IMPACT is a series of events for those who are responsible for driving change in Salesforce and those who are impacted by those changes. This virtual Summit is the first in the series of events. During 2024 there will be City Tours and an in-person conference near the end of the year.
This IMPACT Summit brought together practitioners at the sharp end of driving change in the real world of operational and technical complexity, tech debt, and poor documentation. They shared practical approaches and tactics to drive the right changes to Salesforce more quickly, with confidence.
The 10 sessions were recorded and are on the IMPACT site.
There were 6 themes that ran through the presentations:
- Ensure that you build the right thing (before you start building)
- AI can deliver 100-1000x productivity gains for business analysts
- Use a process-driven approach to drive better outcomes
- Architecture cannot be an afterthought
- Good documentation can accelerate time to value and reduce technical debt
- A Center of Excellence can support transformational change but also is the catalyst for the adoption of AI
Let’s expand on each of these in more detail.
Ensure that you build the right thing before you start building
The principle of “building the right thing” before starting any changes, whether it is a transformational program or minor enhancement, is critical. This approach is about aligning the project’s objectives with the organization’s strategic goals. It starts with a deep and thorough understanding of what the business needs and what problem is being solved. This process involves engaging with stakeholders to get a clear picture of the desired outcomes and the impact of the solution on various aspects of the business.
In the software development lifecycle, this theme translates to a heavy emphasis on the planning and analysis phases. It’s about spending sufficient time in the requirements gathering stage, ensuring that all stakeholders have a voice, and that their needs and expectations are clearly understood and documented. This process prevents teams “building the wrong thing” which results in poor user adoption, rework, and lost opportunity. Ultimately this erodes the trust of the business users who always saw the benefits of Salesforce, being its agility. The promise was that it could be updated quickly to respond to the changing needs of the business users.
Effective business analysis is a critical component in ensuring that the right thing is being built. This involves regular check-ins with stakeholders, clear documentation, and an iterative approach that allows for feedback and adjustments as the project progresses. This approach ensures that the project remains on track and aligned with the original goals, and it allows for flexibility to adapt to changing needs or new insights.
Another aspect of building the right thing is risk management. By understanding the organization’s business, technical and regulatory environment, it is easier to identify potential risks and develop strategies to mitigate them. This proactive approach to risk management ensures that potential issues are addressed early in the project, thereby reducing the likelihood of significant problems arising later in the project lifecycle. A key aspect is understanding the level of Salesforce configuration. The scale of implementations means that this can only be achieved with automated analysis.
AI can dramatically improve the productivity of analysts, at the same time as improving accuracy of deliverables. This enables the right level of analysis to be performed, within the existing budgets, before the specifications are passed to the development teams.
Business analysis can be supercharged with AI
Almost every aspect of the business analysis work can be accelerated with AI. Key deliverables for most business analysis activities are documentation. AI does a remarkably good job of analysis and creation when well prompted. This is highly disruptive because productivity gains in some areas can reach 1000x. But it is not just an improvement in speed, but also the level of accuracy that’s increasing. But this depends on rigorous analysis, because each phase feeds off the input from the previous phase. And the fuel for AI is good data.
What has unlocked the productivity gains is the ability to create UPN process maps and data models from discovery call transcripts, procedural documents, sketches, or diagrams drawn in other tools like Lucid, Visio or GoogleDocs. The accuracy and speed that AI can create the user stories from the process maps is staggering. But an understanding of the changes to metadata and the associated risks, normally requires the analysis of hundreds of thousands of metadata items and their interrelationships. This is where AI can perform ad-hoc analysis of huge data sets effortlessly, using natural language prompting.
However, the role of human judgment in AI-augmented business analysis remains crucial. While AI can provide insights, the interpretation and application of these insights, requires human expertise and contextual understanding. Analysts need to critically evaluate AI-generated recommendations and consider them within the broader context of the business strategy, market conditions, and other relevant factors.
Use a process-driven approach for business analysis
Adopting a process-driven approach in business analysis involves a systematic examination of the business processes to identify areas for improvement or transformation. This approach requires a thorough understanding of the current state of business processes – how they work, who is involved, what their outcomes are, and where inefficiencies or bottlenecks exist.
A key aspect of a process-driven approach is mapping out existing processes to create a visual representation of how work is currently done. Engaging stakeholders is crucial and Universal Process Notation (UPN), the Salesforce standard, is powerful, yet easily understood. UPN process maps help in identifying redundancies, unnecessary steps, and opportunities for process optimization. It also aids in understanding the impact of potential changes on different parts of the organization.
Process maps are not standalone documents. Their power is when they are connected to other documentation created during the analysis work such as business requirements, data models, specifications, user stories, and Salesforce metadata. This is the clear benefit of using Elements.cloud, which can replace a whole host of different applications that are typically used to capture documentation.
Analysts need to work closely with those who are directly involved in the processes to gain insights into the practical aspects of how work is done, the challenges faced, and areas where improvements are most needed. This approach requires a mindset of ongoing evaluation and adaptation, where processes are regularly reviewed and updated as necessary.
Architecture cannot be an afterthought
Good architecture ensures that a system is not only functional but also reliable, maintainable, and scalable. It involves making strategic decisions about the structure and design of the system, which can have long-term implications for its performance and sustainability. Therefore, architectural considerations should be integrated into the planning phase of a project, not treated as an afterthought.
Architecture also plays a key role in the integration of new technologies and systems. As businesses increasingly rely on a variety of software applications and platforms, the ability to integrate these systems seamlessly is crucial. A well-designed architecture facilitates this integration, ensuring that different components of the system can communicate and work together effectively.
In addition to technical considerations, architectural decisions should also take into account business objectives and user needs. This involves a balance between technical feasibility and the practical realities of how the system will be used in the business context. It requires a holistic view of the project, considering not only the technical aspects but also how the system will support the business’s overall strategy and goals.
Finally, architecture is not a one-time effort but an ongoing process. As technology evolves and a business needs change, the architecture of a system may need to be adapted. This requires a flexible approach to architecture, one that allows for modifications and enhancements over time without compromising the system’s integrity or performance.
Good documentation can accelerate time to value and reduce technical debt
The value of good documentation is often overlooked, and it is normally the first to be cut when under time or budget pressure. This is a huge error. One of the key benefits of good documentation is the acceleration of time to value. When the implementation, including requirements, business processes, architecture, metadata, and code, are well-documented, new team members can quickly get up to speed, reducing the learning curve and enabling faster contribution to the project. This efficiency contributes to a quicker delivery of the project, thus providing value to the business in a shorter time frame.
Effective documentation also accelerates impact analysis which reduces risk when making changes. It provides a record of the development process, including how certain decisions were made and why certain paths were chosen. It ensures that there is a trail of information that can be followed to understand the implementation’s evolution. And that reduces the cost of subsequent projects at the same time as accelerating the delivery.
Good documentation also plays a crucial role in reducing technical debt. Without a good understanding of the use of metadata items, there is a reluctance to change them. Instead new items are created, potentially building debt until limits are hit. Well-maintained documentation, helps in identifying and understanding the decisions made during the project, which in turn facilitates better maintenance and updates in the future, thereby reducing the likelihood of incurring technical debt.
A Center of Excellence can support transformation change and is the catalyst for the adoption of AI
A Center of Excellence (COE) brings together expertise, best practices, and resources to drive innovation and excellence. The research indicates that 91% of the top performing Salesforce implementations have a COE. By centralizing knowledge and skills, a COE can more effectively guide the organization through complex changes and innovations.
The concept of a CoE involves 13 pillars, each critical for success. These pillars are vision, leadership, governance, change control, methodology, standards, metadata management, architecture, security, change management, program management office (PMO), tooling, and innovation.
Irrespective of an organization’s size, these pillars remain crucial, but not all need to be in place on day 1 and certain pillars are mandatory, regardless of the organization’s complexity. The list of mandatory pillars grows when AI is being used by the organization. This is because the risk grows and therefore there is a higher level of governance and guidance required.
Innovation, one of the key pillars of a COE, is facilitating the adoption of new technologies, such as AI. This involves not only the technical aspects of implementation but also addressing the cultural and operational changes required for successful adoption. The COE can provide training, support, and guidelines to ensure that AI is integrated effectively into the organization’s workflows and processes.
Change Intelligence addresses the problem of organizations hastily building solutions without comprehensive planning. The advent of SaaS has exacerbated this, enabling business users to start projects rapidly, often prioritizing action over planning. The adage “failing to plan is planning to fail,” aptly describes this scenario – despite it being received with rolled eyes.
Change Intelligence enhances the planning phase by providing tools and a centralized repository, for all connected change documentation. It systematically covers key planning steps, from idea capture, to requirement validation, process mapping, solution development, impact understanding and user story creation. It is complementary to DevOps.
Change Intelligence is making a big difference today, and its future looks even more exciting because of AI and GPT’s impact on software development. Experts think that in about five years, we might not need traditional coding anymore. This is because AI can understand plain language and use it to create applications. Just look at where we are now, just a year after ChatGPT came out. Change Intelligence is perfectly positioned for this disruption.
Access IMPACT sessions
Watch the full sessions from the virtual IMPACT Summit and gain invaluable insights from leading experts in the field. Whether you’re driving change or adapting to it, these ten sessions are packed with strategies to help you navigate the complexities of Salesforce with confidence.