Salesforce Best Practices

Top 5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Salesforce Implementation Partner

We’ve all heard horror stories about botched Salesforce projects that leave end users high and dry and drain the budget. You may have even been the main character in one.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to happen to you. By vetting your partners, you can ensure a smooth, successful project.

But how exactly should you vet a potential Salesforce partner? What questions should you ask in a vendor evaluation? How do you know if they truly have the skills and experience to help with your specific project?

Keep reading — we’re covering all that and more. But first, let’s review the basics: when to hire a Salesforce partner and where to find the good ones.

Why and when should you hire a Salesforce implementation partner?

Many organizations hire a Salesforce implementation partner when they have a business challenge but don’t have the bandwidth or internal expertise to address it.

Those challenges are extremely common. In our Project to Program research report, only 6% of respondents said they don’t work with a consultant or contractor. 

If you’re working on a Salesforce project, you should have a partner involved — even if they serve as a second set of expert eyes. They can start by assessing existing org structure and limitations, point out edge cases, and spot problems in your implementation plan from a mile away.

Where to find a top-notch Salesforce implementation partner

I’ll give you a hint: don’t start with Google. The results will be overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time.

Save yourself some time and conduct a more targeted search instead. Here’s where to start:

Peers

Pull out your virtual Rolodex and contact folks at other companies in your industry who have done Salesforce projects.

Did they work with a partner? Who did they evaluate, and who did they end up using? Were they satisfied with the results? You’ll get a headstart on sourcing potential partners and honest feedback from people you trust.

An elite talent network

According to our 2023 Salesforce Talent Ecosystem Report, the number of certified experts across all partners doubled to nearly 173,000. But not all of those experts will be a fit for your project in your industry or can meet your time constraints and your budget. Additionally, it’s becoming harder and harder to find and engage exceptional talent exactly when you need it.

A network of flexible, independent consultants like 10K can help you move your project in days—not months. Our matching engine quickly identifies the Salesforce expert you’ll need based on your specific and unique project requirements. The best part? 10K Experts are as excited to get your Salesforce project across the finish line as you are.

Learn more about how we vet Salesforce experts here.

5 screening questions to ask Salesforce partners during an intro call

With your list of potential partners finalized, it’s time to dig deeper into their credentials, services, and experience.

1. Can you describe your delivery methodology?

Salesforce projects fall apart without robust business analysis and strong project management.

To evaluate a partner’s level of operational excellence, make sure they highlight:

  • The deliverables that will come out of the project, such as documentation, training, and infrastructure maps.
  • Whether they take an agile, waterfall, or blended approach. Agile projects tend to be completed faster, allowing you to intervene if the preliminary results aren’t hitting the right notes.
  • Where they track requirements, bugs, and enhancement requests.
  • How and when they communicate with you, in standups, over email, with messaging tools, etc.
  • What their testing process is like — does it involve end user testing? How do they handle bug fixes?

2. What would a team for our project look like?

Every project is unique, and you need the right team with the right roles to complete it properly and on time.

For example, if you’re implementing CPQ, you’ll need certified CPQ specialists who’ve implemented CPQ successfully. You’ll also need other supporting roles, like Business Analysts, Developers, and Quality Assurance. They are probably not a good fit if they don’t have these roles on their team.

3. Can you share a few customers you’ve worked with lately?

This question is less about getting references — they won’t give you the contact info of any unhappy customers — and more about their level of industry knowledge and experience: have they served customers in your industry or customer segment or with similar challenges in the past?

Make sure their answers align with your company profile. Also, poke around each partner’s website and LinkedIn to see if they’re publicizing other customer wins.

You should also consider whether the partner is a mid-market or SMB firm that’s trying to move upmarket or a partner that solely works with enterprise clients. If it’s the latter, they may not give you the time of day if you’re not a big enough fish, or you may get less experienced consultants who haven’t been staffed on larger, strategic accounts. 

4. What happens if we go over budget or out of scope?

Scope changes can and will happen, so it’s critical to understand how those changes will impact the project timeline and budget.

Bonus points if the partner can give specific examples of how they handled scope changes on a recent project. Ask to connect with those customers to understand how the situation went.

5. Will you provide training and ongoing support?

The partner may have already mentioned this in #1, but it’s worth getting a separate answer to this question for two reasons:

  1. You want end users to understand what was built and how to integrate it into their workflow. It’s also important to know whether or not you have the resources to support that kind of training.
  2. Your Salesforce Admin is busy and may not have the time or energy to dig into the details months after the project ends when something goes wrong. Right after (or even during) the project, the partner should communicate what they did, how they did it, and how to update it. Otherwise, you may need to engage with the consultants again, which comes at a cost.

This conversation starter may also raise the question of whether you need to pay extra for in-depth training and support. This add-on might be worth it depending on your budget and the experience your resources have.

What is an instant red flag for a Salesforce partner? Delays.

Even if you feel the partner fits your org’s ethos, experience, and process requirements, there’s one more way your project can fail: delays.

The bigger Salesforce consulting firms tend to have long, drawn-out scoping and contracting processes, adding each change as a line item on their final estimate. Why waste four months creating an SOW only to change it during the kickoff call?

In the weeks wasted, you could have:

    • Hired an on-demand Salesforce Architect to assess the current state of your Salesforce org and determine the best path forward.  
    • Onboarded several partner team members and reviewed requirements in detail.
    • Started the change management process, notifying employees that their day-to-day might change, sourcing champions, and blocking off calendars for UAT.

Get your projects off the ground faster with vetted, on-demand Salesforce experts.

Speed to deployment can mean getting an extra edge over a competitor or being the first to enter into a new market. The only way to get started quickly is to work with a flexible Salesforce partner who prioritizes accelerating innovation as much as you do.

Enter 10K. Our on-demand consultants kick off your project 50% faster than a traditional consultancy — without sacrificing quality. All the consultants in our network are excited by technical challenges and go through a rigorous vetting process covering: 

  • Salesforce and Technical expertise
  • Business acumen
  • Communication style
  • Past customer feedback
  • Project management skills
  • Previous consulting and in-house experience

Accelerate your time-to-value with Salesforce, and reach out to us today.

5 Ways Salesforce Architects Rapidly Clear Roadblocks

Most Salesforce orgs are in a prime position to increase their ROI with the support of an experienced Salesforce Architect. In fact, 82% of Salesforce program owners who report the highest ROI always use an architect. 

However, Salesforce Architects are often overlooked, misunderstood, or too difficult to access. Without trusted architectural guidance in place for implementations, migrations, or customizations, most orgs face two significant risks:

  1. Accumulation of technical debt 
  2. Slower time-to-value from their Salesforce investment  

Salesforce Architects hold the key to accelerating productivity and maximizing value, but how and when should you engage one? We love to debunk the misconception that you need to hire a full-time, in-house architect to make an impact. The reality is that relatively short engagements—even just 8 hours of an architect’s time—move the needle. Architects can quickly provide solution assurance, org clarity, process blueprinting, project roadmaps, and (maybe most importantly) peace of mind.  

Here are five high-impact areas where an on-demand Salesforce Architect can quickly drive progress.

Streamline and modernize automations

The Problem: As requirements evolve, legacy workflow rules and process automations become brittle, inefficient, and unable to handle complex logic.

The Value: Architects help refactor automations using robust tools like Apex and Flow, enabling sophisticated requirements with improved performance, testability, and long-term maintainability.

Migrate from legacy Salesforce user experience technologies

The Problem: Companies still relying heavily on classic Salesforce UI face user adoption challenges, fragmented experiences, and potential technical debt.

The Value: Architects plan and execute comprehensive migrations to Lightning Experience, modernizing the UX/UI across objects, apps, dashboards, and more.

Build a unified integration strategy

The Problem: Over-reliance on point-to-point integrations creates technical debt, fragmented data, and an inability to adapt as integration needs change.

The Value: Architects design robust integration architectures leveraging API management, event-driven patterns, change data capture, and other modern capabilities.

Implement strategies for org merges, splits, and environment management

The Problem: As companies evolve, reorganizations and M&A activities create data fragmentation and org complexity that becomes unmanageable.  

The Value: Architects provide expertise in planning and executing org mergers/splits, managing multiple environments, and implementing scalable data migration strategies.

Analyze and improve security architecture

The Problem: As requirements change, static security models create governance risks and compliance issues that can become burdensome.

The Value: Architects holistically assess sharing rules, permissions, and security models to refine architectures that balance security, compliance, and access needs.

While not exhaustive, these examples illustrate how certified architects apply expertise across process design, UX, integration patterns, data migration, security modeling, and more to rapidly clear roadblocks. A certified Salesforce Architect is the antidote to short-sighted solutions that will gradually accumulate into expensive technical debt. Their oversight and expertise guarantee long-term scale, agility, and ROI.

Where can I find an experienced Salesforce Architect?

Finding an experienced architect available to work on your Salesforce org is often expensive and time-consuming. Our 2023 Salesforce Talent Ecosystem Report found that Salesforce Technical Architects still make up just 1% of the overall talent supply. Additionally, it takes technical specifics and knowledge to vet an architect properly. So, while it may be tempting to use UpWork, the reality is that finding a skilled architect is like finding a needle in a haystack. The good ones know their worth and provide their expertise elsewhere. 

Large consultancies are one such place. However, after you’ve run the gauntlet of the traditional sales and SOW process to get in their queue, it can still take 6-9 weeks for an architect to get started. Finding a specialized architect with immediate availability is essential. 

That’s where certified Salesforce Architects who work on demand as independent consultants come into play. Independent architects have the technical prowess and freedom to move your Salesforce initiative forward quickly. They also don’t have to deal with red tape or bureaucracy. Their sole focus is paving the way for greater efficiency, scalability, and innovation. 

Instant Architect™ accelerates Salesforce productivity 

Do you have a stalled Salesforce initiative that needs a game plan to move forward? Just 8 hours with Instant Architect™ can get your team back on track within days. Click here to get started.

Why Ongoing Education is Key for Salesforce Experts

What makes someone a bona fide Salesforce expert? 

A growth-minded spirit and dedication to ongoing learning separate the Salesforce professionals from the experts. Because the platform is constantly evolving, it’s critical to dedicate time to expanding, deepening, and specializing your skills to keep pace with Salesforce’s impressive pace of innovation. This is how to deliver the most value to customers while building a sustainable Salesforce consulting career.

Upskilling and specialization are some of the most impactful ways to gain a competitive edge and win new projects as a Salesforce expert. However, time is money, and ongoing education takes precious time. Here is how we recommend approaching upskilling to stay competitive as a Salesforce expert. 

The best Salesforce experts are upskilling

Expertise, like the marketplace, isn’t static. During inflation or recession, investing legend Warren Buffet says you should do two things: First, invest in yourself. Get better at what you do and who you are. Second, protect yourself with the best protection— a business that doesn’t require heavy capital investment. 

Sound familiar? Our survey of independent consultants – some of the most elite talent talent in the Salesforce ecosystem – made it abundantly clear that ongoing education is necessary. However, at the same time, most independents agree that time is money. Billable hours keep the lights on, but upskilling is key to staying current on the latest trends. 

Independent Salesforce technical consultant and entrepreneur Tasha Rucker succinctly captures the importance of professional development for Salesforce entrepreneurs. 

“…I’m a lifelong learner. I can design my own professional development and it’s funded by me. Whether it’s which conferences to attend, present at, or how to market my brand – I have the freedom to choose. It feels good to invest in myself and my future.”

Why Salesforce experts should carve out a niche in the market 

Before going after a new Salesforce certification to elevate your expertise – the key to winning clients, expanding business capabilities, and weathering economic storms – take the time to establish your market niche. 

It’s impossible to attract and win over every customer. It also doesn’t pay to get distracted by the next shiny product and the imagined dollar signs that come with it. That said, choose a corner of the market that will allow you to do the Salesforce work you love and excel in it (bonus points if also narrowed by industry.) For example:

  • CPQ 
  • Financial Cloud
  • Health Cloud
  • Manufacturing Cloud
  • Commerce Cloud

Customers recognize good work and will come back for more – more than half of independent consultants’ customer base is repeat customers. 

Becoming an expert in a specific cloud and/or industry is also a strategic career move. Repetition and exposure to various use cases and challenges will result in deepened expertise – the hallmark of a good consultant. This will help you continuously win over new project work in your corner of the market. 

How Salesforce experts can carve out their niche

Consider this advice from independent Salesforce architect and entrepreneur Lamin Ceesay. He positioned his independent consultancy by first identifying market opportunities aligned with his passions, purpose, and goals to drive solutions for customers.   

“To find your market niche, do some competitive analysis. Compare your offerings to consulting firms, other independent consultants, etc. You don’t want to compete with the big players, but you have to find a place to compete and provide value.” 

To harness the power of vertical specialization, pick something you’re good at and seek clients whose problems need your solutions. Ask yourself, ‘What do I enjoy?’ ‘What am I really good at?’ ‘What are my unique skills?’ ‘Who would value that?’ ‘What problems can I solve for them?’ Magic happens at the intersection of your unique talents, skills, and desires and the businesses that would value the transformation you enjoy delivering.

Take a bite-sized approach to upskilling 

Whether you’re seeking a new certification by adding credentials that demonstrate your expertise or just looking to expand your skills, set yourself up for success by first defining what success will look like for you. 

Do you have a knack for relationship-building? Then, you have a solid foundation for what it takes to become a solution architect. Are you technically savvy or love coding? Then, hone in on technical consultant, technical architect, or developer skills. 

Knowing what you’re good at and enjoy will also help determine your blind spots. Both are necessary to build a learning game plan that will inform which skills to sharpen and when. 

Trailhead makes hitting your target easy and on a customizable schedule. Set measurable goals for learning and choose a certification exam date that’s manageable and practical. Consider your current project load and personal life, then reverse-engineer your learning schedule. 

To make your learning schedule bite-sized, download the Trailhead GO app. It boasts an impressive library with over 800 ‘badges’ of bite-sized and dynamic content across various topics. There’s something for everyone, and it’s an effective way to build momentum for your upskilling journey. 

Lean on your community for mentorship

The Salesforce Ohana is alive and well. No matter your career path or goals, there are experts who have already walked the journey and are eager to offer their lessons learned. Start with your local user groups or apply to join an expert community like 10K’s. These groups are full of welcoming and supportive people who value collaboration, learning, and leveling up the Salesforce ecosystem one person at a time. 

The 10K View 

The Salesforce platform is constantly evolving, which means that Salesforce consultants need to be constantly learning. The best way to do this is to carve out a niche in the market and focus on a specific cloud or industry. This will allow you to develop deep expertise in a particular area and become a valuable asset to your clients.

To find your market niche, do some competitive analysis and identify what you can offer that others can’t. Once you’ve found your niche, you can start upskilling by taking Trailhead courses, attending conferences, and networking with other Salesforce professionals.

Taking a bite-sized approach to upskilling and setting measurable goals is important. This will help you stay on track and progress towards your desired outcome. You can also lean on your community for mentorship or to discover new learning opportunities. For example, 10K’s ISV Partner Program connects our Salesforce expert community with industry-leading ISV certification opportunities. 

Follow these tips, and you can become a stand-out independent Salesforce consultant who is always learning and growing. 

 

Why 2023 Salesforce Talent Demand Trends Hint at Technical Debt Risk

For the last six years, our team has studied Salesforce talent supply and demand trends that can help customers, hiring managers, and experts alike better understand the ever-evolving ecosystem and where it’s headed. This year, we uncovered compelling evidence that many Salesforce customers chose to rely heavily on Developer talent while deprioritizing Architect talent. Unfortunately, these trends may indicate that Salesforce customers are actively (or running the risk of) incurring costly technical debt. 

In this article, we’ll share what this year’s data shows about the demand for Salesforce Developers versus the demand for Technical and Solution Architects, and how the shift in priorities could result in excessive technical debt down the road. 

Demand for Salesforce Architects decreased the most across all roles in 2023 

While demand for Salesforce talent was down across all roles this year, demand for Solution Architects and Technical Architects declined the most. Demand for Technical Architects was down 55% YoY, followed closely by Solution Architect demand, down 54% YoY. 

Why are organizations relying less on Salesforce Architects?

There are a few potential reasons why demand for Architects went down this year. Salesforce Architect roles are highly specialized and sometimes hard to fill—they’re also not cheap. With the economic factors at play this year (e.g., inflation, rising interest rates, layoffs, budget cuts, etc.), many organizations have had to scale back hiring and tighten their budgets.

It makes sense that Architect demand would decrease so drastically. According to the latest research from Mason Frank, Technical Architects are the highest-paid (non-executive) Salesforce professionals in the United States. Orgs on a tight budget may find it harder to justify bringing an architect onto their team. 

It’s also possible that the dip in demand for Architects could be partly due to the fact that hiring (and retaining) a full-time Salesforce Architect is like finding a needle in a haystack. While Solution Architect and Technical Architect supply actually increased this year, each role still makes up just 1% of all Salesforce talent. Architect scarcity may have led many customers to seek out Developers to tackle their projects. 

Demand for Salesforce Developers slowed the least across all roles

Salesforce Developers are essential to deploying new solutions, designing custom apps, making critical updates, tackling technical integrations, and more. According to Salesforce, the role’s prominence continues to grow, with the number of new Developer positions increasing by an average of 165% year-over-year for the past five years. 

This year, demand for Salesforce talent slowed across all roles and markets. However, Developer demand slowed the least, down just 17% YoY. (In North America, demand for Developers actually increased by 23% YoY.) The role made up 26% of all job listings this year, a 9% YoY increase in overall share of demand.

So, across all roles, demand for Architects is down the most, while demand for Developers is down the least. What does that tell us? It seems that many Salesforce customers are opting for roles with more affordable rates to get technical work done. Choosing the easiest and fastest solution instead of the best solution can have short-term benefits, but, in the long run, you may incur more costs and spend more time maintaining or enhancing that quick, easy solution.

Salesforce Development without architecture creates excessive technical debt

Development without the oversight of an experienced Architect can lead to structural problems in your Salesforce org. As your tech stack grows in size and complexity, you may begin to experience buggy code, poor design, architectural inconsistencies, or inefficient deployments. (It’s like building a house without blueprints and then finding that the walls don’t match up in the end.)

Development without the oversight of an experienced Architect can lead to structural problems in your Salesforce org.

Even though Architect talent typically comes at a higher cost than other Salesforce roles, they are rarely needed in a full-time capacity and the long-term value they provide almost always justifies the investment. In fact, our research into Salesforce operational excellence shows that leveraging an Architect can significantly improve your Salesforce ROI. 

Reduce technical debt with an on-demand architect 

Technical and Solution Architects design solutions that ensure Salesforce customers are efficiently and effectively utilizing Salesforce. They’re experts in functionality and integrations and understand how the technology impacts business processes and procedures. They can also communicate highly technical concepts in a way all stakeholders can understand.

If the salary requirements or frustration of finding a full-time Architect has hindered you in the past, consider leveraging independent consultants who work on demand. 

As Mike Martin, 10K’s Chief Customer Officer, recently shared about the benefits of on-demand Architect talent: “The good news is most customers don’t have a real need to hire a full-time Salesforce Architect—hence the beauty of using an on-demand talent marketplace. On-demand architects should be hired at the onset of an engagement to ensure the right decisions are made in a fractional capacity throughout the project.” 

Connect with a 10K Technical Architect on-demand >

Learn more about the latest Salesforce talent trends 

We’re excited to announce our 6th annual 2023 Salesforce Talent Ecosystem Report. Every year before Dreamforce, our team looks forward to pouring over the latest supply and demand data from the Salesforce talent ecosystem and compiling our findings to help you make more strategic decisions for your Salesforce talent needs. 

In the report, you’ll learn about the talent trends we uncovered by role and region, changes in the sprawling partner landscape, and insights from industry experts. We also dive into the growing influence of AI technologies and how they will impact Salesforce talent in the years to come.

Get the report >

Why You Need an On-Demand Salesforce Architect 

We know firsthand that experienced Salesforce talent is difficult to find and not easy to keep, especially when it comes to technical and specialized roles. 

Companies continue to invest in digital transformation initiatives, and experts in specific platforms like Industry Clouds, Experience Cloud, CPQ, Mulesoft, Einstein, and Tableau are becoming increasingly harder to find. The result is technical architects are in especially high demand, and these experts are aware of the value their skills bring.

Technical Architects are still just 1% of the overall talent supply.

This isn’t to say it’s impossible for Salesforce customers to find experienced Salesforce Architects to work with – they just need to know where to look. 

Some of the ecosystem’s best architects are independent consultants who work on demand. To connect with them, customers must look no further than on-demand Salesforce talent marketplaces and on-demand consultancies.  

Do Salesforce customers need a full-time, in-house Salesforce Architect?

The reality is most Salesforce programs don’t require the hours of a full-time architect. Not only that, but it’s also a costly and time-consuming challenge to hire one. Even if you were able to land an architect worthy of hire, all the money, bonuses, and perks you could offer wouldn’t be enough to entice exceptional talent to stay. It’s a candidate’s market, and good architects are in the driver’s seat. 

The reality is most Salesforce programs don’t require the hours of a full-time architect.

For Salesforce customers planning their next implementation project, systems integration, or technical challenge, here are a few reasons to partner with independent, on-demand Salesforce Architects. 

Salesforce talent supply is tight, and customer demand continues to climb  

Global supply growth decreased by 2.4% from 2021 to 2022 

And not only that, technical architects are still just 1% of the overall talent supply. 

Unfortunately, this makes it incredibly challenging for customers to find and connect with the ecosystem’s top Salesforce Architects. Anecdotally, we also don’t see this changing anytime soon. 

Additionally, our 2022 Salesforce independents survey found that 43% of independent Salesforce consultants said their long-term goal was to grow their business, and 55% said they were unlikely to return to a full-time position or large consulting firm. And it’s no wonder because independent consulting allows experts to be their own boss or subcontract to boutique partners that treat them less like resources and more like partners. 

Despite the buzz of a recession, global demand grew by 19% in 2022 

Growing talent demand only compounds the challenge of hiring a Salesforce Architect. Customers can offer all the money, benefits, vacation, and perks, but there will always be another company that will outbid your offer. 

The good news is that most customers don’t need to hire a full-time Salesforce Architect (hence the beauty of partnering with an on-demand Salesforce consultancy). On-demand architects should be hired at the onset of an engagement to ensure the right decisions are made in a fractional capacity throughout the project. 

Salesforce instances are getting more complicated 

Developers can do a lot, but they can’t do everything. 

Like building a house, you don’t call an architect when the walls are going up. You hire an architect for the design process starting from Day One. 

Salesforce Architects can not only validate the type of technology you want to use but also provide contextual insight and call out the risk areas of any plans while helping with design decisions about integration architecture or data migration strategy. 

Read how this Salesforce Architect increased user adoption by 20x

Our Project to Program research survey also found that regular use of architects strongly correlates with the highest ROI. The vast majority of respondents who report A-grades (73%) and the highest return on investment (82%) always work with a technical or solutions architect.

Developers can do a lot, but they can’t do everything.

Architects aren’t cheap, but their value typically more than justifies those rates. This is why we’ll tell you, if you have to choose, to engage an architect at the beginning, as this is where their expertise will make the difference. Without an architect, you run the risk of blowing past your budget or timeline. 

Get started faster and partner with an independent Salesforce Architect 

Hiring a full-time employee takes time, money, and focus. Going with a large consultancy is one option, but even after you’ve run the gauntlet of the traditional sales and SOW process to get in their queue, it can still take 6-9 weeks to get started. Working with an on-demand consulting partner like 10K can kick off your project 50% faster than a traditional consultancy. 

To partner with a proven Salesforce architect you can trust, reach out to our team to get started. 

Master the Chaos of Your Salesforce Program: 3-Step Guide

What is the goal of your Salesforce program? 

Do you need to coordinate better between orgs, standardize processes, drive efficiencies of time and cost, and (most importantly) create a better overall experience for your users and teams?

Establishing a Salesforce COE (Center of Excellence) is how you make all of the above a reality. It’s the key to achieving operational efficiency and maximizing the value of your Salesforce investment. 

What is a Salesforce COE?

A Center of Excellence is a management framework that ensures efficient, effective, and timely digital transformation. At 10K, we like to consider a COE as the CEO of your Salesforce program. A COE has five pillars that answer the following questions:

Salesforce team roles and structure

Who on the team does what?

How do you articulate responsibilities?

How do you define and develop solutions?

Delivery standards and processes

What do you have in place to ensure you deliver capabilities to the business predictably and consistently?

Governance, change, and release management

How do you prioritize requests, communicate across teams, and roll out changes effectively?

End-user support processes

How do you ensure your end users get the answers and solutions they need in a timely manner to increase usage and adoption?

Education and growth

How do you and your team keep up with the constantly expanding Salesforce platform to help your stakeholders?

Knowing where to start with a Salesforce COE can feel too overwhelming and expensive to consider (especially during an uncertain economy). However, the good news is a COE doesn’t have to be complex to be effective. They come in many shapes and sizes and provide the structure necessary to drive higher Salesforce ROI. 

Why would I need a Salesforce COE?

Every Salesforce customer wants to accomplish the same things. However, we’ve found most are missing the education necessary to be intentional about making their Salesforce program a success. 

It might be time to explore the benefits of a COE if you’re currently seeing:

  1. A lack of innovation with Salesforce (new features, capabilities, and clunky processes)
  2. It’s taking too long to make the above a reality 
  3. A lack of predictability and visibility into how work gets done

Survey results of Salesforce customers that correlate ROI with their COE

Consider making a COE the CEO of your Salesforce program. Here is how to start building one. 

How to start building a Salesforce COE

Like building a house, we recommend starting with the foundation of your COE. Here are the first three steps to building a Salesforce COE.

First: Define your Salesforce roadmap and validate it with an architect 

A Salesforce roadmap is a centralized plan that lays out what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. It plays an essential role in delivering on business goals and will help prioritize Salesforce projects and implementations, determine what kind of skills and capacity you need to hire for and outline the timeframe in which work needs to be completed. Salesforce roadmaps help take you from Project to Program, ensuring a better return on innovation. 

Who should build my Salesforce roadmap?

Building a Salesforce roadmap is a collaborative process that requires technical and business stakeholders. You will also need a Salesforce architect to review and validate your roadmap. 

Speaking of architects, let’s revisit the building-a-Salesforce-house analogy. Like building a house, you don’t call an architect when the walls go up. You hire an architect for the design process starting from Day One. Building a Salesforce roadmap or COE (or any major Salesforce initiative) is no different. 

Salesforce architects can not only validate the type of technology you want to use but also provide contextual insight and call out the risk areas of any plans while helping with design decisions about delivery standards and processes, integration architecture, or data migration strategy. They also help confirm product and feature selection. 

Why are Salesforce architects essential?

For example, your sales reps say creating quotes has become too complicated and have heard CPQ is a great solution. Before investing in new technology, it needs to be evaluated if CPQ is the best solution given specific circumstances. A specialized CPQ architect can step in, holistically evaluate your team’s challenges, and determine whether the solution comes down to process improvement, a new product like CPQ, or a combination of the two. 

Architects play an essential role in maximizing Salesforce ROI and minimizing technical debt. Our Project to Program research survey found that regular use of architects strongly correlates with the highest ROI. The majority of respondents who report A-grades (73%) and the highest return on investment (82%) always work with a technical or solutions architect.

With an architect at the helm, it’s time to assemble your team. Before you turn to your talent acquisition team or a recruiter, take inventory of your team’s current state – the roles you have filled in-house and their accompanying skillsets – to provide direction on what kind of talent you need to bring on board to execute your roadmap. 

After this exercise, you should be able to answer…

How many of which roles do we need?

Which roles are essential to have in-house, full-time?

Which roles can we hire for on-demand as we need them?

To illustrate this for a specific project, let’s revisit the CPQ or not to CPQ scenario above. If your architect determines that investing in CPQ is the best solution, then it is likely that you’ll need an in-house expert to manage such a specialized cloud. To execute the initial implementation, however, you should hire a team of hire on-demand consultants. 

Second: Define the roles and capabilities that will deliver on the roadmap

One of the most important pillars of a Salesforce COE includes having defined and assigned team roles and leadership structure.

When it comes to the specific roles within a COE, here are the most common ones we see:

COE Lead: This role is responsible for overall program execution. He or she establishes the standards and guidelines that anyone who touches the Salesforce system must abide by, coordinates the resources needed to execute the established strategy, and manages partners and vendors.

Admin: This role primarily supports those across the business who use Salesforce. They tackle everything from creating dashboards and reports to managing configurations and campaigns to communicating changes and updates to end users. 

Business Analyst: This role works directly with the business to review operational processes and identify opportunities to automate and improve those processes using Salesforce. He or she gathers and articulates requirements and serves as a change management agent across the business.

Technical Architect: This role owns the technical design of the Salesforce system, ensuring declarative and non-declarative features are used appropriately and that the org can scale as the amount of functionality grows. Our recent research into Salesforce Best Practices and COEs indicates that architects can play an outsize role in improving ROI.

Developer: When your requirements warrant non-declarative functionality, this role is responsible for building it using platform features such as Apex Classes or Lightning Components. This role may also be responsible for integration development, configuration changes, and solution design for complex features.

The roles and responsibilities within your COE may vary based on your organization’s size, structure, complexity, budget, and other factors. In some instances, one person plays all or most of these roles in some way, shape, or form (this is the life of a solo admin). 

Larger organizations may have multiple experts in each of these roles. However, most companies fall somewhere in the middle and use a combination of internal and external expertise to build and manage their implementation. According to our research into Salesforce best practices, 61% of respondents say at least half of their implementation was built by consultants. 

For more on building an Executive Committee and Salesforce Steering Committee, visit our article: The Roles and Structure That Guide a Successful Salesforce COE.  

Third: Create the processes and standards to guarantee predictable and successful outcomes 

You have a roadmap and the talent to make your Salesforce Center of Excellence a reality. Now what?

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, four other pillars stand up a successful Salesforce COE. For more in-depth detail and the benefits of each pillar, we invite you to visit our Center of Excellence series: 

1. Delivery standards and processes

How to Build a Well-Oiled Delivery Machine for Your Salesforce COE

2. Governance, change, and release management

Process that Speeds, Not Slows: Establishing an Effective Governance Model for Salesforce

3. End-user support processes

Why a Support Process is a Vital Component of a Salesforce COE

4. Education and growth

Education is the Best Way to Get More from Salesforce

It’s always the right time to restrategize and further integrate Salesforce with your business and operations — whether you just started building your Salesforce foundation or are simply looking to get more from the investment you already made.

We have a full how-to guide that provides even more detail on the concepts in this article. To achieve Salesforce operational excellence and maximize ROI, download our Salesforce Center of Excellence Handbook!