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October 17, 2013

Salesforce.com: Achieve New Levels of Performance through Performance Edition

Over the past five years, there has been a paradigm shift observed in the way companies approach and connect to their customers, employees, products and other stakeholders. As we dwell more into it, we can observe a massive adoption and usage of collaboration through mobile devices, social networks and cloud computing, across the industries and throughout the globe. This adoption has changed the rules of game that have imbibed change in customers' expectations and the ways to cater these expectations. Customers are demanding real time, mobile and transformational ways to achieve holistic success in both sales and service domain.

Being an avid follower of Salesforce.com updates and releases, I have yet another time observed and can appreciate their foresee and proactive approach of understanding and catering to these changing customer expectations. Last year during Dreamforce-12 (Salesforce annual user and developer conference), Salesforce had indicated that they would be integrating its various services. As a course of this vision we had Sales Performance Accelerator that integrated Sales cloud with data.com and work.com.Salesforce, on basis of its high performing customers best practices, has now created Performance edition, which is more superior to their flagship Unlimited edition. Let's try to understand what additional capabilities are being offered through Salesforce Performance Edition.In its performance edition, Salesforce has belted various platforms. It has pulled together its flagship Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and SFDC platform with Data.com (B2B database), Work.com (Sales Performance management application) and identity service*. So what's in it for customer?

If we further analyze this offering we see that, it has made possible to connect various apps through a single authentication platform. This would prove to be a very prolific offering for the customers who were till date tackling through complex integration algorithms for collaborating with various apps. In addition to it, Performance edition is tying up all the capabilities that a company needs to enhance performance and make them customer centric company.The Performance edition would be available from November 4th at price tag of $300/user/month**. The offering though looks very promising, but the premium pricing and user feedback is what would decide the course of its success.

I invite your views and feedback on the Performance Edition so we can utilize this edition to best of its merit.

*- salesforce-ties-together-different-platforms-with-new-performance-edition
**- new-salesforce-performance-edition-.html

October 5, 2013

Experiencing Salesforce application transition

I have just come out of Salesforce application transition work. Unlike few other transitions, the recent one made me realize that indeed a major cost saving can be done by adopting 90:10 offshore-onsite model while maintaining full efficacy. Let me refrain here from writing basic transition model guideline but I would probably like to share my experience and few techniques which I found very handy and practical in its usage which increased the effectiveness level in this offshore based transition model.

Most of the times, customer intends to transition their application with an intention of cost saving and improving their business processes, IT turnaround time on resolving application related issues and  management focus on having robust knowledge management system in place. With SFDC being a niche skill, at times, customers spend a lot hiring expensive subcontractors through third party agents where the tendency might be to deliver irrespective of focusing much on client specific process and without really caring customer's knowledge management needs.
Before moving to transition it may be good idea to do a due diligence exercise and prepare your transition plan (what you think of this new transition). Do not expect much from the customer here as they might be equally unknown to the application maintenance and support need and hence they are looking for your help. But, they can help you understand the functional aspect of applications and few documents on an adhoc basis. Any information or type of documents should be strictly analyzed to get the maximum input. Information might not be available in a sequential order but you can definitely extract the maximum out of these fragmented pieces of information. During transition, it is observed client places at least few of their IT analysts to help and co-ordinate during the transition. Ensure you have right mix of functional and technical resources for this transition. While the functional folks will help in understanding the application and assimilate end to end view at faster pace, the technical folk will do more hands-on on the technical aspect of application. Do not forget to identify right SME for the transition as buying their time in advance is a critical success factor of any transition.
Ensure you initiate KT sessions in the most convenient common time you have between offshore and onsite locations and the session is fully recorded for whatever duration it happens. Your onsite counterparts will be able to play bigger role here. While half day session can focus on knowledge handover, the second half can focus on understanding their code artifacts with respect to SFDC configuration, customization, integrations and necessary downstream systems. You will need your technical folks here. Whatever activity you do, ensure MoM is circulated on daily basis and SMEs review them and provide you regular review comments.
On daily basis, you can also document the theory session you have and make it a living document. Remember, this is something which your customer might be looking for long time and he gets that from you as one of the key deliverables of this transition. This will seed the confidence in client. Discipline is very important all the way and it should remind you of the school days when you were guided by your school teacher. Establishing that sort of rhythm with SMEs is also important.Be focused and proactive in terms of demanding what you really need for understanding their system. Since, the session details are anyway known in advance (you get it confirmed before starting the transition), prepare exhaustive questions for SMEs well in advance so that you utilize the session time appropriately.
As soon as first phase of transition is over and we become conversant with the new system, the tendency may develop to solve their long pending defects/enhancement on a fast track basis to please the customer but this should be avoided. Focus at this stage can be more on developing your own quality and understanding the bigger aspect of application rather than increasing the ticket closure count.
While it is good to have all team members in transition from start of the first phase, it may not help in having everyone in the same sort of discussions when you are moving into next phase of work i.e. Shadow/Primary support. By this time, you should have understood the team and ready to map them with corresponding counterparts who have been providing you this transition. After all, idea is identify the new SME for the application support from tomorrow. To-Be SME should start liaising and discussing with As-Is SME of the application. There can be situation where your SME may take your question in a light way due to variety of reasons primarily since they are much experienced in same field for last many years. This should not dither you in asking what you really feel is right for supporting application from tomorrow.
No big transition runs generally without risks and it's just an ideal scenario to imagine that you have understood everything in just couple of months of transition work where SMEs have been working for last several year. Hence, whatever area you are not comfortable with, highlight them and ensure you spend more focus on them once you have moved to steady state.

I invite your suggestions here in order to bring more effectiveness with fully offshore based transition.