Salesforce is a powerful yet complex platform that requires professional care and upkeep to make sure the system stays relevant to your evolving processes and business needs. Irrespective of the size of the implementation, it’s important to have a well-defined Salesforce Managed Services plan that includes customizations, integrations, ongoing support and maintenance.
Depending on the number of users, the complexity of the org, and the adoption of the system throughout your company, your Managed Services team may start with just a part-time Salesforce Administrator, but could be customized to include a full Managed Services team composed of Architects, Solution Engineers, Consultants, Developers, Administrators, Testers and DevOps professionals. Based on various factors, ongoing cost being one of them, you will have to decide whether to support & maintain your Salesforce instance internally, outsource the work to a certified partner, or a combination of both. In either case, you should take the following considerations into account.
All organizations should have a well-defined Information Technology Security policy. The Salesforce platform provides state-of-the-art security features that include various settings to configure your instance to comply with industry best practices and your organization-specific policies. Your Managed Services plan should include regular reviews of your Salesforce security configuration for compliance with policies and best practices.
You should also have a process to review activity by Users to evaluate their access levels and permissions. Too often, just to save time, Administrators give too much access to data as they add Users under a common Profile. This puts the company at risk and this practice can quickly grow out of control and become difficult to undo. This can result in challenges including security breaches, unauthorized access to data and unapproved/uncontrolled changes to the system.
Ongoing Org Management & Optimization
One out of every three Salesforce instances we support fail in this area. There are various components to this strategy, but let’s focus on a few that are most important. Regular Health Checks and Optimizer reports will reveal things in your Salesforce org that need attention. This is an absolute minimum requirement for any Salesforce instance, and these tools are free and easy to use.
Next comes staying on top of out-of-date features and technologies. The Salesforce platform is continuously evolving, resulting in features becoming outdated, slow and potentially risky. There is typically plenty of advance notice from Salesforce when these changes happen, and it’s important to pay attention and address the impact of the updates to your org in a timely manner.
For those organizations that have a lot of code in their orgs, regular use of code scanners like Checkmarx is highly recommended. This is another free tool that will provide a view into your org’s code, along with suggestions on what actions should be completed to improve performance. With the constant push to write more code to meet tight deadlines, developers rarely have time to review code they wrote previously. Allowing them time to do this is very important and could result in huge time and cost savings down the road.
Regular review of processes, custom developed components, features and packages is important to make sure they are all still relevant, haven’t expired or will expire soon, or no longer necessary because Salesforce released new features that renders them obsolete.
Capacity & Utilization Management
We frequently talk to stakeholders that inherited their organization’s Salesforce instance, and are looking for answers to questions like what are the SKUs in their Salesforce org? How many and what types of licenses do they own? Are all the products they licensed being utilized by their users?
Answers to the above questions should be tracked actively, and not just at renewal time or when inherited. The same goes for answers to questions relating to capacity, data governance etc. Are you in compliance with data storage regulations that you may be subject to? Are you keeping an eye on your managed and unmanaged storage? How much is currently used and at what rate is your org’s storage being depleted? Is it to justify needing all the data you are currently storing indefinitely? You should establish an archival strategy and implement it. Have you considered storing some of the data externally and just having a window into that data from Salesforce?
Another capacity we recommend you monitor is API calls. Organizations that integrate external systems with Salesforce tend to use a lot of API calls, and this is typically an area that results in additional cost.
Salesforce has three major releases per year, Spring, Summer and Winter. A managed Salesforce org should have a process to review each release, create or update the dependency and impact plan to understand what impact the update will have on their systems. Salesforce releases rarely have an adverse impact on your organization immediately after the release, but, there may be announcements in the release that will impact your org in a subsequent release.
These are often changes to features that may retire them or materially affect how they function or in some cases, there are security or performance implications. There will also be instances where new features and functionality may be added to the product(s) you are using that may significantly improve productivity, but will require some work to implement and train your users. If you have any custom code in your org that uses certain methods and/or functions that will not be supported in the future, you will need to make sure these are addressed in a timely manner to avoid last minute rush at a future date.
Monitoring & Planning
Every IT system needs monitoring and planning to make sure it is working as expected and is adding value to the organization. Salesforce is no different; it needs monitoring by professionals, and the level of monitoring depends on how customized your org is. The type and level of monitoring ranges from simple log monitoring to complex system monitoring, and proper incident handling procedures with various components and systems should be considered.
For example, if your Salesforce org has integrations with external systems in the cloud and/or on premise, databases, APIs, feeds etc., you will need a robust monitoring plan to ensure the original goals of data flow, visibility and compliance is being met on a consistent basis. The monitoring plan must include daily, weekly and monthly checklists and SOPs to address all possible scenarios, and your team should be trained to handle those.
Another critical aspect is adoption and utilization. You must have a comprehensive adoption plan to ensure users are logging in and using Salesforce. Monitoring user adoption and providing feedback when they aren’t using it can sometimes be uncomfortable but necessary. If adoption upon implementation goes slow, it becomes harder to get users to re-engage. This discipline needs to be paired with a continuous improvement process to make sure users’ grievances and change requests are taken into account and the user experience is improved to help increase adoption.
SLAs are another area that not all organizations have. Have you established business performance SLAs for all units, groups, managers and individuals that use Salesforce? Similarly, do you have SLAs for your Salesforce availability, performance and support? These should be documented and measured on an ongoing basis.
ROI & Management Goals
There should be a specific set of goals established by the leadership team when the decision to invest in the Salesforce platform is made. If these goals were not thoroughly documented and ROI metrics established, you should go back and document them. What is/was the state of internal processes, systems, KPIs of various business units and processes before the Salesforce implementation. And what was the desired state of those after the Salesforce implementation.
Establish a baseline and define what a successful implementation looks like along with measurable factors. Create a Report or Dashboard with these metrics and start measuring. The fundamental metric that you should be monitoring is user adoption. All other metrics will not mean much if your business users are not using Salesforce at the level they need to. Establish a feedback mechanism to collect information from users to continuously improve the user experience to increase adoption, and thereby their productivity.
ROI Reports and Dashboards must be clearly defined and reviewed frequently. These must be created in Salesforce and sufficient time should be set aside by stakeholders to review these and take corrective actions as needed to achieve your ROI goals.
Unless you are an organization that has made a decision to keep dedicated Salesforce professionals on staff, you should consider having your Salesforce org regularly reviewed by a certified Salesforce Architect or Solution Engineer. This is even more important to organizations that have a long-term plan to use Salesforce as their main platform to run their business, and are making ongoing changes to the system to customize and integrate it with external systems.
If your Salesforce org is customized, has integrations, or if you feel it has too much complexity, we recommend you have an Architect on retainer so that there is no cost of learning your system every time you need a consultation. You should continuously review what the organization’s goals are, what are the business requirements, how are they going to be implemented, and how does the proposed implementation plan compare with best practices. Additionally, performance, capacity, security, reliability and a host of other factors need to be taken into account.
In summary, very few organizations will have dedicated, certified Salesforce professionals on staff to address the above, and it may not be financially viable to hire and maintain these high cost, skilled individuals. In those cases where you do have someone on staff that is trained as a Salesforce Admin, they may not have the experience, expertise or capacity to manage the Salesforce instance at the level it needs to. You should consider hiring an experienced Salesforce partner that is capable of providing Salesforce Managed Services to ensure proper upkeep and maintenance of this powerful platform, which will allow your team to focus on your core business needs.