Getting Salesforce is exciting. But implementing it is a major, and sometimes stressful, undertaking. Once you’ve signed on the dotted line, it’s tempting to dive right in and focus on the technology, but effective Salesforce implementation requires much more than that.

The ratio of CRM failures to successes is more than 2:1, and implementation plays a major role in those outcomes. The most effective implementation process starts offline with planning and collaboration among all the stakeholders who will be using and impacted by Salesforce. Here are six best practices and considerations to help you proactively implement Salesforce. 

1. Get everyone on the same page

Why are you implementing Salesforce? What should each user get from it? Despite its name, Salesforce is often leveraged by a wide variety of departments – from finance to IT. Ideally, representatives from each group have  discussed what they want and need from Salesforce during the procurement stage. Now that your launch is imminent, it’s important to collaborate to build your blueprint for what success looks like. Think about the short and the long term. This step is critical to starting on the right foot and staying there as your teams grow and evolve.

2. Determine if you’ll work with an implementation partner

To decide whether or not you need an implementation partner, consider your resources, budget, and the effectiveness of your processes. An external partner can save you time and bring technical expertise that you may not have on staff. They can also help you implement processes and best practices to ensure you use Salesforce successfully in the long run. Of course, the downside to hiring an implementation partner is that it will take time to identify the best consultant or agency to work with, not to mention the cost. 

3. Assign clear roles

With so many stakeholders involved in using Salesforce, you need to clearly define the roles of the key players in your implementation. Here are the roles needed for most projects:

  • Project owner – This person is responsible for keeping the project on track and communicating with stakeholders. They serve as the single point of contact for everything related to the implementation, and it’s their job to disseminate information to all the involved players. 
  • Power users – Power users live in Salesforce and are highly dependent on it to do their jobs. Their role in the implementation is to contribute to planning and testing, and make sure their day-to-day needs are considered. 
  • System administrator – This person is responsible for the day-to-day management of Salesforce. They will be charged with creating users, dashboards, and reports during and after the implementation.
  • Executive sponsor – Having a senior leader on the implementation team is vital to guiding decision-making and ensuring that the right resources are allotted for the project. 

In some cases, individuals may be assigned to multiple roles. Ultimately, it will depend on your internal resources and whether you choose to work with an implementation partner.

4. Decide whether to take a phased, all-at-once, or parallel approach

Based on your current tech stack and your organization’s needs, you’ll need to choose from a few different implementation approaches. The phased approach allows you to gradually switch over users from your current system. It’s easier to test and maintain attention to detail with this approach, but it will take longer. 

With the all-at-once approach, all users are switched over to the new system at one time. It’s more risky than a phased implementation, but it’s also much quicker. If you choose the parallel approach, you’ll run both the old and new systems at the same time. A parallel implementation gives you a fallback option that you can use in case something goes wrong with your new system. The drawback is that it requires you to manage two systems at the same time. 

5. Future-proof your processes

Your Salesforce needs will evolve over time. You’ll add new user groups and integrations and rely on Salesforce to do more for you. As you set up your processes, consider whether they’re scalable enough to adapt with you. Failing to develop scalable processes can lead to poor data quality and low levels of user adoption.

You also need to implement processes that reduce the risk involved in change management, one of the most challenging aspects of maintaining any CRM. There’s nothing more nerve-racking than feeling like you’re making blind changes that can lead to broken automations, lost revenue, and major headaches for users. As you implement Salesforce, create a plan for rolling out and documenting changes.

6. Help users help themselves

Effective implementation depends on high adoption. That means users and technical teams need to continually evolve their Salesforce knowledge. Salesforce admins and ops teams should plan to take full advantage of the education resources, communities, and events that Salesforce offers. 

As the owners of Salesforce within your organization, it’s up to you to ensure that users understand how to properly use it. You’ll need to plan for initial and ongoing training to make adoption easier and keep users up to date on changes as they happen. 

From change management to assigning internal resources, there’s a lot to consider before you even get hands-on with the technical part of the Salesforce implementation process. Using these six best practices and considerations during your implementation will make the project go smoothly for everyone.  And your future self will thank you for taking the time to carefully plan your structure, establish your processes, and define key players.