Why every Salesforce Implementation needs a Centre of Excellence

So, your organisation has invested in Salesforce and you’re already seeing huge benefits to your internal systems and business post-deployment, but what’s next? This blog is designed to explain what a Centre of Excellence is, show you how this will help you reap the benefits of your investment in Salesforce, as well as to point out any implementation or communication flaws that could be preventing your business from getting the most out of it.

One of Salesforce’s greatest features is its ease of use and ability to get up and running quickly. Salesforce products can be live in a short space of time, providing your users and customers with a personalised experience that succeeds in achieving a satisfactory level of return on investment… for a while.

However, the downside of quick deployments is that they may result in a false sense of momentum. This can lead to the emergence of Salesforce environments where an organisation’s business leaders and IT department are not aligned, with no structures and processes in place to guide the Salesforce journey from baby steps to sprints.

Common Implementation Issues

We’ve seen first-hand the results of such practises as we are often engaged to review organisations that have implemented Salesforce products, but haven’t made the most of them. In the past, we’ve been contacted by businesses that have found themselves under-performing against post-implementation expectations, or where user adoption is lower than it should be. We have a history of reviewing these cases and seeing how they could be improved.

Some real-world examples we’ve dealt with:

  • No duplicate or matching rules enabled to assist data quality.
  • Of 3,800 reports created, 1,800 have not been run in the last 12 months – or ever run before.
  • 350 user org with 400 case record types.
  • Large number of batch jobs running daily to clean data.
  • 200+ Apex classes inclusive of copies of Apex classes  – indicated by adding ‘_v2’ and ‘_v3’ to the name of the class. Insufficient Comments, especially in test code.
  • No naming conventions.

Non-governed approaches to Salesforce implementation lead to suboptimal experiences. This can result in technical debt, caused by some of the following:

  • Poor documentation.
  • No standard operating procedures.
  • Reactive modifications and/or project delivery, for example: patching solutions in place as business changes; building fresh applications or features with no consideration for the existing design.
  • Poor design of automation or code.
  • Superfluous coding (indicating a lack of standard platform configuration knowledge)
  • A reluctance to  change processes or design even as the business changes for fear of breaking functionality, causing the business work around the application, instead of with it.
  • Poor user interface design.

All of the above will most likely lead to a poor user experience, as well as poor adoption.

What to Expect

To ensure Salesforce is set up for long term success, our consultants will discuss the strategy of your Salesforce programme early in our engagement. We advocate establishing a Salesforce Centre of Excellence to help mitigate or completely avoid ungoverned implementations and deployments, irrespective of your company’s size.

Salesforce’s capability and complexity has increased exponentially over the last 10 years. It is no longer just a tactical sales or service automation solution, but a fully featured strategic customer-360 experience platform. Consequently, a mature implementation approach is needed: one that supports the development of a CoE.

What is a Centre of Excellence?

“A CoE is a meeting place for Business and IT stakeholders to collaborate with Salesforce certified experts.  The CoE enables the  exchange of knowledge, best practice definition and prioritised decision making to deliver high-value Salesforce benefits.  In Bluewave we use a CoE as a forum to challenge and validate our solutions with the purpose of ensuring delivery success for our customers.   I recommend a CoE is offered on all our engagements to sustain our customer’s growth.”  – Lorraine Nolan, Delivery Director at Bluewave

”At its most mature state, a Centre of Excellence is a highly formalised and self-directing committee that is responsible for supporting business users and shepherding the most complex of projects to successful completion. The CoE promotes the use of best practice derived from multiple implementations as a means of repeating the successes from past implementations in every implementation going forward. 

The CoE should consist of stakeholders that look both inside and outside the organisation to capture new knowledge and best practice.” – Dipanker Jyoti and James A. Hutcherson, The Salesforce Architect’s Handbook, Page 327

“A CoE is a central governing body that deals with anything related to Salesforce. It’s a unified entity that is responsible for discussing, evaluating, challenging and deciding on everything that’s associated with Salesforce.” – Tameem Bahri, Becoming a Salesforce Certified Architect, Page 323

Building Blocks

When developing a Centre of Excellence, here are the key building blocks an organisation must consider:

  • Strategic vision and Roadmap: The process of creating direction for Salesforce, for both the business and IT.
  • Governance: Controlling the strategic direction, business priorities, investment, and risk management involved.
  • Change Management: Keeping an eye on communications, organisational change control, and training for Salesforce adoption.
  • Delivery Methodology: The implementation plan which must cover people, processes and technology – which is a combination of business analysis, DevOps, and adoption.
  • Best Practice Standards: These must include standards for business analysis, organisation documentation, metadata naming, coding, testing, communication, change management, and training.
  • Metadata Management: How an organisation controls the Salesforce metadata across the deployment pipeline.
  • Source Control Management: Designed to ensure best practice implementation for everything from audits, to rollback, to the implementation of CI/CD.
  • Technical Architecture: This covers the technical architecture of Salesforce and how it relates to the integrated systems and information security.
  • Security: A very important consideration for businesses that’s concerned with how coding and external integrations introduce vulnerabilities. These need to be considered from the outset, with a plan in place to mitigate risk and protect systems.
  • Prototyping: This consists of an innovation hub that builds out Salesforce prototypes to show the “art of the possible.”

What happens after Go-Live?

In our experience, customers who plan Salesforce strategically as a programme rather than a project – with a vision that is communicated, endorsed and promoted by the most senior people in the company – with adequate governance, and a CoE in place, are the ones who are able to develop at pace and deliver to demand. Companies that respond to change gain a vital competitive advantage.

Our experts are often asked what resources and structures need to be in place to ensure continual delivery of business value from investment in the Salesforce platform. That’s why we developed our own delivery methodology: The Bluewave Way™™ which includes knowledge transfer and training to help organisations get up-and-running. Then, once the customer’s deployment is live, we help customers build the capability to internally take over their Salesforce environment and users. We also offer support and ongoing development if that fits better into the customer’s vision.

Before our experts discuss formalising a CoE, we like to make sure a Change Advisory Board is established and that BAU support is considered and resourced post-deployment. Then, to achieve the ongoing return on investment and ability to scale that customers desire, we’ll recommend formalising delivery operations across an organisation’s people, process and technology. Our team can assist the creation of a Salesforce delivery model which incorporates the establishment of a CoE, adequately scaled to support our customer’s needs and capabilities now and into the future.

We work alongside businesses to ensure they get the most out of Salesforce, giving them the tools they need to establish predictable growth over the long term. If you need help creating a Centre of Excellence, or want to know more about The Bluewave Way™™, please contact our experts today.