Monday, February 10, 2014

The Very Beginner's Guide To Your Salesforce Implementation

For smaller organizations just getting started with Salesforce, the possibilities it offers can seem overwhelming.  But it is not as challenging as it seems if you make sure you have a plan.

Prepare to dive in!

7 Considerations for a Salesforce Implementation

1.  Find your data.  Talk to every department and ask them what data they share and where they store it.  Some people find their own solutions and you may discover stores of data you didn't even know existed.  You may be surprised by how many different places the same data is being stored by different departments using different ways to store and work with the same data.  Don't forget to review what's on your website as well.

2.  Get to know your data.  When you are confident that you have located everything, compare what different departments are storing.  Where is the overlap, and where can you suggest more avenues to share information.  This is also your chance to start looking for bad data, duplicates, missing information and inconsistent data values. 

3.  Familiarize yourself with Salesforce features.  Get to know how different data objects, like Contacts and Accounts, interact.  Look at the data sharing, security and permissions options.

4.  Start a dialogue with potential users.  If you can set up a committee to drive implementation success, you should include not only the individuals who might be enthusiastic supporters, but also the ones who may be your biggest detractors because they can both help you create a solution that works best.  You should be talking with decision-makers and super-users who will be spending the most time using Salesforce. 

5.  Create a three part plan.  Part 1:  which business processes need to be addressed first and foremost?  Can you pick a smaller project that can be rolled out quickly to have a big impact and get users active right away?  Part 2: how will you configure your data in Salesforce?  If you are migrating from a different database, this is your chance to reconsider whether the data model works.  Part 3: how will you get users onboard?  Have your training and support processes well thought out and take advantage of Salesforce features that enable users to look for the information and help they need while they are in Salesforce.  Think about what best practice documents you will need to produce for users and start them during the planning process.

6.  Try everything out with a Sandbox.  Once you commit to using Salesforce and they convert your trial org to a production org, you can set up Sandboxes to test out all of your plans.  You can customize Salesforce and load samples of your data in a Sandbox to
determine how well everything works together before rolling changes out to all of your users.  You can even have your committee review and approve the final implementation plan after they've seen it in action in the Sandbox.

7.  Look at third-party applications on the AppExchange.  If you have a particular business process you would like to address with Salesforce, look at its native functionality first and consider how much customization you are able to do yourself, but also take a look at existing solutions.  You can install applications in a Sandbox to test them and make sure you find them easy to use for your particular needs. You can also use the AppExchange to find developers and consultants to assist you along the way.

Regardless of whether you plan to hire a consultant or do all the work in-house, keep in mind these seven considerations to help make your Salesforce implementations go more smoothly. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

5 Ways To Get Help With Your Salesforce Problem

Q:  How many different ways can you find help with your Salesforce implementation, administration and development?  A:  Lots!

If something appears to be off, you can easily find help!
Salesforce is so chock-full of features and the thrice-yearly releases offer so many improvements, it can be challenging to keep up.  For administrators who support smaller implementations, they may be the only person trying to keep up with everything that Salesforce can do for your business.  Salesforce has found a way to help with both of these situations by offering multiple avenues for help and support, including making it easy for the community of Salesforce users and administrators to help one another.

When you find yourself in need of help, here are my top five recommendations for finding the answers you need:

1.  Help and Training -- Salesforce offers standard and Premier Support and training for most users.  Help, without training, is offered for users with developer accounts.  Salesforce Help and Training should be your front-line for finding out how to do things in Salesforce.  All of the product documentation is searchable here, including some Best Practice documents.

Premier Support is what you want your support to be like, really.  Open 24 hours a day, they will track down even the craziest problems and solve them for you.  In addition to fantastic support, the online training available with Premier Support includes several of the classes offered in-person by Salesforce University. If you are working on Salesforce certification, you should definitely take a look at these training options!  And developers should note that Premier Support even offers help with code.

2.  The Community -- Let your peers give you a hand.  Online communities, and, for nonprofits using the nonprofit starter pack or other nonprofit specific applications, the Power of Us Hub, offer multiple channels for helpful discussions.
  • Answers -- Search for questions that others may have posted on topics of interest to you or post your own questions.  Lots of folks are looking for a Salesforce challenge and would love to answer your questions.  Note that the questions are organized by categories listed on the left side of the page.  For nonprofit organizations, you have an additional avenue for answers through the Power of Us Hub Q&A, a resource for applications and concerns specific to nonprofits.
  • Chatter Groups -- Sometimes, what you really want is to be kept abreast of what's happening and hear ideas from other Salesforce users and administrators.  Chatter Groups provide just that sort of information.  With groups like the Success -- Getting Started and Success -- Release Readiness, among others, you can keep up with Salesforce features.
  • User Groups -- Among the most helpful Chatter Groups, you will find the Salesforce User Groups online as well.  If you find a group in your geographic area, consider signing up for your local group and trying to attend meetings in person to get to know your peers.  Meetings give you an opportunity to ask other administrators, users and developers how easy or difficult a task may be before you try to hire a consultant.  User Groups can also keep you informed about Salesforce features and best practices and third-party application availability as well.
  • Developer Groups -- Like User Groups for developers, these provide opportunities for discussing technical issues and topics.

3.  Developer Community -- the developer boards offer a great place for help with all your Apex and Visualforce needs.  If you are trying to go beyond formulas and workflow, you may have questions that have been previously discussed on the developer boards.  You can find code samples to get you started with your projects as well.

4.  Office Hours -- both the Salesforce MVP community and the Salesforce Foundation host office hours as a regular webinar that folks can join to ask questions and get answers. Both provide a forum for conversations about problems and challenges you may be encountering.  The MVPs offer general help with Salesforce and the foundation offers help with issues concerning the Nonprofit Starter Pack and any related topics.

5.  Out in the Wild -- The community is also active outside of the Salesforce environment in places like Twitter (try #askforce when you want to make sure your question gets seen) and StackExchange, which tends to focus on technical challenges and developer concerns.  FindSFinfo is another great resource when you are looking for information to solve your problems, it performs a search of official documentation, discussion boards, blogs, code repositories, AppExchange, and videos for any text you enter.

By cultivating a strong community, Salesforce ensures that you can always find the help you need!