This post was written by Kicksaw co-founder Kenny Goldman.

Is the Salesforce Consulting Model Broken?

Think about the last time you interacted with a realtor, life insurance agent, personal trainer, or simply went to the bank teller. A subtle yet important component of that interaction was undoubtedly their willingness to discover your goals. Whether it’s as simple as asking something like, “How may I help you today?” from the bank teller or it’s an hour-long review of your eating habits, sports injuries, physical goals, and timelines with the personal trainer, these folks took the time to understand what you, their customer, wanted and needed from them. 

Wouldn’t it be odd/off-putting if you hired a personal trainer, showed up at the gym, and were immediately thrusted into a workout regime that didn’t support your goal of training for a half-marathon, losing 20 lbs, or simply strengthening your knee after recovering from an injury? It certainly would be. Then why are we as Salesforce consultants doing this with complex, sophisticated technology that spans multiple business functions and supports a large majority of employees? 

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The problem with traditional Salesforce implementations

Prior to starting Kicksaw, I found myself in the position of many of our customers today. Supporting a critical system (Salesforce) for many users (hundreds) with little to no support (myself + one other person). 

This is a common position that many Salesforce product owners routinely find themselves in. They turn to the Systems Integrators (SI’s) for advice, consultations, execution, and support. It is the SI’s responsibility to support the client and work with them. Yet I constantly see SI’s performing a series of tasks only to leave their client where they met them, now with a more intricate Salesforce instance that has little-to-no supporting documentation. The SI moves on to the next project, and the product owner is left to fend for themself.

As a seasoned Salesforce implementation consultant, I don’t know how many times I’ve had potential clients ask me what my quickstart pricing is. I don’t like this question, for a variety of reasons, which I’ll get into in a moment. First, though, I want to establish what the “traditional” approach to Salesforce consulting is: 

This is the standard understanding of how to approach not only quickstart implementations, but often Salesforce implementations as a whole, and it’s a faulty approach. Why would customer requirements not be the first step in your process? When customer requirements aren’t considered at the very beginning of a project, the odds of a failed implementation start to skyrocket. 

Frustration with the traditional approach to Salesforce implementation, where the SOW is king, scope is fixed, and customers are kept at arm’s length, is a large part of what drove me to co-found Kicksaw. We’re a Salesforce consulting and implementation house, yes, but we take a different approach. We don’t even offer quickstarts, because we feel they’re an inadequate path to success. Our method looks more like this: 

Notice how customer requirements are first and foremost here. When we start by getting to know the customer and understanding exactly what it is that they want (at least at the start of the project — needs and wants change, of course), we set everyone involved up for success. We set ourselves up for success by greatly reducing the chances that the project will fail, and, more importantly, we set the customer up for success by building what they actually need and want. 

Building for the sake of building is not the right approach

What’s more expensive than implementing Salesforce? Implementing it twice. 

Just as a builder wouldn’t jump in and begin hammering boards together for a building without understanding the purpose of the structure and the schematics of the blueprint, we as consultants shouldn’t start throwing a Salesforce instance together before we have a thorough understanding of the client’s vision. A hastily built house would likely not pass a safety inspection and need to be rebuilt. Likewise, a Salesforce instance not built to suit the client’s needs will need significant work to correct this, often to the point where you might as well start over.

Starting an implementation without a thorough knowledge of the client’s needs is trying to force a square peg (the client’s needs) into a round hole (the quickstart package), which ultimately results in a build that doesn’t meet the needs of the client.

Back to my aforementioned examples. When you hire a financial advisor, does that advisor simply pick a standardized plan and show it to you, or do they take some time to understand your financial position, life goals, 5, 10, 20 year plans, etc., first?Why, then, are Salesforce consultants taking a complex and pivotal aspect of a business and placing a pre-defined wrapper around it?

For a little more context on what I mean, here’s a quick post on conducting a comprehensive discovery call to ensure success moving into the design and build phases of a project.

Fractional operations, with a little admin-on-demand

So, obviously, we at Kicksaw approach implementations a little differently on a philosophical level. But this mindset translates to some practical differences as well. 

Rather than lock a customer into a fixed budget and set of hours, we operate using what we call “fractional operations.” This is an iterative approach to consulting that allows for continued evolution of the project as we progress through it together with the customer. 

Essentially, we start every project by focusing on the client’s needs, and we don’t force any sort of minimum on the client. We work month-to-month on the project for as long as it takes to deliver a satisfying result, and we are in constant communication with the client throughout the entire process.

Along with the fractional operations, we give our customers the option to purchase “buckets” of Salesforce admin hours from us, using our admin-on-demand program. These hours are great for smaller projects or that little extra Salesforce help that can make a huge difference for inexperienced companies. This is another way we put the customer first — sometimes folks just need an extra tool at their disposal, and not a giant, expensive consulting project. 

We operate this way because we truly feel that the traditional Salesforce consulting model just doesn’t work. It’s broken. Customers drive the industry, and their needs should take priority. And here at Kicksaw, they do. 

If you have any questions about our unique approach to consulting, or you want to start a conversation with us, use the form at the bottom of this page, or reach out to me on LinkedIn — I’d love to connect with you and learn more about how Kicksaw can help your business thrive. 

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