Salesforce Community for Government
Salesforce Community Cloud is becoming increasingly popular in the government space. Community Cloud projects can be complex, replacing outdated custom systems and manual workflows that evolved over many years. In this article I will discuss five key elements for successful Salesforce Community Cloud implementations.
The Community Cloud platform was developed to help Salesforce customers build deeper relationships with customers. It enables efficient and friendly access to information, strengthening collaboration with employees and outside channel partners. Salesforce Community Cloud is often used to implement interactive portals, help forums, support sites, and licensing / certification programs. You can read two of our successful Salesforce Community case studies for government organizations here.
Legacy community support portals and sites, along with older CRM systems, are causing increasing levels of pain and inefficiency for government IT offices. These systems — typically custom-built on aging technologies — have a number of challenges:
- Lack of Flexibility. Community service systems are often built using aging client-server technologies. The effort to adapt old systems to new requirements results in a growing body of custom code and integration points. The system becomes overly complex and inflexible over time.
- Poor Integration Capability. These monolithic community support platforms were typically designed as self-contained standalone systems. Getting information in and out, updating and enriching data requires a series of fixed batch operations. Meanwhile, cloud, SaaS and API-based integration standards have become the norm. To integrate these systems government IT teams either have to “bolt on” some sort of API connectivity, or develop a mishmash of batch, ETL and API calls to get the data to flow between systems.
- Poor Technical Support. Government IT projects often do not allow the original developer or vendor to maintain an ongoing technical support presence. Bugs, functional gaps and manual workarounds can grow. By the time a new contract is signed to fix these issues, the original development team is often long gone, and a new support team must start from scratch.
- Unclear Upgrade Path. With many existing community portals and websites the upgrade path is poorly defined. Upgrades tend to be understaffed. Over time, customizations to the software applications to extend functionality or interface with other systems can dramatically increase the upgrade complexity. This often results in the system running on old software and database versions that are potentially insecure or unstable.
- Increasing Cost of Ownership. All of the factors above lead to increasing complexity and cost of ownership. At some point it becomes so costly to maintain and integrate with an old community service system that it must be “ripped and replaced” with an entirely new system.
5 Keys to a Successful Salesforce Community Cloud Implementation
Here are some key areas of focus that help organizations implement Salesforce Community successfully. I demonstrate how these can be applied in my case studies article here.
- #1 Focus on System Design Early On. Quality technical Salesforce design is essential, including UI / UX, object model, security model and user workflows. Most government IT teams give insufficient attention to this step in their RFPs. However, the ultimate success of your Community Cloud implementation will depend on a well-developed technical design. Including a Business Process Review of 4-6 weeks typically works best. This allows the team to map detailed business processes and fully understand the end user and system requirements.
- #2 Demand Detailed Documentation. Detailed system documentation should be developed along with the functional and technical design. This includes user stories, use cases, test cases, object model, system architecture, and business process workflows. The documentation must be versioned and maintained properly, and updated with future system developments. Without this detailed documentation your IT team and any vendors who work on the system will need to do time-consuming and expensive analysis before they can support or develop the system.
- #3 Commit to an agile Approach and Product Owner. Agile development is growing quickly in GovTech, but many government organizations have only adopted it at a surface level. It’s critical to the success of your Salesforce Community Cloud project that you commit to having a Product Owner deeply involved. This includes participating in the daily scrum, to providing direction on UI/UX and providing regular feedback to the implementation team. The level of interaction will determine your success; without this direct participation, the implementation team is left in the dark and must make assumptions about the system. They can easily get it wrong, resulting in suboptimal capabilities and/or delayed schedules that adversely affect the project success.
- #4 Hire a Veteran Salesforce Project Manager. To get the most out of your Salesforce Community Cloud investment requires experienced Salesforce project management. It’s not enough to assign a jack-of-all-trades project manager to a Community Cloud project. A PM with Salesforce knowledge and BA-level analysis capabilities will ensure the implementation team delivers most effectively. He or she will also be a capable partner to your IT leaders, chaperoning the project through any challenges that come up.
- #5 System Replacement is Much More Complex Than New Development. Replacing complex legacy systems with their integrations, workflows, technologies and data is a huge challenge. Compared to development of brand-new software, you should assume the time and complexities will be significantly greater. This also supports the need for an experienced PM to drive the project.
Focusing on these five success factors naturally results in better outcomes on complex government Salesforce Community Cloud implementations. Government organizations can achieve benefits such as:
- High Flexibility. The system becomes configurable by normal business users to meet current and future needs. Minimal coding is required to develop new functionality.
- Ease of Integration. Salesforce Community Cloud can be easily integrated with other systems and workflows through the well-developed and secure Salesforce API.
- Advanced Reporting and Analytics. Tracking dashboards, real time reports, visual workflows, report libraries, performance metrics and many other communication features are unlocked. Detailed reporting packages can be compiled, formatted and distributed automatically on a scheduled basis. Reports and dashboards can be permissioned and approved before distribution.
- Best in Class User Experience. The modern Salesforce UI becomes available to both internal and external users. Salesforce Community Cloud provides tens or thousands of users a positive visual and workflow experience.
- Significant Cost Savings. The interactivity and information self-management of Salesforce Community Cloud can save organizations substantial amounts of time and money.
- Fully Automated. The process of handling applications, cases, documents, approvals and many other steps can be fully automated. Forms, emails, approvals, alerts and reports are automatically generated based on the user’s role and process responsibilities.
Salesforce Community Cloud is a powerful and flexible system for government service organizations. Focusing on these five keys to success will help your IT team implement Salesforce Community Cloud with high confidence.
If you’d like to discuss the potential for Salesforce Community Cloud in your organization, please feel free to contact me here on LinkedIn or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.