A Salesforce Implementation Partner, at the most basic level, is a company you can hire to help you configure and customise your Salesforce instance. Salesforce Partners are also referred to as a System Integrators or Consultants. Different partners will offer varying levels of service for strategic thinking, design & ideation, development, training, program management, end to end testing, and operational support.
To be recognised as a Salesforce Partner, prospective companies must register to the Salesforce Partner Program. There are costs associated with registration, compliance, and a point system allocated for recognising levels of achievement and contribution by the Partner. Points are scored for number of certifications, customer satisfaction survey results, opportunity referrals and co-sales, and published solutions on the appExchange.
Generally, as partners move up the tiers, the size, experience, and expertise of their practice grows and they are more able to deliver on increasingly complex programs and challenging transformational aspirations.
To be recognised as the top tier Global Strategic Salesforce partner, a partner needs:
Consulting Partner Trailblazer Score: Platinum in 6+ Program regions, which must include US, UKI, ANZ, France OR DACH, and 2+ other Program regions
Certified Individuals: 1,000+ Certified Individuals globally, with at least 200 each in AMER, EMEA, and APAC
Project CSAT rating: 8.4 or higher
Partner Navigator: Achieved Masters in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Platform, Marketing Cloud, and 4+ Industries
Co-sell ACV: $100M in FY20 (including Mulesoft ACV)
Sponsorship: $1.75M total Sponsorship spend on Named Strategic Events, including DF19 and 1+ World Tour in each of AMER, EMEA, and APAC
Why do you need an Implementation partner?
Trusted expert Salesforce partners bring experience and platform expertise to help lead, coach and guide you to successful outcomes.
Industry Expertise: They have knowledge of industry best practices and recommend best ways to optimise business processes based on Salesforce features and capabilities. They have experience doing this before with different customers in the same industry as yours.
Track Record of Success: They have a history of successful projects. Their previous customers rate them highly and have a high ratio of customers that renew and retain their services.
Skills & Availability: They have a team of Salesforce certified experts ready to go. Salesforce certification is not a measure of their abilities but rather that a) they have at least a baseline level of knowledge and b) they are enthusiastic and motivated about learning Salesforce. The exception here is the Certified Technical Architect. With less than 400 CTAs globally at last count, this is the top echelon of Salesforce architects. Accreditation to this select group is awarded through the toughest panel review process in the industry and a reason why it is so coveted.
Onshore / Offshore resource mix: If done right, having a mix of offshore resources in lower cost regions can significantly lower the overall cost of the program. However, having teams split geographically will increase the complexity of managing the project and there may need to be duplication of roles across locations (eg. team lead in each location)
Global / Local Presence: If you operate in multiple regions, having a partner that has a local presence in each of your cities and countries will improve your ability to scale and support your company. Smaller partners will need to fly their people in/out or hire temporary contractors if they do not have an established presence.
Resources, Tools, and Processes: Your implementation partner has done this before. They will have existing resources they can draw on to expedite your delivery. It may be as simple as document templates, coding standards, or in-house tools for project management, code scans, continuous deployment, test automation scripts, etc. Hire them not just for their people but also for their resources.
Holistic / Complete Service: A successful Salesforce rollout requires more than just deploying the code. It needs change management, user training, quality assurance, business process optimisation, data migration, expertise in other products in use (eg. SAP, Informatica, Boomi, Adobe, etc). Some of this may need to be done by internal IT teams or multiple different partners as one company might not have the right people for all these areas, especially the smaller partners.
The reliance on an Implementation Partner varies depending on the internal teams’ Salesforce knowledge & expertise and their availability.
Do it for me:
Companies just starting out with Salesforce having no existing skillsets and no availability may need their partner to do it all for them.
- You have an instant experienced and expert team with platform and industry knowledge
- Less time and resource pressure from your own team members. They can focus on their core SME skills, understanding of business processes, and desired outcomes.
- Higher implementation costs
- Less internal Salesforce knowledge to support the solution
Do it with me:
For the large majority of companies, executing a strategy together with a partner will be the recommended delivery model. As they learn and build their internal capabilities, they can can start assuming more of the program roles and share more responsibilities in a do it together model. Consider employing a “2 in a box” model where each internal employee is paired together with an external consultant.
- Lower vendor costs
- Staff can learn and gain hands-on Salesforce experience
- Build internal knowledge of the solution to support platform when / if the partner is no longer there
- Solution architecture, design, and implementation is still done by experienced team
- Managing internal and external team may be more complex
- Higher demand on internal resources. Staff may need to be reassigned away from their normal day jobs
Do it myself:
Finally, highly experienced and expert business units will be able to do it themselves and only rely on partners to augment their team. They completely own the success of their platform.
- Low / no vendor costs
- Self sufficient
- Complete internal platform / product ownership
- May not be able to scale for larger projects
- Projects may take longer if not enough / right resources
- Internal team may not have the right skillsets in all areas of Salesforce
- May lack industry insight from similiar implementations in other companies
Top 3 major causes of Partner failure
1. Failure of skill. Having great people AND retaining them is critical to success. A critical risk arises when the partner has high employee turnover and there is frequent change in personnel within the teams. Key architects leave and those that are still on the project are disengaged. Alternatively, the partner may have higher value or more strategic engagements elsewhere and need to reprioritise their top people for other projects. Those left behind are often more junior, lower skilled, or not expert with the cloud, niche, or company.
Find out if the people presenting at the pre-sales stage will be the team that is engaged on the ground when the project starts. Ask what their employee attrition rate is and what their strategies are for employee retention.
2. Failure of management. Individual brilliances will go a long way but without leadership and strong management, they will lack direction and coordination. This is especially true for larger programs where these problems evidently magnify. Mismanaged teams lack drive and energy. Teams become either complacent with mediocracy or suffer extreme stress working over and above to make up for inadequate management.
Find out not just the case studies of when your partner had successes but also when they experienced problems and how they went about turning it around.
3. Failure of expectations. I can’t think of many other industries where you enter an agreement to purchase something and often you don’t get what you expected or it’s only a fraction of what you ordered. Failed expectations applies to disappointments in the product delivered. The high level ask at the ideation stage morphs into something much more complex when the team start deep diving into the details. This leads to lengthy delays, numerous change requests, or forced acceptance of much less than expected. Unless your project is very standard and basic, there is too much variance to confidently estimate with accuracy.
Adopt an agile delivery approach. This does not mean just having a series of 2 week sprints. Sprints and daily stand-ups does not mean the project is agile. Avoid lengthy formal test phases, and have business owners fully engaged instead of just “throwing requirements over the fence” for build and hoping it comes back perfectly. Having the business engaged throughout the cycle enables them to see and be closer to what is being built, watch working demos to “touch & feel” the product, rather than just visualise and imagine what it would look like months down the line.