From 0 to Salesforce: 4 lessons from implementing the CRM platform

Ross Adams at children’s charity Chance UK shares some honest insights on what he’s learnt implementing Salesforce CRM

Chloe Green | 14th Jun 18
Image showing Salesforce logo. Chance UK share their lessons on implementing Salesforce for charities.

Last month, Ross Adams, Senior Programme Manager for charity Chance UK shared his lessons from implementing the Salesforce CRM platform with attendees at NetSquared London’s May event: ‘Introducing new tech to your charity’.

Chance UK is an early-intervention organisation that provides mentoring support to children experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties. The charity works with 140 children in London every year.

In September 2017, after winning a grant towards the project, they took the plunge with Salesforce to more efficiently manage their data on volunteers, mentors and the children they work with.

Having the system in place is helping the charity better organise their records, generate reports for funders, and give mentors and staff the ability to work on the move.

“Given what we’re doing, we have a great deal of responsibility matching vulnerable children with safe adults,” says Adams. “This is a thorough process that takes time and a lot of information we collect on the way.”

“Having the system is so crucial to us being able to manoeuvre information all into the same place, and help mentors focus on their role. Now rather than having information kept in Outlook, Excel and paper files, mentors can complete a session report on their phone on the way home from the session, and we can check the status of cases by just looking in Salesforce.”

Adams shared his top tips from the implementation journey so far:


1: When choosing partners, ensure you have a cultural fit

When it comes to choosing the right Salesforce implementation partner, Chance UK knew very early on that they didn’t have the appropriate skills in-house to make a decision. They enlisted the help of Kate White at charity IT consultant Superhighways to help with the process.

“They did a fantastic job of understanding what we did well and what was important to us,” says Adams. “We were generally under-skilled in the area of tech, they recognised that and always avoided any acronyms or unnecessary jargon. They knew we were really busy and because of the pressure we were under she worked around us. Kate also gathered a range of stakeholders from across the organisation, working with all of us to come to an agreement.”

“The decision came down to their ability to understand and communicate what we do.”

Adams says he sees an implementation partner as a tailor – Salesforce is the raw cloth and they cut it to the right fit. This is not just a technical process, but a cultural one.

“In choosing the tailor we had spoken with quite a few different companies, some more favourable than others, but the decision to go with Economic Change came down to their ability to understand and communicate what we do.”

“Economic Change had experience of creating a Salesforce platform for similar organisations we have some knowledge of, and their style and approach to their case work was quite similar. That was a really big factor: he [Martin Brockwell, Senior Consulstant] clearly understood our work, he understood our challenges and the types of information we need to hold on a CRM.”

“Also, for me personally,” Adams adds, “I really liked them for their policy for upskilling mums returning to work and giving them the option to work flexibly, that was another real clincher, that they had an ethos behind them that was in keeping with our values and beliefs.”


2: Take a visual approach to process mapping

The next step in implementation was understanding the needs of users by asking questions, capturing all current drivers and future opportunities, and then putting this into a process ‘map’ using diagramming software Gliffy.

“We spent two or three days on this, and it was hard work mapping all our complex processes, everything depending on everything else,” says Adams. “Gliffy was really useful because we were able to create a visual map of how we all use Salesforce, which we can refer back to.”

“There’s a lot of technical stuff and acronyms involved in Salesforce, but this process looks at the way you actually work and a good consultant will say ‘you tell me if this looks right, does this look like what you do in terms of process?”

“I’m a visual person so this was very helpful and reassuring, it was easy to use and flexible, making process mapping a lot clearer.”


3: Provide staff with a manual of operations… then let them learn by themselves

When it comes to technical understanding, Adams admits that “we are a lot more ‘people’ people than information or functional people.”

“It has been a learning curve,” he says. “If could rewind time I would go back and put in a data starter guide that is really specific about the steps our staff have to complete, saying ‘this is what you need to do on a basic level, this is advanced, this is gold standard stuff’ so everyone has a clear idea about what they need to do to input cases and build on layers of information.”

“Give it a go, don’t be afraid to mess things up.”

Once the basics are in place, he adds, if you have a lower inherent level of technical skill within the team, there’s something to be said for giving people permission to explore and to try things.

“It’s important to let people know that if they’re careful with it they’re allowed to experiment,” says Adams. “Tell them ‘don’t go deleting loads of stuff but you can try something out if there’s something you’re thinking of. Give it a go, don’t be too afraid to mess things up.’ I can tell a couple of people on team were a bit nervous about doing that, but if you make people feel you can’t do that they’re never going to learn anything.”


4: Plan ahead for any ongoing help you will need

“We’re certainly a million miles away from where we were a couple of years ago,” says Adams, “but it’s a journey we’re still on.”

“We are still learning about how to use the system properly, and have made some leaps in our understanding of it, but with changes in staffing and less capacity we are less able to put the time into really doing the proper development and build. We often have more updates we want to make than we have the ability to do.”

The charity is in the process of putting together a small volunteer package to make requests for changes to Salesforce as the system evolves over time.

“We might want someone with particular Salesforce skills to make a commitment of couple hours a week just troubleshooting and checking things,” says Adams. “For some people that might be simple and a good way of just giving back to a charity they think is doing good work.”