When Salesforce.com becomes too much of a good thing

If your organization supports multiple instances of the CRM platform, it could be hurting the marketing and customer experience teams.

Do you know how many different departments within your company are using Salesforce.com to manage customer relationships? Now, ask yourself: How many of those Salesforce.com instances were deployed while keeping the other designs and features in mind?

You're likely to find out that very few of these projects informed the other ones. If they were designed in concert, bravo!

It turns out that one boon of the cloud applications movement -- the idea that a specific department can get an application up and running quickly to support an important business process -- is also one of its biggest drawbacks.

As adoption of Salesforce across large companies has accelerated, so too has the number of different approaches to CRM that each department takes across a single organization. It isn't uncommon to find at least a half-dozen different deployments, often as the result of mergers and acquisitions.

As an IT manager, you're probably not surprised by this revelation, but you might be surprised with how rampant things have come. That means it's time for a reality check, especially if your company has a mandate to create a more unified customer experience during 2014.

"If you can't rationalize this, it doesn't matter if you have the call center of the future. You won't be able to deliver the experience you want without a more integrated back office," said Lisa Hager, global head and vice president of Tata Consultancy Services' Salesforce practice.

Tata, which is a Global Platinum partner for Salesforce, encountered one account that was supporting more than 50 different instances of the CRM application. "This is not a sustainable model," Hager said.

There are two big reasons it might be time to consolidate, as Tata is doing for that aforementioned company:

  1. It will make mobile apps development far simpler. You do have a mobile directive, don't you?
  2. Departments will be able to share useful information more easily, if similar nomenclature and processes are adopted. Isn't collaboration one of the buzzwords used often during your IT meetings?

And that doesn't even begin to address the licensing or subscription costs implications, or the good things it will do for your call center.

This isn't to say that creativity or customization or evolution of your Salesforce app isn't a good thing. But by embracing a standard foundation or deployment, while allowing teams to experiment from there, it will make it simpler to roll out new useful features to other departments where it makes sense or leave them shut off where it doesn't. Either way, the core service informing those decisions remains the same, allowing for more seamless updates.

Tata is receiving far more requests for this sort of Salesforce rationalization work, which can easily take two years to perform. "We've been talking about this for three years, but the recession kept a lot of people from doing this," Hager said. "Now, people are starting to take this concept to market."

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