A previous post discussed the advantages of using the iterative approach when implementing a Salesforce solution. However, knowing why you should do something can often be insufficient. For example, someone who has never used a computer might understand why he or she needs to read an email message, but the method of doing so might be unclear. This post will therefore offer the best tips and practices for approaching an iterative CRM rollout.

  1. Define the reasons that your enterprise needs a CRM solution and the specific benefits you expect to receive. Is the primary business imperative to enhance customer experience and thus improve customer loyalty? Do you need online content to help field technicians perform their jobs more efficiently to maximize profitability? Is your organization experiencing rapid growth that has outpaced your current system? Make a list of your business imperatives and benefits, and then prioritize them. How you prioritize them will depend on the nature of your organization.
  2. Determine basic functionality and features — in other words, what is absolutely essential to include? Is targeted, automated marketing a “nice-to-have” or a “must-have” for your organization? Do you need to interface orders and quotes? How much does your enterprise rely on lead generation to drive sales? What type of Salesforce integration do you need — real-time, near real-time or one of the other possibilities? Salesforce has a vast array of “bells and whistles” that you can leverage, but you might not need to have all of them in place to start realizing a return on your investment. Start with what you need most and add additional features and functionality in later iterations.
  3. Plan for small, short-term iterations. Establish an implementation plan that divides the rollout into multiple phases, with (ideally) new iterations every two to three weeks. Be sure to allow time to train users and get their feedback so that you can make any necessary adjustments, but do not delay planning the next release cycle. Set a deadline for users to provide you with feedback for changes or additions. Let them know that even minor adjustments might not be possible in the next iteration if they do not provide feedback on a timely basis.
  4. Use pilot implementations. The scope of your pilot implementation depends on your specific organization. If you have multiple plants, for example, you might rollout iterations to just one plant before releasing to other locations. In a small enterprise, you might select key personnel to beta test each iteration. Medium-sized enterprises might prefer to use a single department for pilot programs. Pilot implementations allow you to smooth out any rough spots while causing the least disruption to your business. Be aware that pilot implementations typically require running parallel systems, so users may need to enter data in each system, for example, or run queries or reports in each. Be sure to allocate any resources needed for the dual systems or data verification.
  5. With each iteration, do not just encourage feedback — proactively seek it.One of the key benefits of an incremental implementation is the ability to make mid-course corrections. However, you cannot address issues that users have if you do not know about them. Do not assume that everything is fine simply because no one has notified you of a problem. If you continue forward without user feedback, you risk having the users fail to adopt the new solution, thereby defeating your purpose.

To some, the iterative approach to a Salesforce implementation may seem like the more complex approach. In reality, it is much simpler than you might think if you follow these tips. You might want to remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare — slow and steady wins the race.

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