This post was written by Kickaw co-founder and CEO Kenny Goldman.
Something is terribly broken in the Salesforce ecosystem. We’ve been led to believe that in today’s world, we must choose between either working with a Salesforce system integrator (an agency), or hiring a full-time employee. In actuality, these are not mutually exclusive decisions. They are a matter of sequence more than anything.
This concept of agencies vs. FTEs has been a topic of conversation for quite some time, but almost all opinions on the matter are based on a narrow set of experiences that an individual has had that, understandably, skews their perspectives. We’ve already written about how the Salesforce Partner ecosystem is living in the dark ages, and because of this, the majority of Salesforce customers have had less than desirable experiences. These experiences make the subject of agency vs. FTE a hot-button issue that deserves some attention as well.
This article from SparkToro discusses why companies should err on the side of agencies, and it does a great job of laying out all the options and diving into the weeds. Many of the points are relevant and address important issues that stem from working with agencies, but there is one key element not accounted for, due simply to the age of the post — remote work is no longer an unfamiliar situation. Companies are more distributed in their workforce than ever before, and in a remote setting, interacting with an agency is no different than interacting with an employee.
Returning our attention to the Salesforce ecosystem, let’s focus on a couple of all-too-common situations that result in poor experiences for customers.
Lack of dedicated project management
Technology projects are complex. No one will argue with that. Between the end-user count and the number of integrations or complex processes, technology projects, especially CRM-related ones, touch many dynamic aspects of an organization. An average consulting firm, as it operates today, typically looks at the numbers behind the “build” portion of their work and adds an additional ~10% in order to inject a project manager for, you guessed it, roughly 10% of the engagement.
This approach is flawed. Project management is fundamental to the success of any project, because with project management comes proactivity in communication, transparency in decisions, and tough conversations to keep the project on track. It needs to be an integral part of the entire implementation, not just 10% of it.
Imagine going to a restaurant and swapping out the default rice side dish for a baked potato with your dinner. An hour later, you look at your bill and see the upcharge of $3.99. The charge itself is not of concern, but not being provided with the opportunity to make the decision to accept the upcharge creates this negative feeling. This is why project managers need to be accessible at every point of the engagement — it’s their job to inform the customer that yes, you can get your baked potato, but it comes with an upcharge. Project managers (should) provide critical communication through an implementation that ensures the customer is aware of both the status and cost of their project at all times. At Kicksaw, we accomplish this by utilizing a Fractional Operations model. This approach guarantees a project manager on every call and project managers who are fully embedded in the daily, on-going workings of each project.
Virtually no small-medium businesses have their own dedicated PMOs (Project Management Organizations), and very few Salesforce Admin FTEs are acquainted with appropriate project management skills. This means that customers’ experience with consulting firms today doesn’t accurately reflect how engagements should be run, and it’s our opinion that this is the leading cause of why 50% of CRM projects fail. That being said, agencies can be incredibly helpful when run correctly, which leads us to our next point.
Depth of Salesforce product knowledge
In today’s Salesforce ecosystem, there are over 10,000 ISV products, and well over 200 Salesforce products. It’s hard to even remember the full span of products that exist in the ecosystem, let alone gain experience with even a fraction of them.
To put this in perspective, out of over 100 Kicksaw customers that we analyzed, 81% already had FTEs devoted to supporting responsibilities related to Salesforce/revenue operations. This goes to show that this concept of FTE vs. agency is one that doesn’t truly exist. These customers come to us because they need to inject their organization with the appropriate product expertise and their FTE is unable to provide this (no shade on the FTE…they are only human, probably).
Product expertise extends beyond just familiarity with Salesforce clouds — platform-related features such as Flows, Apex, Lightning Web Components (LWC’s), Sharing and Visibility, API’s, etc, require deep knowledge in order to fully leverage them. Even if you only have one or two Salesforce products, many organizations are inundated with tools in their tech stacks. You wouldn’t expect your Front-end Developer to mockup designs or work on back-end systems, so why do we expect Salesforce Admins to be masters of every Salesforce and 3rd-party application? It’s not only unrealistic, but undoubtedly a clear factor behind why burnout is so prevalent within the industry. We expect our CRM’s to provide this interoperability across all divisions within an organization, yet it’s viewed as an afterthought when companies consider investing in its success.
It’s not either or…it’s both
When customers don’t force themselves into the constraints that come with either an agency or a FTE, they get the best of both worlds. Agencies come with dedicated project managers and deep wells of Salesforce expertise across their dedicated team, while FTE (ideally trained by the agency that conducted the implementation) bring a steady consistency that provides a sense of security for the customer once implementation is finished.
Ensuring you have the appropriate skills to support implementations and on-going projects is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s critical to the success of your foundation. That’s why Kicksaw invented our Fractional Operations model to provide that level of support that companies require. We do business this way because we want to ensure success for our customers — we’re not looking to be included in that 50% failure rate. And so far, we aren’t.
Please reach out to me if you’re struggling with the question to go with an agency or a FTE, or if you have any other questions for us. Just open a chat window on our website, or submit your question via the Contact Us form at the bottom of this page. I’d love to hear from you.