Filed under: Implementation March 20, 2011

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A Salesforce SFA implementation can be performed in as little as 24 hours to as long as several years. However, a moderate implementation with less than 40 users can be accomplished in 40 hours over four days. This is from the perspective of an implementation consultant and there are some pre- and post-project activities that are not included in this schedule.

This article outlines the 40 hour/4 day approach, identifies keys issues to manage, identifies common roadblocks, and offers some disadvantages.

Activities and Timeline
There are seven major activities and their timing is shown in this Gantt chart.

The following outlines each activity.

  • Complete Project Preparation – This is a reminder that there are several preparatory tasks, such as purchasing licenses and creating users for implementation team members.
  • Business Process Review (BPR) Session – This is the requirements gathering session where all the team members are together and walk through the system.  Adding fields, defining sales stages, and similar items are all discussed here.
  • Solution Design – While solution design does occur concurrently during the BPR, this activity further develops and finalizes the design.  The deliverable is typically a spreadsheet.
  • Configuration – The solution design is implemented using the click-to-configure features of Salesforce.  Visualforce pages and Apex coding is typically not included in these types of implementations.
  • Review & Revise Session – The team is brought back together and the configuration is reviewed.  Any corrections implemented.
  • Account/Contact Import – Typically a database of accounts and contacts data exists elsewhere and is imported using the import wizard.  Sometimes a list of leads may also be imported.  Less frequently, products and price books are imported.  A wizard does not exist for products and price books so care must be taken because this can consume a lot of time.
  • Training Prep and Delivery – Training is best done in a hands-on environment.  Obviously this should be scheduled in advance.

Time-boxed Requirements, Co-Location, and Click-To-Configure

There are three key things to consider when embarking on the 40 hour/4 day plan, time-boxed requirements, co-location, and click-to-configure.

Time-boxed requirements means that the project only includes features that can be accomplished in the defined timeline, four days in this case.  This is elapsed time and not labor hours.  This is the reverse of other methodologies where the requirements are defined first and then the timeline determined.  Time-boxing ensures that the team is focused on realizing results early and scope creep is minimized.

Co-location means that most, if not all, of the team is located in one spot.  This means within earshot, not different floors or ends of a building.  At a minimum, the key business person and the system implementer spend most of the four days together. At the BPR and review meetings, the entire team should be there for the entirety of each session.  Co-location eliminates much of the churn involved in phone tag, formulation of emails, and the like that add significant delays to other projects.  It is one of the keys that allows time-boxing to work.

Finally, click-to-configure is the ability to customize the system without programming.  Adding fields, changing page layouts, defining sales stages, validation rules, workflow automation, and many other features are all things that can be configured with mouse clicks and some typing.  There is no Java or .NET programming or XML files to modify.  This allows the system to be configured quickly.  Perhaps just as important, it allows the system to be revised quickly.  This is sometimes referred to as refactoring where errors or changes in the requirements necessitates a change to an existing feature.  Click-to-configure allows refactoring to be done quickly.

Managing these three items are important to making this plan work.  All three have their roots in “agile” methodologies which have become favored over “waterfall” and “spiral.”  Some could argue that this is not true agile or that this is simply a variation on waterfall and/or spiral, but the agile movement has brought these issues into the discussion.

Common Roadblocks

The most common roadblock is the availability of account and contact data to prime the system.  Sometimes the data is hard to get out of an existing system.  Sometimes the data needs substantial cleansing.  Having clean data is an important part of user adoption so it is a difficult balancing act.

Another common roadblock is the availability of all the users for training.  This is why having less than 40 users is mentioned earlier.

One might think that the availability of the implementation team might be an issue.  However, new SFA implementations tend to be a priority and the short timeline keeps everyone focussed.  If the project is not a business priority, this plan is likely to fail.  At least it will fail fast.

Another common roadblock is the inability for the implementation team to agree on a sales process.  It would not be uncommon for an SFA implementation to be the very first time a company has examined its sales processes.  It helps to have a strong leader who can make immediate decisions in this situation.  Sometimes they expect the system to provide the process so having an example process already developed helps to fill the void.

Finally, there may be a key feature that is beyond the ability of the implementation team.  Visualforce pages, Apex triggers, and blocked desktop plugins are examples.  Most times these can be managed by putting them in a Phase II plan, but occasionally they are key user adoption issues and must be addressed.

Disadvantages

There is a tendency for “good enough” since the timeline is so important.  There may be significant business value still left on the table such as integrations with other systems or manual intervention in a process (commonly called “training issues”).  Most companies, however, do prefer getting business value incrementally rather than waiting for the big bang.

Finally, management of the system does not end with the implementation.  User adoption and support should be strategized during this period, but the timeline does not reflect activities past training.

Rapid Salesforce SFA Implementations

Salesforce SFA implementations can be very quick for moderate implementations.  Utilizing some agile concepts can get a project done in 40 hours over four days.  However, there are significant roadblocks and disadvantages.

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