At Dreamforce 2014, with the advent of the Salesforce1 mobile app, Marc Benioff challenged executives to run their business from their phone. Is this notion a myth, or can your company really operate via magic buttons on smartphones?
If your business processes are mature and logical, this concept is not mythical; however, you must have clear vision and take deliberate steps to achieve it. Here’s how…
Step 1: Model Your Processes
Many companies are sheepish to admit that they are running their business with Excel. I would argue that this is a great way to model and nail down your processes, important logic, and key calculations. It also enables rapid iteration in a simple tool that most people are familiar with.
With that said, using Excel (or a similar utility) is not a good strategy for long-term sustainment since it does not bring users into a real-time collaborative environment, allow you to tailor permissions and requirements for different departments, or automate any workflows. Lucky for your business, Salesforce.com has addressed all of these areas brilliantly.
Step 2: Bake It In
Allow your model to evolve, and then run your business using it for some period of time (which will vary depending on your business model). The longer you have been running stable processes in Excel, the more likely you are ready to replace those utilities with automation.
From an expense perspective, it is arguably much less costly to fine tune the model in Excel than it is to engage developers to write custom code each time the model shifts; however, there is naturally a tipping point for every business where the automation investment pays for itself and is completely justifiable from a scalability perspective.
Be on the lookout for these signs that you are nearing this inflection point:
- It has been a few months since anything core to the model needed to be changed.
- You are experiencing business growth that is causing people to put in extra time doing high volume manual work that is completely based in logic that a computer would understand.
- You are suffering the ills of human error within this same manual work and the time to recover from the errors is hindering your business velocity.
Step 3: Automate It
Now that you are comfortable that your model will sustain your business processes for the foreseeable future—again, “foreseeable” will vary for each business model—build automation to mimic the functions in the model, while bringing teams together into a single platform.
Now is the time to consider your business “swim lanes” (i.e., which system or person is handling each step in the process), as well as the rules that will ensure accurate data at the right point in the business process.
Once determined, create rules that the system can enforce for you so that your processes will flow efficiently and your key reports will be complete and accurate.
Step 4: Pare It Back
It is normal during the process of building automation to introduce a lot of complexity into a system. Luckily, Salesforce users do not need to see the complexity for it to function properly, so much of the fields used to house calculations, for example, can be removed from view and be allowed to hum along quietly in the background.
Carefully consider what each team needs to be able to see within your system and simplify the user interface per function to help them focus on their specific processes.
Step 5: Fine Tune
Now we finally get to talk about magic buttons!
At this point in the process, you have simplified the interface and are fine tuning how users will navigate the business process from start to finish. Within Salesforce, you can easily make the right buttons appear to the users when it’s the right time to take that specific action. You can even build a “wizard” that will guide them through every decision point and use case in your business process.
This is also where it is wise to exercise caution…
Building buttons that logically appear when needed is not overly complex or costly, so if the logic behind the buttons needs to change occasionally and you need to outsource that work, it is not a costly venture. BUT… if you have built a fully automated wizard and need to make changes, that will likely require the skills of a developer, which is generally more costly and involved. That is why it is important to “bake in” your model prior to this step.
Step 6: Put It On Their Phone
Although the Salesforce1 Mobile App can be downloaded and used for most basic Salesforce functions out of the box, you can also customize the application for your specific business processes.
If you have defined any “magic buttons” or guided flows, you can also extend those functions to the mobile application so that every aspect of your business really can be run from mobile devices.
It would, however, be difficult—or perhaps impossible—to jump immediately to this level of business maturity without first: modeling, baking in, automating, paring back, and fine tuning.