What makes a good Salesforce Consultant?

30 September 2019 Salesforce

To understand the Salesforce Consultant role we first need to look back into the origins of Salesforce as a platform and how it has evolved to shape the responsibilities of these most vital resources on the front line of all good implementations.

March, 1999 saw the concept of the Salesforce platform brought to reality. In a modest apartment, Marc Benioff, Parker Harris, Frank Dominguez and Dave Moellenhoff applied a SaaS model to a staid industry. Principally focused on Sales solutions it gradually spread to other intrinsically related business competencies such as Service, Marketing and Commerce. With an emphasis on “No Software”, the first truly born-in-the-cloud, low-code platform meant a vanilla Salesforce implementation didn’t require technical development resources. Consultants at that time, typically aligned to either functional or technical competencies, needed to branch out in order to provide effective delivery. Consultants not only needed to understand the client’s business, but also to specialise in each of the Salesforce Clouds to be able to marry requirements to the technology and find the right solution.

A Salesforce Consultant gathers their skills from years of experience in one or more verticals. In parallel with their subject specialisations, Consultants have a broad repertoire of delivery and management skills that are designed to support clients from their initial decision-making processes to specialist knowledge areas and finally to delivery assurance that both remit and approach are met to the highest standards.

So, let’s look at the functions that a Consultant performs across the (high level) 4D model (Discover, Design, Develop & Deploy) project phases and then we can ascertain the skills utilised:-

Stage summary & activities
Discovery phases are to elicit requirements and understand the challenges a business is facing. Consultants can operate alone, utilising mini-PoCs to visualise Salesforce processes and align requirements against likely solutions.   Complex requirements may need Business Analyst and Technical Architecture oversight.

Consultant responsibilities
● Identify technology based challenges and their causes
● Validation of existing (relational) systems used and usage remit
● Demonstrate and articulate SFDC functionality where pragmatic to client stakeholders
● Ask SFDC oriented questions focused on data quality, process integrity and usage desirables

Stage summary & activities
Design phases are where the (as-is) requirements are distilled, success criteria correlated and then finally, married to SFDC functionality that will address the requirements and deliver against the success criteria. This is normally played back to the client for final validation prior to delivery.

Consultant responsibilities
● Map requirements to system capabilities
● Articulate and rationalise changes in process
● Define and prioritise a backlog of work and handover to the wider delivery team

Stage summary & activities
The development phase is where the design approach is turned into reality, adopting either a Waterfall, Agile/Lean or Hybrid approach to the development cycle. It is also where test coverage and is created and carried out for System Integration Testing (SIT) build, User Acceptance Testing (UAT), Operational Acceptance Testing (OAT).

Consultant responsibilities
● Validation of development areas and acceptance in adherence to success criteria
● Support and define test scripts within testing approach/process
● Internal testing workshops and prep for UAT
● Conduct UAT with clients and elicit fixes (as needed)
● Provide any additional support or insight into platform usage and best practices for management and adoption

Stage summary & activities
The Deployment phase (either as milestones or completion of a project) is where final ratification of deliverables are carried out with stakeholders with appropriate sign-off. Handover is conducted using documentation and/or training workshops. It’s also where any Managed Services (MS) can be initialised to support the live platform.

Consultant responsibilities
● Support end-user training
● Finalise materials or handover documents
● Support deployment and smoke-testing
● Knowledge transfer to BAU teams (internally or client-side)

It is clear that the role of a Salesforce Consultant is far more rounded, evolved and inspiring than perhaps that of a Consultant within another field or technology. The scope, scale and application of the role provides an incredibly rewarding profession that garners respect from clients and colleagues alike. And with the constant expansion of the platform, Salesforce Consultants have never had it so good (if they are allowed the time and space to keep up!). Client-side Salesforce resources generally don’t see level and variation of implementations across industries as a Consultant working with a partner.

In my personal experience, I can sincerely state never to have seen any two projects start, flourish or conclude in the same way. Could those in accounting, IT or other staples of business verticals so confidently proclaim this? And yes, it can be nomadic at times, moving between clients following the classic ‘land and expand’ model where deliveries are rarely big-bang. But the breadth of the role and skill-sets that are both learned and applied, affords those who rise to the challenge, insight and exposure to many of the world’s largest organisations and the chance to make a tangible difference.

Salesforce presides over more than 23% of a CRM market worth many billions of GBP. With this almost limitless reach, it’s the Salesforce Consultant’s role to continually forge and evolve the most innovative and incredible practices that foster ways to bring continual success to their clients.

I hope this blog has been useful for anyone still wavering over the value of adding a Salesforce Consultant to their team. And if all of this piques your interest to find out even more about Salesforce or indeed how Salesforce Partners like VRP Consulting deliver solutions then simply reach out to us and see for yourselves how we can broaden your horizons through intelligent use of technology solutions.

Andy Webster

Senior Salesforce Consultant / Solution Architect

VRP Consulting

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