Center of Excellence: VISION

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Over the coming weeks, we are going to explore each of the 13 pillars of a Center of Excellence (COE). In this article, we are going to look at the 1st pillar: Vision. In each article for each pillar, we will set out the scope, look at what success looks like and explore the tools and techniques you need to master.

Center of Excellence – 13 pillars

Whilst every organization is different, there are some common aspects. No matter what project, these need to be established. These are activities, not roles. The smaller the project, the lighter the touch. As background for this article, here are the 13 pillars of a COE

  • Vision: strategic vision and direction for Salesforce for both the business and IT
  • Leadership: Steering Committee and key sponsors in business and IT
  • Governance: overall control of strategic direction, business cases, investment and risk management
  • Change control: management of changes to all aspects of the project
  • Methodology: the implementation methodology covering people, process and technology which includes business analysis, DevOps and adoption.
  • Standards: includes standards for business analysis, org documentation, metadata naming, coding, testing, communication, change management and training
  • Metadata management: control of the Salesforce metadata across the deployment pipeline
  • Architecture: technical and data architecture of Salesforce and how it relates to the integrated systems
  • Security: like architecture, security needs to be designed in, not bolted on as an afterthought.
  • Change management: communications, organizational change and training to get Salesforce adopted
  • PMO: the Project Management Office that manages the COE activities
  • Tooling: platforms/apps/ tools used to support the project
  • Innovation: innovation hub that builds out Salesforce prototypes to show the “art of the possible”

What is a vision statement?

Wikipedia, “A Vision Document is a document that describes a compelling idea, project or other future state for a particular organization, product or service. The Vision defines the product/service to be developed specified in terms of the stakeholder’s key needs and desired features”

The vision sets the direction and scope for Salesforce, what are the specific needs and problems of the end-users, how will the problems be resolved and what benefits will be. It will also define Salesforce’s role in the corporate IT landscape. Increasingly Salesforce is a first-class citizen in the IT landscape alongside finance, ERP, and HR systems.
The Product Owner should be able to articulate the vision for Salesforce over the next 3 years in your organization. 3 years may seem a long time in technology when you look at how quickly Salesforce is launching new capabilities. But, in terms of the speed that you can transform your organization and implement meaningful change, it is a good time frame.

If the implementation of Salesforce is small or has a very narrow scope there may not be a vision. But as Salesforce has become a more sophisticated platform with powerful customization and automation capabilities it can prove to be a very expensive option if all you are doing treating it like a cloud-based Rolodex (is this a term anyone still understands, or am I just too old?).

So, even if you are starting small, whoever signed off the licensing, implementation project, and ongoing support team budget for Salesforce, must have built a business case. Part of that business case were the objectives, scope and potential benefits. And whilst this is not a grand vision to exploit all the capabilities of Salesforce, it is a great place to start.

BTW – even if you don’t currently have a strong vision for making Salesforce strategic inside your organization, there is probably a Salesforce Account Executive who has a vision and a revenue target tied to it!!!

Ownership, audience and sign-off

The vision is typically owned by the Product Owner, but it needs to be developed and signed-off in collaboration with leadership. This should include representatives from business users and (increasingly) the IT department as Salesforce will be integrated to other enterprise systems.

The leadership may be a couple of people for a small implementation. But for more complex, strategic implementations it will be a Program Steering Committee. This will have senior-level representation from each of the business units, the IT department, and finance. It could also include the SI Project Manager and even the Salesforce Account Manager.

For multi-org implementations, it depends on the business structure and org ownership. If the orgs are separate and autonomous, then each will have its own vision. But normally you would expect an overarching vision because that is what drives the direction of the Center of Excellence.

Questions to ask

Here are some questions to ask to understand and establish the vision:

  • What is the strategic vision for Salesforce?
  • What are the key business initiatives and priorities?
  • What business units are within the scope
  • What are the key issues that need to be resolved and the benefits
  • What is the scope, scale, and roadmap of the Salesforce implementation?
  • How does it fit with the other enterprise apps/platforms?
  • What is the high-level process for getting from “idea to production”?

Program/project scope

The vision will help define the overall program / project plans which will shape your Salesforce product roadmap. The roadmap is the enhancements that you are planning to make to Salesforce. It is useful to think like an ISV in terms of product roadmap with releases.

This scope document needs to be signed off by the leadership as it will define the short-term objectives. If you are working with an SI this needs to be dovetailed with their Statement of Work (SOW). Remember, Scope is a serial killer of projects.

The Standish Group has been doing research and surveys on various types of IT projects since 1994. Their research, published under the title CHAOS, reveals some facts that, to most, will be astonishing.


The most common causes of project failure are well documented:

  • Incomplete requirements and poor scoping
  • Changing scope and requirements
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of user involvement, buy-in, and adoption
  • Poor planning of resources
  • Lack of executive support

The first 3 items are essentially scope control. Not getting control of scope at the beginning or losing control of it during the project is THE killer. The greatest risk is actually at the start of any project, but you don’t feel the impact of poor scope control until it explodes on you later in the project.

Failure to clearly define the scope of the implementation is likely to result in you becoming one of those unfortunate statistics in the survey. The best and easiest way to define the scope is in terms of the end-to-end business process diagram. In that way all the stakeholders start with a common agreement on scope and objectives.

Tools and techniques

The vision statement and scope documnts are text documents or slide decks. They need to b version controlled with a published version that can be shared with stakeholders. So typically it is office tools – Microsoft Office, GoogleDocs or Quip – but you need to think about how you are going to manage collaboration, versioning, access controls, and publication.

Tangent: What’s the name of your implementation

People talk a lot about branding in reference to products. Without a brand, products don’t sell. Companies think about positioning, promotion, pricing. They think long and hard about what to put on the label before launch. Yet companies looking at transforming their business through Salesforce don’t feel the need to sell it to their staff. Is it not the end users that need to buy into the system most? Without them won’t the project be a complete waste of time?

Getting adoption of any initiative, e.g., business change, is the most critical aspect of any project. So why shouldn’t we get staff to buy into a new way of working by using the time-proven marketing techniques that get us to buy “stuff.” I evangelize a simple formula: Results = Initiative x Adoption2 , and I call it the Fundamental Law of Business. It was the basis of my first book – Common Approach, Uncommon Results.

What, for example, is your Salesforce implementation project called? Something boring – “Salesforce Project”? Something irrelevant – “Project Dolphin”? Or something that spells out the benefit to the end user – “Connections” “Growth360” or “How”.

After 20 years helping clients drive successful transformation projects, I’ve seen a range of client project approaches. Without doubt, the ones that worked best have had strong marketing and branding input. And by “worked best,” I mean they have been adopted and maintained by end users, therefore delivering the greatest ROI.

A great example is The Carphone Warehouse (CPW). With 800+ stores across the UK they needed just one operations manual that all 8,000 staff could understand and would use. It sets out every activity in a store; porting phones across networks, disconnections, upgrades, stock checks…and the list goes on. The results are staggering, and in direct proportion to the effort they put in marketing the new operations manual to all their staff.

Firstly, it was called How2 – a memorable name that spells out the benefit. The look and feel was consistent with the CPW style – simple, clean, and using cartoons as menu icons. The launch event for all store managers was a high profile, high energy event, and it was driven by very senior management. The dedicated support desk is staffed by a dedicated How2 team. So was it worth it? The store staff definitely think so. “How2 is the one thing we use. It is fantastic for new starters because any questions they have about the procedure is there. It makes our life a lot easier, and it makes the shop run a lot smoother,” said one customer consultant from the Richmond branch, adding, “At the end of the day it is all about customer satisfaction, and this will help us deliver that 100% service that we’ve always given at Carphone Warehouse.” What about the people who funded the project?

Was there a ROI? Ashley Cook, Operations Director at CPW, certainly sees it. He estimates they will drive an additional £80m of revenue this year because store staff can spend more time with customers instead of fighting the systems to find out the correct form or screen. Here again the value lies in the staff USING the system. CPW invested in selling it to staff, and they are seeing a huge return. So what can you do to make your project a massive success? Change your focus.

  • Think differently: Start thinking like a marketer not a Salesforce professional.
  • Change focus: Who is the audience? End users? IT? Senior management? Spend less time worrying about the techncoloigy and work out what will get maximum adoption.
  • Engage marketing: Get your marketing team to work on the project brand – the name, the look, and feel of the content, the messaging, and the promotion.

At the end of the day, the old adage applies: There is no substitute for a coherent plan entertainingly communicated.









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