Why Thinking Through Solution Design Matters

By Peter Nebel

AllCloud Blog: Cloud Insights and Innovation

How solution design impacts Salesforce project success and tips on how to approach it

Salesforce is a highly customizable platform. It’s one of the things that makes Salesforce such a popular CRM solution for organizations of all kinds. But it’s also one of the things that can create pitfalls for organizations that don’t approach it properly.

When it comes to customizing and integrating Salesforce with other systems, the single most important indicator of success is spending significant time on design upfront. Let’s take a look at why that early work is so important and what’s involved.

Building a best practice Salesforce program requires a long term view. This long term view may cost more upfront, but if you do it right, you’ll gain that investment back and then some. On the flip side, if you don’t take a long term view, you’ll end up incurring more costs over time.

Consider the case of integrating an ERP like Netsuite with Salesforce. In short, there are two high-level options for this integration: (1) Data can be “replicated” to Salesforce or (2) data can be merely displayed in Salesforce through an embedded user interface. Making a choice without thinking through the ramifications could negatively affect your program for years to come. For example, a consideration for data replication could be Salesforce “bloat,” or storing millions of records in Salesforce unnecessarily, causing:

  • Increased storage costs
  • Performance degradation
  • Cleanup or archival of records 

However, an over-customization of core objects, which might happen if you choose to merely display data, could also reduce your ability to deploy AppExchange solutions or enhance your program in any way.

Unfortunately, these challenges occur fairly often. Most organizations move to the cloud in search of a system that’s faster to deploy and easier to maintain and grow over time. But in the push to modernize your tech stack, it’s easy to rush through the implementation without taking the time to slow down and think through the long term strategy for the new solution upfront. 

Even if you introduce a formal governance program, if your business lacks a strategy to provide direction and ensure your solution is well architected, challenges will surface. And when this happens, your organization will likely end up in the same place it started — just in the cloud instead of on-premise.

How to Approach Design for an Effective Salesforce Program

What does it take to avoid these challenges? It all starts with thinking through design upfront. When you introduce Salesforce, your business likely has a set of complex requirements to satisfy. How you go about satisfying those requirements can make or break your success. Along the way, it’s important to evaluate your options and involve your end-users.

1) Evaluate your options and be thoughtful in your selection process

To start, don’t settle on a single option for your design. With a flexible platform like Salesforce, there are many ways to satisfy even the most complex requirements and it’s important to consider multiple options. 

Ideally, you want an implementation partner who can not just present you with potential solutions, but also share their recommendations for which way to go and why. Seeing all of those options alongside an analysis of each allows you to consider different scenarios for your business and then decide on the best path forward based on your long term goals.  

For instance, if you are looking to move estimation work from a spreadsheet into Salesforce, you should detail the different solution options available and list the pros, cons, and costs for each one. From there, you should have in mind your preferred solution, but you shouldn’t finalize your decision if the solution will be end user-facing.  

2) Involve your end users and work with them on agreeable solutions

Next, it’s essential to involve your end-users early and often throughout the design process. You can’t underestimate or short change your users, because if their day to day tasks are not made easier by the rollout, adoption will suffer. By improving adoption, involving your end users also ensures Salesforce will reflect more complete and more accurate business data. In turn, this data will improve forecasting and increase your ROI.

To gain that adoption and ensure long term success, you need to involve users from the start by getting unbiased feedback from them on how various solutions will enhance their day-to-day activities. As you do so, keep in mind that what your users want might not always align perfectly with what works best for your business. 

For example, using out-of-the-box Salesforce functionality will always be the least expensive option, and that’s great when the functionality makes sense for your business, but there will likely be situations where it doesn’t work for end-users. If you don’t customize Salesforce to match their business processes, end-users will find workarounds to avoid using the platform and your investment won’t deliver any returns. In these cases, you have to meet in the middle, with both your business and your end-users conceding some of what they want.

What Will Thinking Through Design Mean for Your Business?

Investing the time and resources to think through the solution design for your Salesforce program upfront is a must if you want to build a system that’s easy to maintain and grow over time and drives toward key business goals like increased revenue.

In addition to simply taking the time to think through your strategy and design early, remember to evaluate all of your options (because there will be many) and to involve your end-users early to ensure the ultimate solution will meet their needs. Doing so can make all the difference for your business in the long term and increase your returns.

Peter Nebel

VP Strategy and Practice Development

Read more posts by Peter Nebel