Flight Check: Preparing for Your First Flight into the Clouds

05/03/2011 by Larry Salvatoriello
A look into a few areas focus you should be thinking about when making your move to the cloud and Salesforce.com CRM.

Over the last year or so we have helped many clients move to the cloud and particularly onto Salesforce.com to leverage their core Customer Relationship Management (CRM) functionality. As we go through our discovery process with these clients we spend most of our time on a few areas of focus and I thought it would be a good idea to outline some of the important ones to think about before you take off into the clouds.

Relax & Buckle Up

For starters, don't feel you need to know everything going into the project or sales cycle. Not only are Salesforce.com's Account Executives highly trained to guide you to the right package but they help you find the right implementation partner to get you up and running. As a partner of Salesforce.com it is our job to guide you through your journey where we will not only implement your CRM but also educate you so you can make good decisions in the future.

Detail Your Data

The first thing to think about is what kind of data is important to track in your business or organizational process. Start by looking at what types of things are being stored today by either a system you are migrating from, pieces of paper, or our personal favorite; the hidden excel spreadsheet. This exercise will give you a good idea of the types of things that you currently track, CRM will help you track them more efficiently. Salesforce.com has a very robust reporting system so if you put data in, it will spit it out in a meaningful format for you to make decisions around. If your list at this point has all the things you want to see, then you are done. If not, start adding the missing elements to your list.

Visualize Your Visibility

The next thing to think about is who (users) can see what (data). Salesforce.com has great permissioning tools that allows you to control what people can do and what they can see. Think about who has access to what pieces of data and whether that model makes sense for your business moving forward. In our experience we advise starting with more of an open model and tightening it if needed. Many clients end up sharing more then they thought they would with great success.

Automation Away

Salesforce.com provides you the tools to automate a lot of your workflows and processes. From setting up email alerts and tasks to full blown approval processes, you can remove the thinking out your process and increase overall productivity. The system can be setup so that it can guide your users through your business processes. This can mean the difference between landing a deal and not. Think about the types of things that are consistent throughout the sales process are good candidates to be automated.

Data Migration

Lastly, if you have any existing data that you would like to pre-populate, make sure it is exportable to a delimited file or an Excel spreadsheet. Your implementation partner can work with you on normalizing the data so it matches your data model in Salesforce.com. This part of the puzzle ends up being the most time consuming so start on it early. There are a wide variety of tools to help normalize your data and save time as well as built in data loading tools and wizards from Salesforce.com to get the data into the system when ready.

Moving to CRM and Salesforce.com is a smart move for any company, large or small. Making the commitment is the hard part because in many instances it is a major cultural change. If you can get past that, Salesforce.com and it's partner community are there to guide you the rest of the way.