Troubled Salesforce Implementations: Symptoms, Causes and Solutions

There are so many ways a Salesforce implementation can go sideways, and the results are not always evident at go-live.

Small oversights in communication, planning and follow-through can snowball over time to become big problems that obscure the cause—and the solution.

No judgment here. Finger-pointing doesn’t solve the problem. Sometimes it can seem like the issues are so far-reaching that you just need to start over, but that would be too costly and time consuming.

So, what can you do? The first step is to recognize when the issues you’re experiencing might be traced back to a flawed implementation.

What does a troubled Salesforce implementation look like?

These and other “symptoms” experienced by many organizations often indicate errors or oversights in the process. Individually, they could be the result of many factors, but when you start to see these things happen consistently or in conjunction, it can point to underlying causes that need to be treated.

  • Communication breakdowns
  • An abundance of unused functionality
  • Duplicate or conflicting data
  • Low adoption
  • Frustrated users
  • Dropped or duplicated tasks
  • Workflow dead ends
  • Missed requirements
  • Lack of documentation

Causes and warning signs

If you are dealing with symptoms like those listed above, chances are you’ll recognize one or more of the following red flags that may have occurred during various stages of your implementation.

Communication issues

From contentious conversations to silent apathy, poor communication can take many forms. That’s not to say that disagreements are always bad and should be avoided; the lack of engagement on important issues can be just as telling. However, maybe the key point of contact and the project sponsor seemed unable to get on the same page in meetings. Perhaps a lack of questions or comments on preliminary requirements or design documents. The outcomes of these engagements are what’s important and can give a clue as to whether the vendor and your team failed to build a foundation of trust.

End-users not being involved in the implementation

A lack of willingness to engage end users throughout the project might be a sign that something is wrong. If the key project contact assumes they know how users will want to interact with the system, this can result in users not understanding the ‘why’ behind things they do.

Reluctance to acknowledge or invest in portions of the project

“Oh, it’s just an easy data migration. We don’t need any ______.” (Fill in the blank with: preparation, UX design, accessibility input, testing, what-have-you.) When important considerations are ignored or left to be dealt with just before launch, it can set the stage for other faults. Likewise, failing to acknowledge the alternative things that might happen around a given task or process because “everything always happens this way” can prevent people from defining necessary alternate paths or exception paths. This can annoy your users or worse, alienate current or potential customers.

Working in a bubble

We all know the danger of working in silos. Everything seems to be going well until Compliance, Legal, Marketing or someone else finds out about the project and throws on the brakes just before go-live. It’s important to get buy-in and an appropriate level of involvement from cross-functional stakeholders to avoid a needle-scratch moment at the point of no return.

Trouble finding the right balance

Sometimes the desire to serve an overcomplicated org can lead to a convoluted UI/UX when covering 80% of use cases might be a preferable alternative. This includes prioritizing needs and understanding what is feasible given a client’s budget.

Not learning from the most passionate critics

Engaging the loudest detractors of the system and listening closely to address their pain points can turn them into vocal supporters and champions of the renovated system.

Troubled Salesforce Implementation


What’s the best approach to fix the problem?

While you can always scrap the existing Salesforce implementation and start again, this is a very expensive and disruptive option. A much better approach is to modify what you have to better align with the organization’s goals.

Start with a comprehensive Healthcheck

A Healthcheck examines the Salesforce solution from top to bottom. A technical assessment is only part of the work required. The more important part is to conduct comprehensive interviews with organizational leadership, end user leadership, end users and the Salesforce solution team. Questions that need to be considered include:

  • What is the goal for implementing Salesforce? Has that goal been fully achieved? If not, what realignment is needed?
  • Is the overall architecture for the solution solid and well-aligned with the goal?
  • Does the data model, including custom objects, align well with the architecture and goal? Are the standard and custom objects well utilized? Are all the custom objects really needed?
  • Do the business processes align with the Salesforce solution? Where are the disconnects?
  • Are the security profiles properly aligned to people roles? Are there too many or too few?
  • What Salesforce apps and AppExchange apps have been utilized and why?
  • Is any custom code well-designed and implemented? Is it needed, or would configuration suffice?
  • What is the user adoption and utilization of the system and components?

Create a Roadmap

The next step is to develop a plan to address the goal and process misalignments, technical issues and people issues. A roadmap prioritizes the work items and then lays them out in digestible releases. It is important that each “release” consists of not only the technical changes, but also process and people changes. It is also keenly important that you do not try to take on too much in any release, but just enough change that the organization can positively accept. We typically see roadmaps that are 6-12 months in duration with releases every 4 weeks.

Execute the plan

Finally, the roadmap needs to be executed. A comprehensive Salesforce technical team is needed to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated. A Technical Architect, Business Analyst, Configuration Expert, Developers, specific Salesforce product and AppExchange specialists, and a Project Manager (or Scrum Master) are needed.  That is a lot of people!  If you are a large or small organization it is challenging to justify full-time resources for each of these roles.  It is not recommended that you try to combine these roles into a couple of people as you will then place those individuals in roles they are not equipped to perform. This results in a repeat of a suboptimal solution.

Don’t stop there

Finally, consider that even when the initial roadmap is completed that the Salesforce solution will require continually support and enhancements. The journey never ends and there is always something that can be improved to better support the organization’s goals. Engaging a Managed Services team for the long term ensure you will never be in a position to suffer from a troubled Salesforce implementation—or degrade a good one.

You could attempt to do all of this internally, but there is a better way. Leverage a Managed Services approach from EightCloud that will give you a hybrid team of fractional consultants for a fixed monthly rate. In other words, if you need 1/4 of a Project Manager and 1/8 of a Technical Architect, that is the cost of the project cost—rather than paying for full-time resources for every role. Also, if a Sales Cloud expert is needed this month and a Service Cloud expert is needed next month, then these resources swap seamlessly. You get just the right resources at the right time to execute the roadmap.

Since there are countless ways a Salesforce implementation can fall short of expectations, the actual solution will be unique to the organization and the system. However, the right guide can set you on the path from exasperation to Salesforce excellence.

Contact us today and speak with one of our Solution Architects about how to get all the Salesforce expertise you need to accurately align your processes with a roadmap to your long-term goals.

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The team at EightCloud has consistently delivered projects on time and with great attention to detail. Our consultant is particularly adaptable to our changing needs and is always thorough and accountable on everything we ask him to engage on. Couldn't ask for a better partner as we scale out our implementation!"

- Michelle Wai, Arizent

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