Discover new-found value with the Salesforce “Center of Excellence”

A lull in Salesforce innovation usually becomes apparent by the second year of CRM adoption.  Teams can get complacent and Salesforce “fatigue” is a potential problem.  Too may companies coast once their initial CRM implementation becomes normalized.  When this happens, the loss of inertia will slow your ability to drive future growth and opportunity.

Be the tortoise.  The beauty of Salesforce as a software is in its incremental implementation value.  Taking small, continuous steps to build out your CRM vision is the most cost effective and agile approach to realizing long-term ROI.

Some companies view their implementation in a “race once, finish first” approach.  If this sounds like you, then we kindly remind you of Truvant’s Second Immutable Law of CRMPlatform innovation is ongoing and never-ending to keep pace with market shifts and changes in user needs.

As a leader within your CRM initiative, how are you demonstrating new value in an ongoing fashion?

Are you actively working to ensure innovation pushes everyone’s comfort zone?

Do you know if your software investment is being used to its fullest potential?

In the beginning, life was simpleSales and marketing had a new rally point: customer relationship management. Salesforce was adopted as the software that would usher you into the “customer experience” age.  Everything was exciting, and everyone worked hard to make Salesforce the new norm.

Now, fast-forward 18 months.  Teams are operating with battle-tested processes and workflows.  The platform is tuned and meeting your initial requirements.  The visualization of your data shows promise.  Everything is where it should be.  Or is it?

The fact is, no.

Your user base has become ‘sophisticated’ and hungers for new system functionality.  Your business landscape is in the midst of change that will require new internal processes and modified job duties.  Debate will ensue over which CRM projects are at the top of an extensive list.  New ideas will be at odds with each other.  In absence of a clear decision making model, platform improvements will begin to slow and may entirely stall.  It is becoming painfully apparent to your leadership (and your users) that “cooperative structure” is needed to intelligently govern the growth of the CRM initiative.

Thankfully, there is a proven management model that will help you take Salesforce to the next level. Welcome to the Salesforce “Center of Excellence” (CoE) program.

Center of Excellence.  The CoE is an employee-led, cross-functional group of business and technology experts chartered to evaluate and plan everything from large-scale concepts to granular ideas, tools, and solutions pertaining to your CRM initiative.  The mission is straight forward: Create, develop, and promote innovative processes that streamline and improve the quality of both system user and customer experience.

The greatest benefit of having a Salesforce CoE in place is the ability to measure in real time how your Salesforce strategy is operating and illuminate system-level issues or improvement.

A high-performance CoE will consist of stakeholders from sales, marketing, customer service and IT.  It is essential to have at least one executive sponsor (or a council of executive sponsors) to provide guidance to the CoE, hold members accountable and ensure political visibility across the organization.

As you design your CoE framework, make sure you appoint individuals who are aligned in job function and have strategic authority and budget planning control to meet the following scope:

  1. Drive strategic business planning, and develop deployment and project plans.
  2. Manage feedback and comments from user communities. This ensures a sense of ownership is maturing at the user level.
  3. Champion a learning culture by promoting best practices in the form of an indexed knowledge base and continuing education.
  4. Promote change by instilling a culture that embraces an ever-present pursuit of growth. This ensures that normalized adoption does not stifle future innovation.
  5. Test innovative ideas in a controlled environment outside of your typical IT support work flows. This helps your IT support model stay focused on keeping existing processes running.
  6. Make certain that everyone understands the value, importance and priority of new business requirements. This is key in securing buy-in and generating ongoing feedback from your most valuable group – the user base.

The CoE should be one of three macro components in a responsive, adaptable framework for IT governance.  If you look at the following categories, you may find aspects of each that are already operating inside your organization:

  1. Center of Excellence: stakeholders from different functional groups work together to ensure CRM changes support business goals and follow IT best practices.
  2. Release Management: everyone who works with Salesforce knows how to do so safely.
  3. Design Standards: key standards for coding, testing, integration, large data volumes, and other areas that affect services are adhered to.

Finally, make sure you have effective communication and documentation strategy.  Salesforce users have been conditioned to expect fast resolution of questions, bugs, and enhancement requests.  Your release management, Help Desk and underlying communications strategy is the heart of any successful CoE strategy.  Salesforce Chatter is perfectly designed to help facilitate the outbound/inbound communication needs with your stakeholders.  Chatter not only drives collaboration, but also serves an essential role in archiving community expertise.

The promise versus reality. Developing a CoE may be as simple as connecting local teams that already operate independently.  However, be prepared that most leaders experience some degree of organizational push-back while building their CoE coalition.   Politics, turf, conflicting agendas and personality clashes all can slow things down.  You must mentally prepare yourself to tolerate mediocrity and attack bureaucracy with a bulldozer if necessary.

If armed with a clear vision, patience, diplomacy and cross-organizational navigation skills, you can grow your CoE into a productive and innovative program that delivers new Salesforce value and expands the alignment of ideas and process across your organization.