Salesforce Adoption – Evolution NOT Revolution

Written by: Saurajit Kanungo, President, CG Infinity Inc.

Many of us believe that “people do not like change”. In the world of enterprise software implementation, we have stretched this theme to state “users do not like to change”.  Based on this debatable theme, consulting companies have established large practices around “change management”. I do not have any issues with “change management” practices, but I believe that change is in our DNA and we like to change and adapt. Our journey as a species from a caveman to where we are today would not be possible without embracing change. What I would like to state is that we all like evolutionary change not revolutionary change. Users of enterprise software are not different. I believe when a new enterprise software platform is implemented to thousands of users, it typically feels like revolution to the users and not an evolution. What adds to this feeling is the muti-week training programs that introduce the revolutionary new software to the users. These training programs are typically overwhelming to users and are like drinking out of a fire hose. I am sure this training improves adoption marginally, but not enough to achieve ROI on the huge investments the enterprise has made.

In my article last month, I discussed how two-third of the Salesforce implementation engagements have been re-implementation projects. Lack of user adoption is one of the biggest reasons our customers have called us to re-implement Salesforce. I would like to offer a few ideas to change our (implementers) mindset from revolutionary change to evolutionary change before embarking on software implementation projects:

Idea 1 – Start with empathy … not sympathy

According to Merriam-Webster,  ‘sympathy’ is when you share the feelings of another; ’empathy’ is when you understand the feelings of another but do not necessarily share them.  I believe being empathetic is key.  Salesforce CRM is designed to fit the needs of all industries and to suit companies of all sizes. Over the years, significant investments are made to accommodate a multitude of features and functionalities. These features and functionalities are useful but could be overwhelming for an user. We do not need a training manual to use an iPhone or buy something on Amazon. Salespeople and customer service folks already have stressful jobs. If we are throwing a user manual at them, you can guess what they will do. NOT use the system. The amount of time invested upfront with these salespeople is critical to adoption. Let’s design a better but simpler car. Designing a better but more complicated car and offering a training manual is not the solution.

Idea 2 – Do not treat the symptom…fix the root cause

Training sessions, knowledgebases, and job-aids are produced with good intentions. Most of the time, such artifacts try to treat the symptoms. However, the root cause of the problem is with the new CRM system. The implementation of the new system is upsetting the paradigm of the users overnight. The root cause of the issue is that we are “inciting” a revolution with this approach. Salespeople want tools that will help them sell more. Customer Service Reps do not want to juggle 6 different systems to answer a simple customer question. An evolutionary approach to implementation is the essential ingredient by which users can best adapt and thrive. We have seen that by adopting agile principles, revolutionary changes can be instituted slowly over a period of time in an evolutionary way.

Idea 3 – Do not let perfect be the enemy of good

We all have been burnt by the risks associated with the customization of ERP software such as Salesforce. I am not suggesting we should not look for opportunities to customize Salesforce. But I believe we are starting to take another extreme stand. Many of us take pride in stating that our Salesforce implementation is 100% vanilla (i.e. no customizations). I completely understand that with a 100% vanilla approach we are optimizing the total cost of ownership (TCO). The question we have to ask ourselves is with such a rigid mindset, what opportunities are we leaving on the table. Not long ago, we were implementing Salesforce Service Cloud to a 1,500+ employee call center. We debated about making a medium size customization at the beginning of the project. This customization would have the benefit of reducing average call time by 30-60 seconds. This would be a significant uptick in productivity considering 1,500+ CSRs. Yes, we had to go through the IT governance board to allow for the customization. But it was worth the effort. A 100% vanilla implementation goal is ideal, but not optimal for every implementation.

As Salesforce system implementers, we are bringing in change every day. Let’s try to make this change feel evolutionary to the users. Users will abandon the system if they feel like they got hit by a truck.