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You’ve got Salesforce, a bunch of spreadsheets, perhaps some apps and maybe a bespoke legacy database storing your marketing, customer, sales and service data. And let’s not forget all the information in your team’s email boxes too.
Collectively, this is your system.
It’s a sprawling mess which is straining at the seams.
It’s slowing you and your team down. Nobody trusts the data or knows which of the many duplicate records is the most up to date.
And that’s just one of the numerous problems you and your team face on a daily basis.
Scattered data – we’ve already established your data is scattered across multiple locations. This makes it really hard to pull together a consolidated view of a customer from an initial enquiry all the way through to today.
Poor data quality – a topic for its own blog post! Fields missing data, fields containing the wrong type of data, fields populated with out-of-date information, fields containing “fake” entries (such as “n/a” or everyone’s favourite, a full stop) just to workaround system rules. It all adds up to an unusable mess which causes more harm than good.
Duplicate data – compounding the challenges of poor quality data, users are likely to be creating their own spreadsheets and re-creating the same data others are working with. As times goes by, these duplicate records can seriously impact your ability to work effectively.
Team knowledge locked up in email boxes – users are interacting with prospects, clients, suppliers and other parties via email. Discussions can range from initial enquiries, commercial negotiations, delivering products and services, after care support, renewals, client feedback and more. Keeping this valuable information locked away in individual mailboxes means that colleagues and management are missing out on historical conversations, sentiment and the current relationship status. Valuable intelligence that helps them make informed decisions.
Ad-hoc Excel spreadsheets – creating Excel spreadsheets to manage information, track progress, key dates, next steps etc only takes a few minutes. However, these spreadsheets have a tendency to grow (more rows of data, more columns, more tabs!) and quickly become pivotal to the day to day running of your organisation. Whilst this is easy and quick to setup, it rapidly becomes unwieldy and presents a range of challenges that impact productivity. And once different teams have created their own Excel spreadsheets, your organisation’s efficiency can grind to a halt.
Re-keying data – With data living in silos, email boxes and spreadsheets, it is inevitable that at some point, team members will need to transfer information manually from one system to another. This causes delays and errors are easily made.
Lack of trust – team members do not feel they can rely on the data in your system. This leads to individuals creating their own spreadsheets and maintaining their own mini “databases” outside of Salesforce. This in turn reduces usage of Salesforce since its data is becoming stale. And the vicious circle has begun. Quite quickly, silos spring up with teams using their own spreadsheets and apps with no single repository of information that everyone can rely on.
Wasted time – handoffs between teams (marketing to sales, sales to service, sales to finance) becomes disjointed, manual, time consuming and error prone. Infuriating internally, but worse still if your customers are on the receiving end of this lack of coherence and disorganisation.
Analytics and reporting becomes difficult – with data scattered across multiple systems and data quality questionable, generating accurate and meaningful reports that drive informed decision making becomes all but impossible. Without reliable ways to analyse data, decision making becomes an exercise in gut feel mixed with a lot of manual data manipulation.
Team frustration – with so many different places to find data, team members need to spend time reviewing multiple spreadsheets and other sources of information. This eats into the time they have available during their day to focus on doing a detailed and thorough job. Work gets rushed and inevitably, mistakes are made.
Lower client satisfaction – with disconnected and inefficient systems, it becomes hard to respond to clients or prospects quickly. This leads to poor a customer experience and low satisfaction ratings; clients may even take their business to competitors impacting your reputation and revenue.
Begin with an audit – you need to understand what you are dealing with. Map out all your systems, your data and your processes. Dig deep into your data – create a comprehensive list of every datapoint you use. Establish how frequently fields are really being used. Draw up a list of the issues team members are experiencing. Review each issue and determine the impact it is having on the team and the wider organisation.
Establish what can be deleted – one of the really positive outcomes from an audit is clarifying each item of data, and if you still need it. We have seen examples where a contact record contains dozens of fields intended to provide marketing with useful insights and segmentation options (favourite football team being one example). None of the fields had ever been used. Deleting these fields declutters the system. Similarly, you might decide that it’s only necessary to store the past 3 years worth of data in Salesforce and then archive older data that is no longer needed on a day to day basis.
Define data governance – it’s a good idea to decide which user or users are designated as the owner of each item of data. This should take into consideration who can create, edit and delete data in Salesforce. It may be the case that for your organisation, everyone is allowed to create and edit any record, or perhaps just a subset of data relating to the team they work in. You should give careful thought about who should be allowed to delete data since removing one record can automatically cause related records to also be deleted. You can also define which fields are set as mandatory or become mandatory at pre-defined points in your process. Perhaps requiring either an email address or phone number on a contact record, or requiring a reason if an opportunity is set as lost. Thinking about how to maintain your data quality is essential for long term success.
Ensure Salesforce supports your processes – getting your data in shape is vital if you are going to succeed at making Salesforce your trusted single source of truth. But don’t forget that Salesforce can do a lot more than simply store your data. It can be moulded to support your processes with capabilities including automation, notifications, team collaboration and integration with other systems and tools you use. All topics for separate blogs but worth mentioning here.
Create a plan of action – draw up a project plan that breaks down all the individual elements of work that need to take place, assigns responsibilities and deadlines and arranges everything into a logical sequence. We also recommend dividing the work into manageable phases. Cleaning up your data and moving it into Salesforce isn’t a 5 minute job. Drawing up a plan is likely to be an iterative process but it’s worth the effort.
Initiate your project – now that you have analysed your data, decided on the process to clean it up and move it into Salesforce and then maintain data quality, it’s time to get your project up and running. We’re not going to examine the project management options available to you in this blog post. Suffice to say, where data is involved, be generous with your estimates on how long it will take to clean up. It can be fiddly stuff to get under control!
Getting to a point where Salesforce truly becomes your trusted single source of truth will take some work. Cleaning up data, moving data into Salesforce, linking systems together and managing change as your teams get used to a new way of working is not a trivial task. And maintaining this once it’s in place also requires time and energy.
But it’s worth it.
Knowing that you can rely on the performance information for the last quarter and the forecast for the next one is empowering.
Having the ability to search for a customer and instantly seeing a record that pulls all their information into a single view including interactions, deal history and service log is liberating.
Seeing a record of conversations your colleagues have been having with prospects and customers provides you with valuable insights.
So yes, it’s hard work. But improving your customers’ experience, driving revenue growth and operating more efficiently is a worthy goal.