At its best, Salesforce is a powerful tool that strengthens customer relationships, boosts productivity, and improves collaboration within a company. However, you may not experience these advantages if your company does not properly maintain the Salesforce platform.
That’s why companies need a Salesforce Center of Excellence (COE) to maintain, manage, and enhance the Salesforce platform. Think of a COE as a city council that oversees different neighborhoods (your Salesforce orgs) throughout a city (your business) to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Whether your company is just beginning its Salesforce journey or you’re struggling to get the ROI you’re hoping for down the line, you may benefit from instituting these four best practices.
1. Establish a Salesforce COE that Aligns with Your Business Structure
Broadly speaking, there are two main COE strategies:
- A centralized COE employs a cross-functional team to make enterprise-wide decisions for Salesforce projects, architecture standards, and development.
- A decentralized COE lets different lines of business (LOB) manage their Salesforce orgs independently of other business units while still aligning with enterprise standards.
Choosing the right COE strategy will depend on your company’s existing business structure and the autonomy of disparate LOBs within your organization.
For example, if your LOBs all use Salesforce similarly, you could institute a centralized COE to govern every org. However, if your LOBs have vastly different Salesforce needs and functions, you may consider a decentralized approach to allow each LOB to manage Salesforce according to its unique challenges.
The Salesforce COE strategy you choose then determines what roles and resources your business will need to manage Salesforce. Generally, your COE should consist of the following three teams:
- A Roadmap Team. This group of LOB leaders and a CIO representative will work together to define your Salesforce objectives and prioritize key projects.
- A Trustee Team. An internal technology director and business unit VP or director who prioritizes Salesforce releases, manages adoption and coordinates your communication and training initiatives.
- An Operations Team. This group of Salesforce Architects, software developers, and business analysts will manage Salesforce day to day and execute projects using COE guidelines.
2. Create Guidelines to Update Salesforce Deliberately and Efficiently
Salesforce is highly configurable, which can both streamline and challenge your org. While admins and managers can customize the way their teams operate on the platform, this freedom can also lead to inconsistencies (and inefficiencies).
To manage configurations, a well-run COE will follow specific processes and guidelines for updating Salesforce. While every COE’s process is different, they should all include some form of these three stages:
- Intake and Prioritization: Understand user challenges, prioritize issues, and brainstorm solutions.
- Preparation: Create a project timeline and gather resources for development.
- Execution: Design solutions, test their usability, and deploy them across Salesforce organizations.
Sticking to a clear process helps your COE deliver meaningful updates to the Salesforce platform and provide the most benefit to your users. Having architecture guidelines in place also ensures that you’re maintaining Salesforce in a consistent, efficient way.
3. Track Salesforce COE Performance for Constant Improvement
In a previous blog, I wrote about why companies needed to identify the right metrics to track successful Salesforce adoption.
Similarly, you should set goals for your COE that take into account how you will measure its performance.
One approach that we’ve taken with many clients is to optimize a Salesforce COE for either cost or capacity. You can focus on lowering cost while maintaining capacity, or you can emphasize increasing capacity while controlling cost.
Then, based on whichever goal you’ve chosen, you can identify areas to refine your COE’s operations.
For example, to shorten the length of time between testing and execution, you might employ automation tools. Or, to make sure that each project uses an appropriate amount of resources, you might standardize developer toolsets and create common architecture rules.
Your COE’s goals may shift over time, and that’s expected. Those new goals will reveal further opportunities for improvement.
4. Stay Informed about the Latest Salesforce Innovations
Three times a year, Salesforce launches new capabilities and features to improve its platform.
It’s critical that your COE regularly reviews these Salesforce release notes to decide which new features, if any, to activate. Even if every update isn’t relevant to your business, your COE’s leaders should be familiar with what changed and what improvements are possible.
Perhaps more importantly, if you decide to activate a new feature, your Salesforce Architects should review any custom solutions in your Salesforce orgs to make sure they won’t break any existing features or workflows.
The more customizations you have in your Salesforce orgs, the more the Salesforce Architects on your team will need to review before making changes in the future. That’s why we recommend companies aim for 85 percent out-of-the-box configuration and 15 percent customization when first implementing Salesforce – to ensure ongoing maintenance is a manageable task.
Get the Most Out of Your Platform with a Salesforce Center of Excellence
A successful Salesforce COE increases your speed to value by enabling you to quickly prioritize and implement enhancements and projects that will drive the greatest ROI from your Salesforce investment. It also helps you manage the Salesforce platform more efficiently and allow users to reach their own optimal performance.
Setting up a COE takes time, commitment, and resources. At Saggezza, we can help you build a lasting foundation for success that fits your business’ changing needs. Contact our experts today to start an exploratory conversation.
Meet the Author: Shawn McCormick, Senior Director of Salesforce Practice
Shawn is a senior leader in our Salesforce Practice. He provides strategic leadership to our project teams and helps our customers continuously realize business value from their Salesforce investment. His approach to transformation couples process optimization, data-driven insights and innovative Salesforce features to achieve the client’s business objectives.
Prior to joining Saggezza, Shawn held Salesforce consulting and leadership positions at several global consultancies.
Saggezza is a proven technology and consulting partner that delivers personalized, high-value solutions to accelerate business growth.