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The Ultimate Salesforce Delivery Machine, Part 1: The Backlog

In a previous article, we talked about how the continuing success of a Salesforce implementation involves the successful transition to sustainability.

In this new series, we break it down further and explore the fundamental components that help organizations deliver continuous improvement.

No implementation is perfect, and neither is any process. Continuously finding areas to improve, welcoming user feedback and delivering constant value can drive up adoption far better than any incentive or punishment.

One important way to facilitate this transition is to maintain a healthy backlog that’s regularly fed, prioritized, and delivered.

What is the Backlog?

Simply stated, the backlog is a prioritized list of wants. These wants range in size and complexity from a small enhancement to brand new functionality. The backlog is ALWAYS owned by the business – never a systems integrator or Salesforce implementation team.

Organizations, to their detriment, often view the backlog as a ‘Wishlist.’ As a result, the business users have low expectations that their suggestions will ever be implemented, while the Salesforce implementation team feels like they aren’t getting clear direction from the business. This type of poor partnership stokes resentment and erodes adoption.

If this sounds like your organization, here are a few tips on how to bring life back to your backlog.

Start with a Vision

In the same way the mission statement drives the actions of a business, a Salesforce implementation should have an overarching vision to direct its enhancement efforts. What was the reason you implemented Salesforce in the first place? Was it to provide a better customer service experience or to give sales the tools it needs to sell more effectively? This vision will inform the direction of the backlog. Each enhancement or change should help, in some way, to achieve the vision.

Like the backlog, the business leaders should own the vision. If the vision is unclear, collaborate with them to identify one.

Identify Measurable Goals

The vision should be measurable. What are the criteria that will help measure how close the vision is to fruition? For example, if the vision is to provide a better customer service experience, then one metric might be the time a case is open with the goal of reducing case life by 10 percent year over year.

Whatever the vision and measurable goals are, the business should be aligned around them. All future decisions related to enhancing Salesforce will be considered through the lens of the vision.

Feed the Backlog

Now comes the fun part, filling up the backlog. The backlog entry criteria should be low, with the goal of providing an open environment where ideas and suggestions can be made freely. Do not worry about the feasibility or scope of these requests at first. If the business has defined a vision, the most important items will be easily identified during the prioritization and grooming phase. Here are some ways to feed the backlog:

Interview Users

  • Talk to the business units and, most importantly, the users. Schedule quarterly review sessions to ask what can be improved. Shadow their current process and ask questions. Stay open minded! You want to inspire open and honest communication.

Collect Feedback

  • Provide a request form where users can enter suggestions and report issues. This request process can be as simple as a support inbox or an application. At EightCloud, we like to install our custom tool – Case Manager – directly in our clients Salesforce org to capture and track requirements, user feedback, enhancement requests.

Business Initiatives

  • When initiatives are launched and owned by a particular business unit, they can quickly increase the size of the backlog.

Prioritize

Remember we mentioned that we had a low barrier to entry for our backlog? Now it’s time to prioritize and refine the list. This is where we rank items according to which are the most urgent or provide the most value. We also rank their required effort to help decide when and how to implement these items.

Like the ownership of the backlog, the business also owns the prioritization. Schedule semi-regular meetings to discuss, review and prioritize items in the backlog.

Identify a ranking system to help prioritize each item. This ranking system can be a scale from high to low, for example:

  • P1: High Importance
  • P2: Medium-High Importance
  • P3: Medium Importance
  • P4: Low-Medium Importance
  • P5: Low Importance

Depending on who you ask, it may be challenging to agree on a ranking for each item. Since your users likely consist of more than one business unit, different things will be important to different people. If this is the case, there are other systems that can be more useful such as the MoSCoW Model.

  • Must Have – show-stopping changes
  • Should Have – important but not imperatively vital
  • Could Have – Wanted but less important than Must Have and Should Have
  • Won’t Have – Agreed not to deliver, at least for a while

Some organizations find it helpful to prioritize items based on perceived dollar value. What are the savings of making this change or cost of NOT making this change?

In short, there are several ways to rank and prioritize the backlog. Just make sure there is consensus across the business.

Refine

Remember that the backlog has a low bar to entry and is easy to expand. Refining adds the detail – including level of effort. Items need to be refined and turned into user stories – natural language descriptions of the who, what, when and why. These user stories explain anticipated system behavior and are vital to helping the Salesforce implementation team build the solution.

Deliver

The most important reason to have a backlog? Delivering features to your users! Remember, it’s a backlog, not a back burner! You have your prioritized list of features now. Work with your team to build them. In our next article, we will discuss how to build, plan and commit to a release schedule.

At EightCloud, we partner with our clients to provide the right skills at the right time and bring their vision to life. We are one of only a handful of partners that are certified provider of Managed Services. If you’d like to learn how we can help, visit our Managed Services page.

Author: Grant Ongstad, Senior Salesforce Consultant

Read Part 2: Governance >>

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