of course, when evaluating the features your company needs, it’s always best to meet with industry professionals that can help you with decision making.

Before you really get into the technical side of Salesforce Industries it’s important to note there are currently six industry specific solutions available:

  1. Communications
  2. Media
  3. Energy & Utilities
  4. Insurance
  5. Health
  6. Public Sector Solutions

#2 Are your teams aligned?

Before starting a digital transformation project, you need to ensure your organization is ready to embrace the change. This starts with alignment: so make sure that all of the groups and stakeholders are marching towards the same goal. One of the most common things that causes projects to fail is mismatched expectations. If stakeholders from one group expect something different to another group, this can cause delays and scope creep.

Best practice tip

To prepare, we recommend setting up stakeholder alignment sessions. Get everyone together to discuss their needs, wants, desires, and concerns. Allow everyone sufficient time to explain their unique requirements. Let people hear the concerns of other stakeholders. Once all of these things have been done, you can begin to fence in the actual scope of your project. 

To ensure success, the ‘alignment session’ stage should at least answer the following questions:

  • How can you meet the majority of company goals?
  • What areas will have to be handled in a future phase?
  • What compromises will have to be made in order to meet budget and timeline?
  • How will you know the project was successful?
  • What KPIs will indicate success?
After answering these questions, document and distribute the plan to all parties. This document will help be the lighthouse during your transformation project. When things start to drift, or new requirements are added, you can point back to the original goals. This is the best way to prevent excessive scope creep or misaligned expectations.

#3 Do you have the resources?

During a transformation project, you’re going to need skilled people across many disciplines. At the very least, you’ll need a Salesforce Industries expert to oversee it. This could be someone contracted solely for the engagement, an expert provided by an implementation partner, or a direct hire.

If you’re moving from a non-Salesforce tool, you’ll also need some Salesforce talent to configure and maintain the system. If you already have Salesforce administrators and developers, you may need to upskill or increase their headcount.

In this case, Salesforce Industries experience is a bonus, but not necessarily required. Since the tool is native to Salesforce, most administrators can learn the maintenance side fairly quickly,  especially if there is a formal handoff and knowledge transfer from an implementation team.

Finding this talent can be a major challenge. The Salesforce ecosystem has a very high demand for skilled professionals, and continues to grow every year and Salesforce Industries skills are even harder to come by.

Want to overcome this challenge? Find out how Revolent are helping companies close the Salesforce industries skills gap in our latest blog.

#4 Are your goals realistic?

A common pitfall of a large scale transformation is un-met expectations. Beyond the need to know if your organization is genuinely ready for transformation, you also need to be realistic with what you can accomplish with it. This means creating an achievable timeframe and goals that can be met, with appropriate KPIs. Setting a timeline that is too short, or attempting to migrate too many things at once can be a massive stumbling block for a transformation project.

When you’re thinking through the transformation, be pragmatic and take a step back. Try to look at the company from an outside perspective. Account for roadblocks and minor changes in direction and plan for those scenarios in your transformation timeline. Focus on the most important things to get you to a minimum viable product (MVP). What are the absolute must-have items, and what are the ‘nice to haves’?

#5 Manage your expectations

All too often, an organization may believe that a new tool will solve every problem they face. While a new system can provide many productivity gains, it can also be held back by existing technical and organizational debt.

I spent several years of my career working for a Salesforce CPQ implementation partner. Many of our clients were moving from another CPQ tool into Salesforce CPQ. Sometimes, this was the third, fourth, or even fifth migration a company had made. Each time they felt the software limitations were holding them back from achieving success.

Sadly, it was frequently the company’s own process requirements that were the real cause of issues. An overly complicated product catalog, non-standard pricing requirements, legacy processes, etc. caused issues, regardless of the software. Moving to a new CPQ tool couldn’t solve the inherent problems, so the company would migrate to another. However, they would inevitably bring along the same baggage.

If you’re embarking on a transformation, make sure you clean house first and take the time to get rid of this baggage. Don’t bring dirty data into a new system. Don’t keep a broken process, hoping that a new tool will solve it. Get rid of what isn’t working so you can make the most out of your project. Use this time to improve and advance your business.

Transformation Benefits

Any digital transformation project will come with a significant price tag. It takes a lot of skilled people to move a business into a new framework and system. But, like a good investment, it pays dividends over time.

An organization that migrates to Salesforce Industries will see many key benefits. First, they gain a constantly evolving platform. Salesforce releases enhancements during three annual updates. So anyone on their platform is frequently given more functionality and capabilities.

Second, having an industry standard framework makes it easier to onboard and train employees. In a niche industry like communications, using software that is familiar to new hires will reduce training time significantly. You can also leverage tools like Trailhead to augment company training.

Third, you open up a whole new network of connections and extensions. As the number one CRM in the world, the Salesforce ecosystem is packed with partners who extend capabilities. And thanks to the AppExchange, you can search through thousands of free and paid apps to meet your specific requirements.

Finally, Salesforce is huge, meaning many software tools have pre-built connections to it, making integration easier and speeding up time to value. Plus, as Salesforce offers a robust API framework, you can also build custom point-to-point integrations or use a middleware tool. Having these capabilities makes it easier and quicker to fit Salesforce into your existing tech stack.

Getting the right Salesforce Industries Help

If you are evaluating a digital transformation project for your company, it is worth considering Salesforce Industries. There is massive upside potential in using an industry focused solution, and unlocking a network of connected apps and extensions.

Make sure to consider your organization’s readiness, how realistic your goals are, whether you have the right talent available, and what baggage you need to leave behind. These key points will help you avoid the most common pitfalls in a transformation project.

Once you’re confident that Salesforce Industries is right for your business, the next step will be acquiring the right talent to implement it. As it’s a specific skillset within the Salesforce ecosystem, developers will require extra training to get up to speed with Salesforce Industries. Revolent operate a Trailhead Authorized, two-year program, supporting developers through the funding and training while they work with clients such as yourself. Clients who have the option of transferring the Revol permanently to their team, to build out their in-house talent pipeline. To find out how our Revols can supercharge your Salesforce processes, visit our client page

Looking for Salesforce or Salesforce Industries talent?

Chris Gardner

Chris Gardner is a 24x Salesforce certified consultant who enjoys helping clients realize the benefits of the Salesforce platform. He’s also a community champion, supporting the learning and development journey of other Salesforce pros on his blog www.salesforcechris.com.

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