SalesForce Cloud overview and summary of the good, the bad, the complicated

Salesforce CRM is extending into industry domains (eg Finance, slide summary below), Health, Manufacturing and other areas.  The ‘core’ CRM platform, which manages client data from prospect to client and manages the life cycle of that client record and data management, is extended in many ways using API integration, data analytics, AI and other tools.  Salesforce is positioned as an open system, with native connectors and API integration with other platforms and tools including ServiceNow (operations), Teams and O365 (communications, productivity) and Tableau and Azure PowerBI (analytics, insights, reporting).  After 20 years of development work in the proprietary Apex Java/SQL script, there must be 1000 man years of development work in this platform.  There is good and bad about this.

The Ugly

We can list the key overwhelming challenges in using Salesforce.

1-License costs:  For an enterprise of 5000 the average license cost will likely be around U$ 5 million per year.  Expect a 7-10% increase in license cost p.a. Often the license agreement does not cover a lot of components or services which will to this cost.

2-Complexity:  It is an end to end platform from UI to the DB (Oracle in AWS).  The components, flows and ‘configurations’ will have to be learnt.  Configuration in SF talk is really coding in the real world. So yes if you want full value from the platform, you will need SF developers.  This cost is extra.

3-Failure rate:  Anywhere from 50-70% (Gartner says 58%).  Most CRM, ERP and large cloud re-platforming projects fail.  This comports with the failure rate of GDAD (geo distributed agile projects), which have similar failure rates.  It takes many actors to fail, so this high carnage rate cannot be blamed on the vendor.  Often the end clients are their own worst enemies.

4-No ROI, Business case:  No real ROI analysis is done based on evidential data for revenue increases, or operational cost reductions.  Both areas and purported benefits have all the quality and accuracy of a PCR test or a Corona pandemic case count.  They are handwaving.

5-No ownership:  In most firms, data ownership is a mystery, and owning a complex replatforming to SF (data migration, normalisation, app rebuild or new build, app integration, data lake integration, APIM integration etc etc) is usually as clear as a muddy river.  No ownership = failure.

The Bad

1-Apex:  Sold by SF as a happy twin to either Java or C Sharp, depending on who they are talking to, it is nothing of the kind.  It will take many months to reskill engineers to comprehend and be productive with Apex.

2-Many components:  You will need training on all the various components.  These are not simple and need integration and configuration ie coding.

3-Outsourcing:  If you don’t have the skills you will outsource.  This immediately means over time, over budget, with underwhelming output.

4-CoE, Change:  Costs to build out this platform using a CoE which is highly recommended, and Change Management are usually grossly, underestimated and often not even planned.

5-Data strategy:  Data quality is key as is your data strategy.  If you don’t have a data strategy, data control and quality governance process, your data will quickly turn to compost.

6-Culture, Organisational Change:  Most firms are not ready for the upending in culture, development and app building caused by using SF.  Most firms are not agile to start with and suffer from current CRM issues which is why they pursue SF.  Understand your issues, reorganise your processes, reform your Agile dev processes and do proper planning before engaging with SF, including PoCs and stakeholder support workshops.

7-End user impact:  Massive training in some cases to use the new SF and related functionality and the changed UI flows.  Most end users still use the CRM as a digital rolodex ignoring most of the functionality.  Do you really need to pay millions per year to digitise your business cards?

The Good

1-Market Leading

2-Geo distribution and support

3-Integration with AWS and Azure

4-Integration with market leading products and vendors

5-AI and advanced computing R&D which can really help end users

The Verdict

Most SF-CRM replatforming fails.  SF is really for larger firms that afford to eat the failure and not perish.  It is a problematic platform for SMBs.  The License fees by themselves will usually kill off an ROI analysis.