Data Governance: The Missing Piece to Your Salesforce Strategy?

One of my colleagues recently wrote about the great COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) data solution myth. He explained that companies often invest in a software or application they mistakenly believe will solve all their data problems from day one. Magic bullet data products just aren’t out there in most cases, and technology investments often need to be customized and paired with smart data governance practices to be successful. Let’s talk about how data governance can help organizations extract the full value out of off-the-shelf products. This principle even applies to companies like UDig and products like Salesforce. Today I’ll share a behind the scenes look at UDig’s own journey with implementing, customizing, and governing the use of Salesforce data management.

Overview of Salesforce

I probably don’t need to elaborate much here because Salesforce is the industry leading Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Salesforce is a highly customizable product that allows companies to keep track of customer interactions and salesperson efforts through the entire sales funnel. Salesforce is a robust tool for salespeople to stay on top of business prospecting, document developing relationships with customers, and close sales. UDig uses Salesforce to manage the sales process for its consulting and staffing business.

Salesforce Data – Managing Operations

With every click and comment made in Salesforce, data is captured in a backend database. While Salesforce has its own built-in reporting functionality, many companies connect to the Salesforce database via other business intelligence tools (e.g. Tableau) to perform more advanced analyses. Among countless others, here are some questions UDig business leaders might want to answer by analyzing Salesforce data:

  • Who are our most successful salespeople?
    • Are certain people more successful in different industry segments, geographic regions, communication mediums, etc.? How can those strengths be better leveraged across the team?
    • Whose business development efforts are most efficient, meaning the fewest activities/tasks per dollar earned? How can all our salespeople learn from our most efficient earners?
  • How can we continually tailor our efforts to our customers’ specific needs and preferences?
  • Which market segments could we be capitalizing on better?
  • What differentiates a successful customer sales cycle from an unsuccessful one and how can we learn from it?

As you can see, the data captured by Salesforce can be a powerful asset for companies to answer business critical questions about the effectiveness of marketing strategies and individual salespeople. However, this value can only be realized if the data in Salesforce is reliable, and this is where data governance comes into play.

How does data governance fit in?

As a reminder, data governance is essentially about managing the processes related to creating, storing, or using data assets. It’s all about defining behavioral expectations and holding people accountable. Here are some ways the inconsistent use of Salesforce within a sales team can result in incomplete or incorrect data in the database:

  • Salesperson forgets to assign or change a Lead’s or Contact’s status throughout the sales process (e.g. New -> Evaluating -> Chasing -> Nurturing -> Qualified). Without consistent execution of status updates in Salesforce, analytics trying to understand the customer flow through these stages will be hindered by blank, unknown, or incorrect statuses.
  • Salespeople aren’t consistently interpreting statuses or labels in Salesforce the same way. For example, one person’s Nurturing could be another person’s Evaluating if boundaries aren’t clearly defined or salespeople aren’t properly trained. This example would again impair any analyses related to the sales funnel.
  • Other relevant data about Leads or Contacts is stored in separate, individually maintained systems or documents, and that information is never captured in Salesforce. For instance, if a salesperson keeps a separate list reminding them to follow-up with certain customers at specific points in the future, that data will be absent from Salesforce and the company’s view of its current prospects will be incomplete.
  • Salesperson doesn’t document all interactions with a prospective customer in Salesforce. This would throw off efficiency calculations as well as make it more difficult to compare and contrast individual performance across the team.

UDig has certainly seen situations like these and more with regard to managing the use of Salesforce. Without governance over the use of Salesforce, salespeople can certainly still do their jobs. However, the business as a whole would not be well positioned to unlock deeper business insights that could help it improve and develop its individuals over time.

The solutions to all the problems above are pretty simple: define a process, train people on the process, and then hold people accountable. The implementation of such governance may take some time as old data is cleaned up and staff gets used to the new expectations. In addition to process-related gaps, UDig also uncovered some technical limitations (e.g. sync problems between the Salesforce front-end and back-end database) that have made the Salesforce data tricky to use. However, like many companies always striving to use data to improve its operations, UDig is working to solve all these problems in sustainable ways.

In summary, like many data tools, Salesforce is most valuable to the organization when proper governance is implemented around it. All that means is providing your people the proper expectations, policies, and training on how to track their daily work in Salesforce in a consistent, repeatable way.


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