By Mandy Stoddern

How selecting an implementation partner is like building a new car

How to select and brief a Salesforce implementation partner

How to select and brief a Salesforce implementation partner

Finding the right implementation partner is like building a brand new vehicle that your team will drive one day. To begin with you want to find a winning engineering team while you work on the blueprints while you navigate the course. In this article, Mandy Stoddern shares her insights from more than 6 years driving customer success as an implementation consultant with Simplus.

You are after a team who will track your project closely and bring their expertise to the task at hand for any business on a digital transformation journey. One of the biggest advantages of choosing Salesforce as your customer relationship management (CRM) solution is that it’s customisable, scalable and flexible — sometimes that means you need additional support to adapt your Salesforce instance to your unique business needs. 

Let’s take a look at our tips on selecting the right Salesforce partner to match your team and then drill down into how to brief them effectively for your transformation project.

Step 1: How ready are you? 

You would be surprised at how many businesses launch into an enterprise tech project without aligning their project goals, appointing a project sponsor and inviting key team members and contributors from around the business.

To start with the driving analogy, do you know where your destination is, what vehicle you want to build to get there and is your team ready for the journey?

The best advice is to set up a kickoff meeting internally and map out your project wishlist. Once you are clear on your project aims, you can develop this into your business brief which helps your partner better understand the problem you are aiming to solve and how best to work with your company culture.

Ideally, your business will already have clear business goals and outcomes they are looking to achieve. Good partners align project goals with your business outcomes and provide technology solutions that make them easier to achieve. If not, you can map out the process with an advisory team.

You should already have had some internal discussions around budgets and have a decent level of executive support and buy-in across departments or teams before briefing a partner. Take the time to clearly define the roles and responsibilities within your group, and be sure to appoint someone to steer and align all teams throughout the project. Understand that your greatest challenge might be the people standing beside you, not in front of you. 

Step 2: Selecting a partner 

Naturally you want an experienced team with a full team of advanced technicians ready to build the car you are envisioning.

The old adage of choosing quality over quantity rings true in selecting a tech partner. You will always find someone with a lower quote, so be sure to do your research on the quality of support that is available to you throughout your project and once the software is delivered.

You can find the top ten questions you should ask potential partners to help unpack some of their experiences and suitability for the task ahead. After starting there, we’ve added these additional things to consider when selecting a partner. 

On a practical level, it is important to consider the daily tools and resources that both teams will collaborate on. Find out what support is available once the project is live. And explore what training is available to upskill your team to ensure they are ready to take the project to the next phase.

Step 3: Don’t just take a partner’s word for it

When you are buying a car, you ask about performance, driver satisfaction and maintenance. Before you select a partner, ask the hard questions. Find out about projects they have delivered, strengths and weaknesses.

Ask around your network, attend industry events or use LinkedIn, or Salesforce App Exchange to reach out to past customers to learn about their experiences with PartnerX

Ask for case studies that step through the project, the challenges they were hoping to address and some of the hurdles they needed to overcome throughout the process. Talks to partners and customers to find out about surprising insights they found during the project, as there are always many lessons learned.

Step 4: How to brief your implementation partner

Now we get to crafting the outline of your perfect vehicle. Preparing a good brief is a real art form. You need to map out your business plan, understand what problem you are solving. Remember to include your business case in the briefing process so that your implementation partner can act as an extension of your team.

Be sure to select an advocate who is passionate about the success of the project. This person is like a tour guide who tracks the project from start to finish. They can introduce you to the right people in the team, and give you the background of all the sites along the way. They are in contact with both sides of the team every day, and know how to resolve issues and can escalate to the right person within the business.

Step 5: Success measurement 

Success isn’t just about delivering on time and on budget. It is important to factor in what the customer sees as success compared to what the business measures as success.

Understanding how you’ll measure success from the outset is helpful to keep projects on track. Defining metrics around business goals and outcomes, such as business growth, increased market share or improved operational efficiency, makes it easier to debrief your business on the project success in terms they value. Without tangible metrics, it’s hard to celebrate the success of a project – or get buy-in and budget for future projects.

Remember that success is when your team knows how to drive this brand new vehicle, and are so adept at the new system that they can train others to get their license. Start by training one key person across each team so that you can confidently take the keys and drive off into the sunset. To me, a successful implementation is when you have trained the team to 95% horsepower!

Step 6: How to make the most of your budgets and schedule

Don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way to check you are still on the right track. Time and money are the two greatest variables in a project, outside of people and teams. 

My biggest insight on how to make the most of your budget is to communicate early and often about every aspect of the project. If you discover something that is a problem, don’t be afraid to address it early and talk about the budget implications before they snowball into the next stage.

You can identify key project milestones that are critical to the project and the roadmap. These focal moments help to give projects a timeline and can keep teams working towards a common goal. With the right project management approaches, project controls and scheduling in place, milestones can be used to check in on the project’s overall progress.

Step 7: Expect the unexpected

It is natural to hit bumps along the road, it is the process of building something new. So be open to things changing as the project progresses.

Along the way you will have to change course a few times to get to your destination. This means that you will most likely revisit the scope of work a few times to ensure it aligns to your new solution. Remember that a good implementation partner can help provide direction around this and what has – or hasn’t – worked in similar situations. The clients who are successful are those who are brave enough to have the conversations along the way. When you get to the end, you have both won.

With that in mind, define your scope early on for clear guidelines to keep teams on track. Outline the functionality that the business needs to achieve its goals. List the requirements that the project needs to deliver on, and also outline the areas that will not be covered by the project. 

Good ideas can and will come throughout the project process, so have a plan for how you’ll manage scope creep. Establish evaluation criteria to ensure it considers the benefits to the project and isn’t just a good idea with a short-term benefit. Mapping the project outcomes to very clear business objectives can also ensure you have a north star — even if something could be beneficial, you might want to shelve it until you’ve tackled the more urgent priorities your project is meant to address.

Finally, getting a brief into the right shape doesn’t have to be a responsibility that sits on your shoulders alone. Most technology implementation partners are happy to help you develop a brief through a reverse-brief process. In that way, you can collaborate to create a brief that works for both parties and helps keep everyone on track to achieve the outcomes.  

If you would like to discuss your next project brief with our team or get some help in pulling it together, contact our friendly team today

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