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Consumer Guide to Salesforce Partner Engagement


In the limited time I spent assisting new clients implementing Salesforce CRM, one of the things that have consistently surfaced is the lack of clarity to initiate an evaluation and engagement process with Salesforce and its Implementation Partners.

I guess, that’s where Implementation partners, like MST Solutions are expected to provide value. Hence this blog to share guidance and help clients in optimizing this process for an effective on-boarding process.

1. Know what to expect: If the last time you had looked into the Force.com capabilities , was when you attended the last Dreamforce seminars, the information is likely already outdated. It’s awe inspiring how frequently some of the enhancements and new product features are being rolled out. Salesforce led the way in this industry in establishing a no-nonsense easy and guilt-free evaluation / trials of their products. The others are still following suit. Visit Salesforce to sign up for your free trial organization. If time is an excuse, have your IT team/ resource do a thorough 30-day evaluation of the product capabilities and generate a report of the capabilities available out of the box. Identify, articulate and document your project goals upfront.

2. Request information: Ask your professional network for partner references, lessons learnt and for success stories. If your organization allows you the liberty of a relatively relaxed timeline (unlike most where implementations were due last week) you can leverage the industry expertise by releasing an RFI (Request For Information). A common pitfall to this practice is when the RFI is released with either too little or too much information about your initiative. Go back to step 1, identify your business critical needs, strike a balance (who don’t need to solution it yet) and request information from Salesforce partners.

3. Plan: Review all clarifications and information you receive and respond promptly. Contact Salesforce to evaluate your licensing needs and ask for local partner references. Determine a budget for the next quarter or two so you can plan your CRM goals across phases. Let me say this outright – If this is your first implementation, you are better off staying away from the temptation of ‘boiling the ocean’ (or even if you consider it to be a lake). Either a proof-of-concept or proof-of-technology would serve you best in evaluating your organizational complexities, product needs and can be used as a guidance for future phases.

There may be some hidden costs associated with data migration, end-user training and support handover. Take into consideration how you expect your partners to contribute in these phases. Do you have an internal IT team or an outsourced IT team or both? Are these teams capable of a supporting post-deployment activities?

4. Validate: Partners are expected to put in their best effort while responding back with detailed specifications and attempt to address your business needs. If you suspect receiving a generic RFI response without any substantial specificity from a partner, you can safely stack it for circle file. All Salesforce partners are listed on AppExchange and some capture their customer feedback for your easy review. Based on your organizational needs, complexity, on site needs, CRM expertise and budget one can easily sort through all Salesforce partners who can provide the best value meeting your criteria.

Remember, smaller service partners may at times be more nimble to adapt and meet your changing requirements than some of the Fortune 100 giants. Factor in your consulting/ partnering needs and budget in short-listing for partners.

Expect your partners to standby what they promise and deliver. What are their service guarantees Short term and and long term goals? Do the partners appear task-takers (bobble-heads) or true Consultants who can help guide with their technical and business know hows? As they say – “Get the best your money can buy”.

5. Engage: Before you confirm your engagement with a partner, request for a capability demo from their past engagements (time permitting). Most partners will be willing to mock up applications to validate and showcase their capabilities

Remember CRM initiatives require process overhauls and require sufficient lead time to business process analysis, process measurement and efficiencies. This is when your implementation will greatly benefit from an established project goal and realistic budget. Also, a right partner will guide you through your priorities so you can make the most critical implementations first and increase confidence and adoption in your organization.

Beyond this, you will likely fall back on what you already know best – utilizing IT best practices and methodologies and your implementation partner.

Good luck!