Bluewolf has released its annual State of Salesforce report and the news is generally good for users as the overall Salesforce experience is improving.
One of the surprises from the report is the frequency with which companies are releasing changes to their Salesforce instance suggesting that they are adopting the mobile app approach. Little and often rather than infrequently and complicated.
Unsurprisingly the biggest challenge is the complexity of data from different sources. Some of this is data from partners or suppliers, some of this is data from other systems inside the organisation. Without having the data inside Salesforce, those responding to the report said it was having a significant impact on their ability to get usable insights from their data.
Companies beginning to address the user Salesforce experience
One of the challenges for many organisations taking on Salesforce has been integration with their existing systems. What is clear from this report is that IT departments are finally realising that they need to address a major pain point for users by improving the user experience (UX) and doing more of the heavy life behind the scenes. In the past, user complaints about Salesforce have been countered by developers improving the user interface (UI) and making it look easier without dealing with the need to users to enter data into multiple systems.
70% of users said that they had to enter the same data into multiple systems with 59% wanting to only enter it into Salesforce. The fact that this isn’t already being done suggests that IT is struggling to understand many of the business processes, data flows and deal with system integration. While the positive from the report says that 33% of companies recognise the problem and will deploy an employee-facing initiative in 2016, the downside is that this number is not 50%, 70% or 100%.
Improving mobile apps requires a DevOps strategy
Improving the UX is not just about making data entry easy. One of the reasons companies adopt cloud-based solutions like Salesforce is to support a mobile workforce, especially sales teams. 61% of users said that they want the Sales Cloud mobile experience to get better and while 90% of companies said that this was a target for 2016 only 47% cited it as a clear priority.
Many companies are already have the infrastructure to allow them to do this. The frequency of updates to Salesforce is beginning to mirror the frequency of updates to mobile apps. The report notes that over the last year, the number of companies releasing updates on a monthly basis has jumped by 20%. Those releasing weekly updates has risen 3x.
This is interesting on several levels. First it means that the IT developer teams have bought into an Agile development process where they are using continuous development, delivery, testing and deployment. It also means that the relationship between the IT Service Help Desk and the developer teams is helping to get problems resolved quickly. This all talks to a DevOps approach inside organisations that is more than just a tick box approach.
What is disappointing is that it is not delivering the deeper integration with other components. The 33% of companies above who are looking to address the multiple data entry problems should be using this increased frequency of updates to deliver incremental updates that include greater system integration.
Multiple clouds are becoming more common
It is common for potential customers and in some cases even existing Salesforce users to think of it as a single cloud. In reality it is a collection of clouds that companies can adopt as they need. This report notes that companies are increasing their implementation of multi cloud environments. For example companies are putting in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud as their business evolves.
The next cloud on many companies radar is Community Cloud. 36% of those customers with Service, Sales and Marketing Clouds have already invested in Community Cloud and a further 21% plan to adopt it in the coming months. This will cheer Salesforce who last year put itself up for sale leading to speculation as to whether companies would continue to invest in the platform and expand their use of the Salesforce clouds.
Analytics a core benefit of using Salesforce
Talk to companies who are heavy Salesforce users and they will say that the ability to do analytics across all their data is one of the main reasons that they purchased the product. Whether this is the best approach, rather than using a dedicated analytics platform is open to debate. Despite 81% saying that they were planning to increase their use of predictive analysis, one of the big problems they face is getting the data into Salesforce.
This is not just about improving the data entry as highlighted above. The challenge is being able to import data from multiple sources and then do the analytics across all those data sources. Making it easier to get data in is something that companies must focus on.
Inside many companies, one of the biggest users of Salesforce is the marketing team and the report contains some criticism of the lack of a working relationship between marketing and IT. According to Corinne Sklar, Global CMO, Bluewolf: “Marketers pay lip service to data. It’s time for them to take data seriously, partner with IT and lead.”
To back up this point, the report delivers three points:
- Constrain data input: Standardise what users can enter into Salesforce (specifically, eliminate free text fields) to move towards cleaner data.
- Integrate the right data, not the most data: Pinpoint the desired outcome of a campaign and find the most relevant data source to support it. Access to too much data is just as cumbersome as access to too little data.
- Reducing bad data is only half the battle: The other half is keeping it up-to-date. Trusted third-party data sources that consistently update customer information can reduce the manual burden of employees and limit errors.
While these are valid points they are not just issues for marketing and go to a greater process of data cleansing and management within an organisation. Few companies have perfectly clean data and any cleansing process should be tempered with an understanding of what is acceptable. Getting 100% clean data and then maintaining it can be prohibitively expensive. Therefore 80%, 70% or even 60% clean might just be ‘good enough’.
This is a very positive report from a Salesforce perspective. Customers are clearly looking to increase their use of the technology and it is becoming more important to their companies. While there are issues, many of these can be seen as being process and integration problems that can be addressed by IT departments. The fact that the UX is now being prioritised by companies should help drive further usage which can only be good news for Salesforce as it will help drive more sales of its platform.