Don’t let your Salesforce.com Implementation Program lose Momentum

Salesforce Implementations can get seriously bogged down after a year or two of haphazard evolution

Salesforce Implementations can get seriously bogged down after a year or two of haphazard evolution

Is progress with your Salesforce implementation program becoming increasingly challenged? 

Symptoms include:

  • Project delivery late and over-budget
  • User adoption decreasing
  • Data quality decreasing
  • Minor changes taking too long to move from idea capture to delivery
  • Stakeholders preoccupation with stabilising the mess rather than taking strategic next steps
  • Salesforce staff failing to be retained

Whilst these symptoms are all too common with larger Salesforce implementations made complex due to the number of business units and system integrations, the good news is there are steps you can take to stay (or get back) on-track.

Make these practical decisions at the start a Salesforce implementation program to ensure you don’t get “stuck in the mud” or perhaps “Stuck in the cloud” should be the modern phrase!

  1. Establish a “Centre of Excellence” to govern change
    – centralise decision making, release management and design standards;
  2. Establish strong product management involving business and IT to assess and prioritise requests for change
    – ensuring high priority/value requests are delivered first;
  3. Stay ahead of the curve with strategy and architecture
    – communicate a clear (regularly refreshed) vision explaining where you are heading and how you will get there;
  4. Use a consistent delivery team
    – yield better results with an agile team working through a regularly re-prioritised backlog to avoid loss of staff continuity across a series of larger stop/start projects;
  5. Deliver releases regularly (continuous delivery)
    – be responsive to change requests (at least for minor enhancements) to keep users engaged as they receive increasing value as the platform is advanced;
  6. Keep documentation current
    – capture the reasons why decisions were made and what outcomes were achieved to inform the future;
  7. Develop a library of test classes/methods which simulate and test critical business functions
    – ensure nothing breaks as changes are deployed using automatically run test methods;
  8. Continuously focus on data quality at the point of entry
    – be clear for all data about why it is needed, how it will be used, and what defines “good data”;
  9. Make an ongoing investment to resolve legacy implementations which are causing problems
    – avoid an increasing pile of “technical debt” which will eventually inhibit progress;
  10. Learn as you go and invest in training
    – improve delivery over time by conducting post-implementation reviews;

If you need help with Salesforce please get in touch with Artisan Consulting.  Artisan provides a cost-effective Salesforce Program Health Check which documents your current state, where you want to get to, and provides practical recommendations for your next steps.

About the Author
Richard Clarke is a Program Director and Technical Architect within Artisan Consulting's Salesforce Delivery Team.  Richard has led Salesforce delivery teams in the Australia, New Zealand and the USA and applies over 20 years of enterprise software experience when delivering business value with Salesforce.com.

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Salesforce (Data) Relationships Matter

The ability to maintain data quality is dependent on establishing the right relationships between objects and configuring appropriate controls over data entry.  Too often this only gets the focus it deserves a year or two after Salesforce is implemented when data quality is poor and causing problems with reporting, integration or workflows.

Salesforce Data RelationshipsThere are two types of relationships available to connect objects together (master-detail and lookup) each of which has further options.

Chose the relationship type which best represents the real-world relationship between the business concepts the objects mirror then apply the tightest options possible to control over data quality.

Don’t add relationships to objects until you fully understand the choices available!

Master-detail (parent-child) relationships

This is always a required relationship as detail records don’t have an owning user and access control is managed at the master level.  When a master record is all related detail records are deleted as well.  There can be no more than two master-detail relationship in an object and only one if the object is the master of another relationship.  Standard objects cannot be detail records and Leads/Users cannot be master records.

There is an option to allow users to change the parent (master record) of a detail record.

A master record can have no more than 10,000 detail records.

Lookup (cousin) relationships

This relationship is not automatically required and has no effect on record access.  If the relationship is set to be required a record can’t be deleted if other records are related to it.

If the relationship is not required you can choose whether to prevent a record being deleted if other records are related to it, or to allow deletion by automatically clearing any lookup relationships. 

Setting a lookup to be required has a significant impact when creating a partial copy sandbox which contains objects with more than 10,000 records.  The partial copy sampling process will retain relationships which are required hence the related record will be copied as well.  If the lookup is not required then values can be lost from lookup relationships during the sampling process.

Filtering relationships

Applying an active filter to a relationship means when the user searches for a related record only those which match the criteria will be presented.  An active filter which is required cannot be bypassed.  An active filter which is optional can be bypassed.

An object can have no more than 5 active filtered relationships.

Validating relationships

Applying validation rules to a relationship can be used to check (when the record is saved) that a related record meets specific criteria.  This can be helpful if you hit the limit of 5 active filters as the limits on validation rules are higher (20 per object in Professional Edition and below, and 100 in Enterprise Edition and above).  Validation rules are also more powerful and more flexible that lookup filter criteria.

Active filters provide a better user experience than validation rules as they limit the records able to be selected, rather than allowing records to be selected then blocking the save.

Hints to guide selecting the right relationship type

  • If a record cannot exist by itself and access is controlled by the parent use master-detail.
  • If a record cannot exist by itself but has its own access controls use a required lookup.
  •  Use active filters if it does not make sense to allow connection to any record.
  •  Use validation rules to limit which records be related if there are already 5 active filters.

References

Limits – http://resources.docs.salesforce.com/198/17/en-us/sfdc/pdf/salesforce_app_limits_cheatsheet.pdf

Cheat sheet – https://resources.docs.salesforce.com/200/latest/en-us/sfdc/pdf/salesforce_filtered_lookups_cheatsheet.pdf

Lookup Filters – https://help.salesforce.com/HTViewHelpDoc?id=fields_lookup_filters_notes.htm

 

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Ten ways to avoid common pitfalls when delivering Salesforce.com projects

How to make sure your Salesforce implementation does not end up looking like this!

1. Define a Clear Roadmap

  • Not knowing where you want the journey to end guarantees you won’t end in the right place.
  • When you want to arrive is almost as important and where you want to arrive.
  • The end result is usually bigger than “just” CRM (consider all the relationships which need management).
  • Be clear about which business capabilities need to be supported or enhanced with Salesforce.
  • Don’t transfer fractures in organisational structure into Salesforce – share common customer data.
  • Stay abreast of Salesforce’s own roadmap.

2. Define Clear Program and Project Requirements

  • Define strategy (the “why”) and required business outcomes (the “what”) before considering the “how”.
  • The “what” has to be measurable as this defines success.
  • Having key stakeholders including operational managers express and approve requirements is critical.
  • Don’t leave thinking about reporting/analytics until last.
  • Consider security upfront – both who can see what data and who can perform what functions.

3. Don’t do too Much at Once

  • Multiple projects at once are hard to coordinate especially when multiple delivery partners are utilised.
  • Doing two different things at once is three times harder than doing one thing at a time. 
  • Doing two different things fast at the same time is four times harder.
  • Running multiple overlapped software development projects will increase the need for tight governance (processes and tools) to manage requests for change, development, testing and deployment.

4. Choose the Right Delivery Model

  • Waterfall (all requirements up front), Agile (requirements clarified one short iteration at a time) or Fragile (requirements clarified through repeated experimentation).
  • Agile does not mean being continuously vague and discovering requirements by endlessly building the wrong thing then fixing it.
  • If you are not sure what you want or how to build it explore options using discardable prototypes.
  • Use an internal self-managed agile team if your organisation has adequate software delivery maturity and available resources.  Otherwise use an internal partner-managed agile team in preference to using an external remote partner delivering under a waterfall driven statement of work.
  • Consider what the team needs to look like when you are finished and the delivery partners leave.  Work towards that outcome throughout the project so those responsible for operational management have experience with the implementation details.

5. Manage Data Architecture and Data Quality

  • Data quality will degrade without proactive steps to maintain it.  Implement the platform’s tools to minimise duplicate customer data.  Use validation rules to enforce a base level of data quality.  Calculate a data quality score for key objects and use dashboards to drive behaviour.
  • Don’t add data fields to objects unless there is a strategy to populate them.
  • Make sure the relationships added between objects are done by someone capable select optimally between master-detail, required lookups and filtered lookups.
  • Consider reporting and query/report performance early.  Index text/picklist fields which are important for reporting by flagging them as an external ID.  Ask Salesforce to add custom indexes to custom date fields if they are important data selection filters.

6. Know what Success Looks Like

  • Develop a testing strategy and direct delivery partners as to what testing you require them to complete.
  • Testing has to address the outcomes desired as well as the outcomes to be avoided.
  • Recognise Salesforce’s 75% code coverage rule does not necessarily deliver automated tests which usefully determine if the system is working as it should.
  • Software engineers usually make poor testers so resource the testing function appropriately.

7. Maintain Current Documentation

  • Documentation needs to capture how the system works and how it integrates to other systems.
  • Projects should provide documentation which explains what changed (and why) as well as how to reverse a deployment which causes problems.
  • Keep information about system architecture current (what systems different user roles interact with and how systems integrate with each other).

8. Customise with Configuration Not Code

  • There are many ways to achieve the same thing in Salesforce and use a coded solution last.
  • Don’t custom code a user interface until you have tried the auto-generated user interface.

9. Choose the Right Operational Mode

  • The composition of the optimal operational team varies depending on the size and complexity of the implementation.  Include a developer in the team if they are expected to maintain custom code (vs custom configuration).
  • Budget for ongoing training and incentivise team members to achieve and maintain current certifications. 
  • Use Salesforce Trailhead for self-paced learning which is both fun and easily measurable.
  • Leverage operational assistance sourced from Salesforce Premier Support and Salesforce Partners.

10. Measure and Manage Levels of Adoption

  • Define what KPIs matter and measure them.
  • Ask executives to lead by example by being visibly active in Salesforce.
  • Use Salesforce’s Chatter, Ideas, Q&A, and Portal functionality to keep the conversation alive.

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Salesforce Testing Disasters

No Cheating

All too often I am engaged to help Salesforce customers who are struggling with significant quality issues with their custom code.  Here are some lessons learned from the most spectacular disasters I’ve had to remediate. 

If you are responsible to manage a Salesforce implementation read the full content of my post on LinkedIn to learn how developers can (and do) deliver deceptive indicators of code quality by:

  1. Cheating the 75% code coverage threshold
  2. Implementing test classes which test nothing (other than coverage)

See http://www.linkedin.com/pulse/salesforce-testing-disasters-richard-clarke 

What will you learn?

  1. Code coverage is not a useful measure of code quality
  2. Even 100% code coverage can be meaningless if the test code does no “testing”
  3. Code coverage can be cheated on by adding fake classes (and yes sadly I've seen this in production Salesforce instances)
  4. Test methods passing are meaningless if the test does no testing
  5. User acceptance testing via the UI is not enough if only the simple positive use case is tested
  6. Developers can be lazy or plain deceptive whilst giving the appearance of providing good code

Recommendations:

  1. Document test cases (acceptance criteria) up front
  2. Ensure test cases cover positive and negative scenarios
  3. Ensure test cases bulk data manipulation
  4. Direct the developer about what automated tests must be implemented
  5. Follow test driven development principles and create the test methods FIRST
  6. Ask for an independent expert review if you are struggling with code quality

Richard Clarke

Richard has been delivering complex integrated solutions on the Salesforce platform since 2007 and is the Melbourne based principal consultant for FuseIT Australia.
https://au.linkedin.com/in/richardaclarke
 

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Excellence in Customer Service Standards

I recently had visited an Apple store because the mute switch on my iPhone 6 had never worked reliably since new and I had decided to ask for a repair or replacement.

I expected great customer service but I got two surprises.

Service Standards iStock_000012421794_Medium_cropped


For the most part my experience was great just as I expected.  Previous visits had left me expecting to be welcomed into an environment which was well organised and running like clockwork.

Being told the iPhone had a hardware fault and would be replaced on the spot was what I had expected based on Apple’s commitment to good customer service and hardware quality.

The first surprise occurred when an Apple staff member walked over to where I was being helped with a question he needed to ask his colleague who was helping me.  What surprised me was being asked politely whether I would mind if he asked his colleague a question.  We were not even in active conversation at the time.  What stood out was he treated me as the most important person of the two even though I was not the one he needed help from.  Impressive.  Left me feeling important and respected as a customer.  In most other busy retail stores I would have been ignored and the staff member would have just asked the question.

The second surprise was being told that Apple would restart the warranty again because they were giving me a new phone.  So I got an extension on the warranty period without asking for it and without expecting it.

Two excellent gestures which demonstrated the company’s customer first perspective.

Whilst I could have been left with feel negative and frustrated by a manufacturer’s hardware fault in fact I left feeling positive.

How does your staff training and warranty policy compare?

Do your staff understand when a staff member and customer are together the most important person is the customer?

Do you automatically restart your warranty period when providing a new replacement due to a hardware fault?

Great job Apple!

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Should Technology Solutions deliver Perfection or Pragmatism?

In my view senior IT leaders (CIO/CTO/Enterprise Architect) need to moderate their drive towards a perfect technology landscape with commercial pragmatism.

A target end state should be in clear view, and each project should be a step towards greater flexibility, improved performance, increased automation and reduced total cost of ownership. 

But perfection is best attained gradually rather than with giant strides.

Consider these two chairs – the fine piece may well be better furniture – but a pragmatic commercial outcome which balances budget, timelines, resources and required results may well be the other.

Chairs

I’ve seen too many projects founder by failing to deliver a business case with an acceptable return on investment, or failing to deliver a complete solution by deploying quality parts but a compromised whole.

If a business needs a working chair it is best to deliver the right hand option, rather than just the legs of the left due to delivery constraints.  Temper the striving for perfection and avoid being overly ambitious with the size of step change or being overly aggressive with the timeline.

A priority for a technology architect is to understand the blueprint and ensure projects are aligned to IT strategy.  How large a step a particular project should take on the journey from current state to future state is a commercial decision which needs pragmatism applied.

I vote for function over form in most cases and ensure solutions get the job done whilst also being a step in the right direction strategically.  And in that context a good customer experience is primarily about function.  All projects need to avoid looking pretty and performing poorly.

Achieve perfect function with patient progress and commercially moderated small steps.

This approach will also reduce the risk that your crystal ball view about which components form the ideal end state technology landscape is less than perfect and needs to be adjusted along the way.

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Performance Tuning Tools for Salesforce are Comparatively Limited

The tools available to performance tune Salesforce are more limited because the platform operates a Software-as-a-Service multi-tenant architecture.

Consider these typical responses to address poor performance of a traditionally hosted web site where you own or have control over the servers and hosting infrastructure:

  1. Deploy more web servers to distribute the front end load with load balancing

  2. Federate or partition the backend database to distribute the data query load

  3. Increase the number of CPUs or cores in the servers

  4. Increase the amount of RAM in the servers

  5. Add more hard drives, or faster hard drives, or faster IO adapters

  6. Increase the internet connectivity bandwidth

With Salesforce you have none of those options.   None

Toolbox 178177044_d9697d3810_o 700x400

So to avoid your Salesforce instance performing poorly a different approach has to be taken.

I see an all-to-common pattern where complexity is added to Salesforce with gay abandon for the first year or two followed by external expertise being needed to address serious performance issues.

Here are my suggestions to avoid ending up in a performance pitfall with all too few tools in the chest to work with:

  1. Architect with performance in mind from beginning recognising Salesforce is a hosted platform with deliberately applied governor limits to throttle performance;

  2. Follow a Test-Driven-Design methodology where test classes are designed to ensure performance at realistic production loads (not just to achieve 75% of code coverage!);

  3. Develop and peer review custom code with performance optimisation in mind to make sure there are no obvious performance flaws like SOQL queries in loops or inefficient use of collections;

  4. Add no more than a single trigger per object entity;

  5. Use custom External ID fields where appropriate as these are automatically indexed;

  6. Request Salesforce to add 1-column or 2-column custom indexes;

  7. Minimise the amount of data stored in view state when writing custom Visualforce pages (especially mobile pages);

  8. Avoid data skew where one user owns too many records or one parent record has too many children;

  9. Operate the most open data security model permissible as sharing rules add complexity and load;

  10. Integrate using the Bulk API where possible;

In summary, performance in Salesforce implementations which involve large volumes of data and significant customisation is a challenge, there are less tools to utilise, so performance must be considered early in design and continuously during development.

Other good resources include:

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Salesforce.com integrations can start well but end up being messy

All Salesforce implementations begin without any system integration.  Simple.  Clean.  Scalable.

Puppies - theory and practice - 800w

Increasingly though businesses want to integrate Salesforce with their digital assets (websites and mobile devices), internal legacy systems and external third party systems.

Salesforce provides a number of ways to achieve integration including:

  1. Web-to-lead and web-to-case HTML form submission

  2. Email handlers processing inbound emails

  3. Outbound emails sent from Salesforce or via third party products like Marketing Cloud

  4. Inbound synchronous calls to the Salesforce REST or SOAP APIs

  5. Inbound synchronous calls to custom Salesforce web service endpoints

  6. Outbound synchronous calls to external web service endpoints

  7. Outbound asynchronous calls using future methods to external web service endpoints

  8. Outbound asynchronous calls using outbound messages

When I saw this photograph I thought it was a great illustration of where I’ve seen Salesforce clients end up with their integration strategy.  When the project starts everything is orderly and under control.  Then over time development teams introduce different integration patterns which depart from the original architectural blueprint (if one existed at all).  Then the project gets deployed and integrations start firing in earnest.

Combining a myriad of different approaches to Salesforce integration with high volume transactional activity and a large active user base can create a messy outcome.  Salesforce currently lacks strong support for multi-threading control so synchronising data access and modification across a matrix of integration patterns can quickly become problematic.

My advice for projects which need to highly integrate Salesforce is to adopt early the best practice approaches for inbound and outbound integrations.  These can handle bi-directional data exchange in a standardised scalable manner.

Otherwise there will be a lot to clean up!

Credit to Alexander Ilyushin (@chronum) for the puppies photograph which originally illustrated similar outcomes with multi-threaded programming theory and practice:  https://twitter.com/chronum/status/540437976103550976/photo/1

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What sets you apart when it comes to delivering sustained results is not what you know but what you are capable to learn…

The challenge in staying current with Information Technology comes from how fast the industry continually changes.  Moore’s Law is often quoted “overall processing power for computers will double every two years” but I’ve found extreme evolutionary pace applies to application development as well. 

In my view the pace of change in software engineering is even more significant and harder to keep up with.  Processing power has focussed on doing the same thing faster, smaller and with greater power efficiency.  Software engineering has also invented completely new ways to design, develop, deliver and operate software.

Take Salesforce.com for example which I started working with in 2007.  Since then the platform has become more capable as significant new business functionality has been added three times a year.  Acquisitions like Heroku, Pardot and ExactTarget have broadened the definition of what “Salesforce” means.  Deep expertise across the full Salesforce suite becomes harder and harder to maintain.

What you need to know iStock_000014937781_Double 800x600Maintaining a high level of capability with software platforms like Salesforce means committing to a journey of continual learning and often progressive specialisation.

What I knew at the start of my career about Burroughs B6700 mainframes and PDP-11 mini-computers is now totally irrelevant.  What remains constantly valuable is knowing where and how to research and where and when to ask for help.

In September 2015 I’m off to Dreamforce in San Francisco which will be my fourth pilgrimage to what has become the largest annual IT conference on the planet.  Of course the networking and inspirational keynote speeches will be great, but I go primarily to learn and to absorb a vision of what is coming next.

Being part of the global Salesforce community is an exciting immersion in continual learning!

 

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Cloud Computing: Not Always a Silver Lining

The Happy Promise

Cloud computing comes with an attractive promise – much like the sun shining on lovely white fluffy clouds. Life's good in the cloud the vendor will say. No more infrastructure to purchase, host and maintain. And with a cloud application platform like Salesforce.com no more developers either as all it takes is "clicks not code". Sounds wonderful. And it always is at the start.

Clouds sized

The Reality

Building complex integrated business solutions continues to be complex, especially when the landscape includes legacy monolith systems unaccustomed to "talking" to anything outside the firewall boundary.

Managing the evolution of an enterprise database is also a challenge as business needs change over time. With Salesforce it is incredibly easy to add new entities to your organisation's "database" or add new fields to entities already there. Add-on applications can easily be introduced from the Salesforce AppExchange – each of which adds to the overall system complexity.

The law of entropy (the second law of thermodynamics) applies here – an isolated system will spontaneously evolve towards maximum disorder.

The faster a cloud platform allows changes to be made then the faster the pace towards disorder will occur.

The Common Journey

Particularly with Salesforce.com the journey starts with business stakeholders becoming exasperated with the speed of their IT department. They engage Salesforce and within days their CRM system is up and running. So easy. In hindsight perhaps too easy.

Initially Salesforce is a clean well-structured system without back-office integration. Then the changes start and the clouds start changing their colour. New entities and fields are freely added to the database. Integrations are established with back office systems. Add-on applications are installed.

Entropy kicks in and the march towards disorder begins.

Eventually the integrated system becomes challenged with data synchronisation issues and fields which contradict themselves (should that be an opt-in or opt-out to stay compliant with anti-spam legislation?). Ownership of the system moves progressively from a front-office business unit over to IT. Who for the most part of been kept out of the journey to date and don't understand how clouds work – other than they look black and ugly and threatening.

The pace of evolution slows or stops and the main point of why the cloud based system was introduced is lost in distant history.

What can be Done?

The good news is this outcome is not pre-ordained and need not happen.

Here are some things to consider early in the journey to avoid ending up in a stormy situation:

  1. Accept building complex integrating technology solutions remains complex even with cloud computing and success will require skilled IT professionals to be involved (regardless of whether the vendor assures you that IT won't be needed and it's best not to engage them).
  2. Accept that database design is a specialist skill and establish good data governance from the beginning.
  3. Provide adequate training and mentoring to the group tasked with administering the platform especially if they come from a business rather than technology background.
  4. Realise the law of entropy applies and there is a need to proactively push back against the drift towards chaos. All changes need to be thought through carefully.

Storm Disbursement

If you find yourself no longer living the blue-sky dream with Salesforce.com and need help to disperse the storm clouds which have accumulated during the first few years of use then I'd encourage you to get in contact. After a detailed current state assessment of your Salesforce organisation and integrations it will be possible to plot a path back to the land of the fluffy white clouds again. It may take a while to unpick the chaos but it is always possible.

Richard Clarke, Salesforce Architect and Integration Specialist
Contact me via email: richard.clarke@fuseit.com

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The Art of Simplexity: Complexity without Complication

Businesses need more IT professionals who understand the art of simplexity!

This means the ability to differentiate between complex and complicated.

A good indicator of whether something is complex or complicated is whether it is easy to understand and untangle.  Consider the two images below:

  • knitting is complex, but disciplined, easy to understand, replicate, and untangle if you have to
     
  • an unravelled fishing line is complicated, undisciplined, hard to understand and untangle

Is your IT department serving up solutions which demonstrate simplexity?

If systems are hard to understand and costly to maintain then perhaps a new approach is needed.

Even large complex solutions can retain the creative simplicity and discipline necessary for them to be easily understand, replicated and reversed if needed.

Complex or complicated

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Cloud computing integrated with on-premise computing – good blend or bad mongrel?

The evidence of successful cross-breeding is ending up with a blend better than either starting point.  

Get the mix wrong however and you end up with a mongrel.  And whilst mongrels can be loveable and bark as well as a pure breed, they almost never form a good foundation for future generations.

I see this challenge arise in enterprise computing when an organisation ends up with a leg in both cloud computing and traditional on-premise computing, then embarks on a transformation program to bring the two together.  

Traditionally IT departments prefer to stay pure bred (on-premise and under-control) but are forced into cloud computing when business units deploy software-as-a-service which eventually ends up requiring integration.  

The starting point is two pure bred environments which end up being “crossed” – like Salesforce.com in the cloud and SAP on-premise.  

The challenge is to take the best of both to create a perfect blend, without ending up with a regrettable mongrel!

Cross breed or mongrel

 

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Do Your Customers Love You?

Kiss iStock_000042448778_Large - 400w

There is a strong relationship between how much your customers love you and your Net Promoter Score™ (NPS) as this is a mechanism to measure the levels of your customers' satisfaction.  

Only "Promoters" contribute to a positive NPS so if you want to lift your NPS score, find out how to get customers to love you!

Some facts to think about:

  • Totally satisfied customers are six times more likely to repurchase during the next 18 months than satisfied customers;
  • In 2005 Bain & Company surveyed 362 firms and found that 80 percent believed they delivered "superior experience" to their customers. When they asked customers from these companies about their own perceptions, only 8 percent of companies were rated as delivering a superior experience.  So you can't assume your products delight your customers, you have to ask them;
  • Positive customer experiences increase your odds of loyalty, category penetration and revenue growth per customer;
  • Negative customer experiences create dissatisfied clients who look elsewhere to satisfy their needs.

When architecting/designing technology solutions, ask the question whether your solution so completely meets your customer's need that they will be totally satisfied.  Just making sure "it works" is not enough.  Customers have to love what you deliver before they will become promoters and lift your NPS.  

Customer centricity is not just about placing about customers at the centre of your organisation's thinking, it is about totally satisfying their needs in a way which causes delight.

Acknowledgement to the "Do your customers love you" article from http://agknowlogy.com/Articles/tabid/78/Default.aspx

nps

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Do you hire labourers, craftsmen or artists?

He who works with his hands is a labourer;
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman;
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist

– St. Francis of Assissi

Makes me consider what skills I look for when hiring people to form a high performing team:

  • Can the applicant do the job?
  • Can the applicant think laterally when the job throws up unexpected challenges?
  • Will the applicant work with passion and a drive to deliver results which amaze customers?

I'd hire the artist every time:

Artist instrument maker iStock_000019603423_Large - 600w

The alternatives of both labourer and craftsman will still get the job done and may well deliver satisfying results, but probably won't deliver totally satisfying results that customers treasure and promote:

Labourer iStock_000029751392_Large 300wAn experienced Carpenter

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Who makes the best entrepreneur for start-ups? A composer, conductor or lead musician?

ConductorMy favourite entrepreneurs are people who start with a blank sheet and pursue a vision until it becomes a reality.  Music composition ranges from 15 second advertising jingles to orchestral pieces with several movements.  Entrepreneurs who get my attention create something of substance capable to capture an audience’s imagination and transport them to a different place.  A vision capable deliver a transformation.

The challenge with startups is in the beginning team is small and the entrepreneur usually needs to play more than one part.  Not only must they hold the vision, they also need to orchestrate the team effort as well as play some of the instruments.

Occasionally an entrepreneur can conduct the performance well past startup phase but if the orchestra is of any significant size, that requires a combination of skills which is rare.  Better for most entrepreneurs to stay custodian of the vision and let someone else get the most from the team.

Being a lead musician takes skill and continued effort to stay sharp.  A wise entrepreneur understands they don’t have the skills to play all the instruments to perfection.  Best to hire players who excel in their particular discipline.

As I reflect on where DoWhat.com is going I see my most important role as the composer.  I can see a future where location based marketing makes precise deliveries of relevant offers to the right people at the right place at the right time.  The DoWhat composition is only partly completed so far and there are more movements under construction.  Perhaps I can conduct as well as compose for a while, but my ultimate passion is to see the orchestra perform to its ultimate capability.  Who conducts is not that important.  And whilst I know enough to keep the musicians honest I cannot afford the time to be a lead musician as well.

 

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Changing Responsibilities of Fatherhood in the Digital Age

My 10 year old son is an elite Minecraft player who leads a faction made up of players from around the world.

Only 10 years old but already a digital leader in his own domain.

Imagine the sense of honour then when he recently conscripted me to solve a dilemma caused by going to school camp for a week without any access to Minecraft to keep the empire stable.

“Dad I know you are only a newb, but can you please log into Minecraft every second day and collect my overlord kit”?

What an expression of trust in the digital age!

Not something he could let any of his mates do. So Dad to the rescue!

I’m not sure I am really like being called a newb given the likely derogatory overtones.

On the other hand he has let me join his faction and has introduced me to some of his online friends, I sense even a slight sense of pride his Dad knows how to get that far.

Twenty years ago the request might have been to feed his pet mouse.

In 2014 the request involves a digital empire in Minecraft.

The world has sure changed!

minecraft

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Are Executive Decisions turning your Staff into Cannibals?

Cannibal_iStock_000001736217Small“Meet your performance targets or find a new job…”

Tough words which need to be issued carefully.

Given to staff surrounded by great opportunities who are not putting in acceptable levels of effort these words may well initiate positive behaviour (greater effort).

Given to staff already working as hard as they know how within organisations facing market decline these words are likely to stimulate survival behaviours.

In the extreme survival behaviours create cannibals. People willing to go to any length to survive. Dog eat dog modus operandi. Strategy and safety put on hold to chase numbers at any cost. Aggressive “don’t get in my way” body language and communication. Bullies dominate and the weak get eaten.

When executive decisions leave staff with a sense of pending extinction survival instincts kick in. Self-preservation behaviours emerge designed ensure survival without regard to wider or longer term consequences.

Evidence of “hit the numbers at any cost” behaviour include:

  •  Abandoning longer term strategy – in the interest of tactical shorter term gain
  •  Polarising of relationships – you are either with me or against me
  •  Disregarding regret spend – the need to spend money later to fix problems created now
  •  Fudging the numbers – to give the appearance of success
  •  Gaining momentum at the expense of others – disruption in other business units
  •  Losing customer focus – key performance indicators become the only focus

If you are seeing cannibals emerge in your organisation move the goalposts or accept you will have skeletons…

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DoWhat.com is to local products what Bilbo’s sword is to Orcs

Bilbo needs a sword that glows blue when orcs are nearby – very handy when there is something he needs to pay attention to but can’t see.

OrcSword

DoWhat.com is a digital marketing platform which makes a precise connection between consumers and suppliers of products and services based on known location and specific interest.

Just like the orc sword, DoWhat will alert mobile consumers to local products of relevance. Your business may not be visible but consumers with DoWhat in their pocket will at least know you are nearby!

A key difference though is the orc sword only helps Bilbo and not the orcs. Businesses trading locally can use DoWhat to deliver promotional offers to the most valuable of prospective customers – those who are nearby and known to be interested.

Register as a user at DoWhat.com today and:

  • If you operate a business trading locally create or claim your listing, describe your business by connecting it to one or more detailed search categories, then define promotional offers to be delivered to mobile consumers who share an interest in the same category and locality.
  • If you want to know when nearby businesses are offering products you care about, save searches spanning your favourite search categories and localities.

You can read more about DoWhat at http://corporate.dowhat.com

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If you are under water it is wise to swim towards the surface

Being slow to acknowledge we are wrong comes naturally to most of us.

sunken_tugboat_iStock_000010930723Small

I see this when helping start-up companies which are struggling to achieve traction. Their response to poor results can be to work harder hoping to go faster in the same direction. A fixation on current strategy can end up concluding a lack of effort is responsible.

Don't just increase propulsion if you want to change direction. If your venture is heading towards a cliff the last thing you want to do is speed up. If you are heading the wrong way going harder just creates a bigger problem faster.

In fact slowing down and tweaking direction until you see results is essential before applying the after-burners. I prefer this approach to the “pivot” theory espoused by some investors. A pivot “a whirling about on one foot” is a drastic change of direction which is hard to execute and often less appropriate than making a number of smaller, controlled and measured changes. Appropriate if you are heading in completely the wrong direction but hopefully that is not the case.

Turning on the afterburners only makes sense once you are confident of your direction.

Effective velocity is about setting direction first and applying power second.

So if you don’t like the direction your venture is sailing, pause and consider a change of direction before going faster. Especially if you are already under water and wondering about how long you can hold your breath!

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What sort of fish are you?

imageThere is more than one way to catch a feed – or start a new business.

Consider the salmon swimming upstream driven by an internal compulsion to explore around the next bend and up above the next waterfall.

How different from the trout lurking in the eddy behind a rock mid-stream waiting for something edible to swim by.  Less adventurous but no less effective.

Or the cod swimming along the bottom seeking the dregs which might have settled from someone's dinner consumed at higher levels.

Or the moray eel hidden in a hole waiting for something to swim by.  Even more energy efficient than the trout.

How do you see yourself?

For me the salmon is the fish which most resonates with my life as an entrepreneur.  A wise person once asked me whether I'd still swim upstream if I knew there was a bear waiting around the corner.  The honest answer is I just cannot swim in that direction.  The bear doesn't stand a chance to catch every salmon and success is just around the corner.  The first time you will see me heading the other way I'll be fully expended, upside down and going out with the tide.  I just have to swim upstream and find the pool I see in my dreams.

But I recognize each has a role to play and each can be successful. Just as there are many different kinds of entrepreneurs.

Make sure your team is comprised of species who share the same viewpoint about risk and reward!

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Criticism is very much easier than creation.

I read this today reading Edward de Bono's book "How to teach your children how to think".

Very true in my experience.

As an entrepreneur the challenge in the early stage of a new venture is to find like minded co-creators who can help transition a conceptual solution into something tangible with traction.

For every co-creator I meet there must be 20 or more others who are limited to contributing viewpoints from the sideline rather than from becoming immersed in the process of giving birth to something new.

So when faced with someone expressing a fresh idea, let's focus on channeling our brainwaves into considering what it might take to make that idea successful, rather than the reasons why it might fail.

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My Apple’s gone bad!

I used to carry a really great apple – nice to look at and every bite was truly enjoyable.  Much better than the type of fruit I used to take to work.  My friends without apples were jealous every time I took mine out.  

But things have changed for the worse.

Rotten Apple

The philosophy of the apple grower appears to have to shifted from “better by design” to “bad by design”.  Maybe they believe if my apple goes bad quickly I will upgrade to a new type of apple which I am told will taste much better.  But my trust in the apple grower has taken such a beating over the last year I am reticent to upgrade.  After all perhaps the new apple will go bad just as quickly as the one I have now – which had stayed in top condition until the grower decided to tamper with its shelf life.

The real shame is the rot is coming from deep inside my apple and not from the external environment.  Even when it looks nice superficially one bite reveals the disease just under the surface.

Maybe the time has come for a change and I need to start taking another type of fruit to work.  I’m not familiar with the types of fruit my friends are eating, but they sure seem much happier with the taste than I do!

If your apple has gone bad too please share / re-tweet / like and perhaps the grower will pay attention…

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When does Social CRM become a form of commercial stalking?

Social connections quickly become overwhelming, if not creepy, once personal links surface too often from unexpected directions.

I was reminded today of the invisible line separating helpful social connection and frustrating personal intrusion when reading this article about the demise of Facebook popularity:
    http://www.theage.com.au/technology/stop-stalking-me-facebook-its-over-and-you-can-keep-my-3448-friends-20130706-2pivh.html

My mother made a similar comment this week, asking why Facebook persisted in asking her to “friend” people she does not know, or knows only remotely through third parties.  She asked why Facebook does not “get” these suggestions are not valued and persists in sending them to her.

My teenage daughter says her friends are also turning away from Facebook for similar reasons.

Facebook has become “in your face” and therefore an annoyance.

Digital consumers are savvy enough to realise the only reason Facebook has any value at all is because they use the site.  In that sense they are working for zero wages.

Users of free platforms like Facebook can leave far more quickly than they arrived.  As the utility of the platform decreases and frustration increases a tipping point will get crossed – after all “delete my account” is only one click away.

Social CRM in a commercial sense worries me in a similar way.  I understand the value in being informed before making a sales call, and in being genuinely interested in a customer beyond their value as a purchaser of products.  However there is a fine line between subtle preparation before a sales call and commercial stalking.

The rule defining this fine line is not written down but it is a under the control of your customers.

Once your customers say “stop stalking me” Social CRM becomes an impediment to success rather than an aid to effective selling.
 

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If you can’t maintain full speed for the entire race is it better to start fast or end fast?

We’d all prefer to maintain world record pace throughout if we could, but for most of us that is not possible, and in my view finishing fast is definitely preferable to starting fast.

After the event you will be remembered mostly for how you finished rather than how you started.

Focussing on finishing well cultivates a results based culture where outcomes matter the most.  A focus on starting well will push strategy to the front of the priority list.  When I have to choose I’ll select optimal results with reasonable strategy over perfect strategy and average outcomes every time.

A challenge for many IT organisations comes from a definition of success which allows a project team to claim they finished well long before results are in.  An IT operating model which allows projects to claim success because of on-time and on-budget delivery is missing the critical realisation phase where benefits are measured.  Many project teams have moved on or disbanded before the results are known which effectively leaves players congratulating each other at the three-quarter mark.

Imagine an athletic event which awarded prizes based on performance at the three-quarter mark regardless of how things looked at the end?  Crazy but exactly what many large organisations do with their IT projects.

I like to run my projects starting at full pace to establish momentum and a culture which can’t tolerate too many obstacles to moving quickly.  This is followed by a sustainable rhythm which allows all the players to last the distance.  Then finally moving back to peak performance after release where everyone is focussed on reacting quickly to customer experience and feedback. 

The cooling off lap and prize giving should only occur after measurable results are collected which match the project objectives.
 

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When do job titles matter in pace-layered IT?

Pace-Layered Application Strategy™ is a Gartner Concept http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/pace-layered-application-strategy/ promoting the division of application development across systems of record, systems of differentiation and systems of innovation.  The key point is these three layers require different approaches to achieve success.

I’ve spent the last 3 weeks bouncing between a large SAP project (system of record) and a smaller Salesforce.com project (system of innovation).  The first has a large project team, an expected duration of around 18 months and a governance model appropriate for a large CAPEX budget.  The second has a very small agile team tasked with delivering a solution in 4 weeks within a limited OPEX budget.

The interesting observation I’ve made after the last three weeks is that job titles matter a whole lot less when building a system of innovation.  The team is outcome focused not deliverables focused.  Hand-offs occur between people based on skill rather than job title.  In contrast the project delivering the system of record is following an industrialised process with rigid boundaries defined by titles held by each team and team member.

One model encourages identifying blockages and figuring out who can clear them “today”.  The other model is based around responsibility for component deliverables rather than the overall result.  This leads to accountability not being shared across the large team with conversations structured like “that’s the responsibility of xxxxx” rather than “what do we need to do to get this delivered”.

The other observation I’d make is that an organisation embarking on a pace layered approach to application development needs to think carefully about which engagement partners to use.  The “right” partner will differ across the three layers.  Systems of innovation need more commandos and fewer generals as one example.  Systems of innovation need small numbers of people with multi-disciplinary skill rather than large numbers of people with well-defined but narrow capability.  This can be a problem for large organisations operating a “preferred supplier” model which gravitates towards engaging a small number of large firms, because in some cases these firms and the teams they deploy are not experienced in agile development where job titles become close to irrelevant.  Engagement partners need to be selected based not just on their experience in a particular technology but also their proven capability to operate in the pace layered tier being used for the project.

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Never turn your back on your public

An Irish musician said this to me once.  It was in the context of Irish folk music performance, but it applies equally to business.

So why is it that business so often fails to foster active engagement with their customers?  I typically get asked to work with clients who want to deploy a CRM system to manage customer relationships.  But so often all this means is they want to a tool to throw to the sales and marketing people to help them keep track of who is talking to who.  Problematical already given most direct and indirect sales teams who are incentivised through commission don't want to share any information. 

Business processes are not purely internal within commercial organisations; they are tightly coupled to the ebb and flow of customer interactions.  Deploying CRM without any attempt to actively engage with customers usually fails to deliver truly valuable business objectives.   The goal should be to deliver a tool to foster a healthy active life cycle that includes the customer as the most important element.  Social CRM helps, but that can just be a tool for a traditional sales team to listen and not to engage.

The musician equivalent of businesses that face inwards and neither listens or engages with their customers is like a pianist who never looks up and never listens.  And whilst listening might help you hear the cheers or the boos, it won't by itself make start a conversation or establish a community.  Before the cheers or boos become audible there is so much to learn through engagement.  Is your audience actively listening and watching?  Have they turned their backs on you and are pretending you are not there?  Arms cross looking dissatisfied?  Or worse, walking out? 

That is why "Salesforce" is such a poor brand for the Salesforce.com platform.  It positions the platform as a tool to help the sales team.  Which I guess is where it all started, but the world has moved on.  Certainly customers have.  I prefer to rebrand any CRM installation I work on as a platform for engagement.  Sure there are components to increase demand and better process qualified leads.  Sure there are components to more efficiently process customer service requests.  But you can do all that with your back to your audience and never actively engage eyeball to eyeball.

Allowing customers to directly engage has to more than an initiative to improve efficiency.  I see organisations moving in their understanding of engagement from sales and service support, to the point of "allowing" customers to directly enter data.  The platform is seen as a tool to benefit "us", the busy performers facing the inside.  However the next step is the key one, moving to the point of recognising the need to engage activity in conversation and community.  That is where Salesforce functionality like Ideas and Answers becomes powerful, allowing customers to engage with each other and with the business.  Through online portals that allow users to collaborate together and with the business, CRM moves from relationship management to a tool to foster community.

The good news for organisations that just give CRM to the sales and marketing team for internal use, without listening and without engaging, is the best is yet to come.  The real reward will come when like a musician the organisation faces the audience and engages, and then tailors their offering to what you see and hear!

The Department of Innovation, Industry, Research and Development in the State of Victoria (Australia, see http://www.diird.vic.gov.au) is doing just this.  They are deploying the Salesforce.com platform, but the Salesforce brand was fortunately abandoned early.  They refer to the system as GEMS, the Global Engagement Management System, and it is designed to deliver better engagement not just better internal efficiency.  FuseIT Australia (http://australia.fuseit.com) is pleased to be helping this forward looking government agency move into the world of cloud computing and stakeholder engagement.

Does your organisation need help to face the audience and engage?

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Cool car advertising

Car advertisements are often the slickest most expensive that get screened on TV.  This one really caught my attention with at least this car vendor understanding what's important in their market.

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Which CRM system is most popular? Comparing job demand is an interesting measure.

All software products have fluctuating popularity as user expectations and features change.  So how do you work out which is the best if you want to back a product that has good momentum? 

Evaluating the job market to see which product is most popular within a category is one interesting approach.  Check out http://jobgraphs.com/crm-softwares-demand-comparison/ with CRM products in mind.

Monitoring the trend in the job market is a good way to spot the ebb and flow of popularity.  Here we can see demand for Salesforce.com professionals increasing significantly between March and April.

For those interested in CRM, watch out for the new kid on the block, Nimble will soon be lauched with a fresh take on Social CRM.

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