Congrats! You’ve been at it for months. Talking to stakeholders, gathering requirements, configuring the system, testing the heck out of it, and have your finger ready to click the big shiny green “DEPLOY” button. The team has worked long hours to get to the final launch date and the champagne is ready to pop in celebration of the big day. But – before the fanfare of excitement and the big sigh of relief from the team – have you thought about what happens after you flip the switch? Having a well planned maintenance and support structure is crucial to the success of any new tool or system. Speaking from personal experience with implementations of everything from Salesforce.com to Dentals Claims Processing Systems to ERP technology – there are 5 key things to think through before your new system goes live.
Top Down Buy-In – The old adage goes – “If you build it, they will come”. Well, that’s not always true for new technology. If your leaders don’t use the system or promote it, chances are it will fall flat. You need champions in leadership positions to use the tool and showcase success stories that resonate with the user community.
Create a Governance Structure – This sounds daunting and elaborate, but it's not. Usually the project champions or sponsors will help define who the right people are to govern the system and manage the list of ongoing improvements and user requests. Don’t over-engineer it, the way the 'Governance Committee' works will evolve over time based on the nature of the system and how much feedback there is for enhancements. It can be quick to add objects, fields, validation rues and the like to your Salesforce.com instance – but without a governance structure in place to manage ongoing changes, all the hard work to get it just right upon launch will start to slip away quickly.
Ongoing Training – Training before launch is great to get people acquainted with the look and feel of the new system and to dispel major concerns about how their day-to-day responsibilities or processes may change. But, let’s face it, people only retain a small percentage of what they learn in a standard training class. Plan for ongoing training sessions – whether in person, virtual, eLearning video snippets, or documented in “quick reference guides” to make sure people get the help they need on the job. This degree of support depends on the number of users and complexity of the system. The more complex, the more support you will need in the early days after launch.
Continuous Improvement – When you are in the testing phase, all you can think about is getting it into users’ hands to see what they think about the system. Make sure to listen to your users after launch and have an easy way for them to submit feedback. This feedback can then make its way into your Governance Committee for prioritization. Communicate to your users what is happening with their feedback and where it sits in the queue so they don’t think their valuable input went into the circular file next to the printer … A great way to capture this is within Salesforce itself! You can set up a custom object, or an app depending on complexity, to collect ongoing feedback from right within the system.
Metrics, Metrics, Metrics – I would place a solid bet that before you began implementation or development of this new system, you were asked – “What is the business need or case for it?”. Most often, you have to justify the spend in terms of an ROI or what the business related benefits will be. That brings us to metrics. In order to prove the time and money spent on the system was worth it, there should be some benchmarks such as decreased time spent on certain activities, increased revenue (referrals, more cross-sell opportunities, etc.), faster speed to issue resolution, etc. This will vary for all different types of systems but there has to be at least one metric you can accurately track to show that the investment (both time and financial) was worth it.
As you can see, building the system is just the tip of the iceberg. The key to success of Salesforce is making sure you have a plan in place to support users, gain adoption and maintain the system over time. And remember, its never too late to address the five key areas above. Better late than never.