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How to Avoid a Salesforce Project Failure?

  • elizabeth_keenan

So you want to avoid a Salesforce Project Failure? Not seeing that 245% Return on Investment? That’s right, CRM implementations, when implemented correctly can see an average ROI of 245%. This is an amazing return, however, it relies on key elements working in harmony -  a planned implementation strategy aligned with business outcomes, structured user training and a cohesive approach to user adoption. 

A CRM solution plays a critical role in an organisation and is the cornerstone of building lasting relationships with your customers. However, if you get the implementation of your solution wrong, it can have a negative impact on the experience your customer receives. According to a Salesforce report “ 91% of customers who are unhappy with a brand will leave without complaining”.

There are many reasons why a Salesforce project might fail. The software architecture of your Org is vital to the success of your project. However, ongoing maintenance, user training, integrations, data, and much more, all contribute to the success or demise of your project. 

One of the biggest reasons for a Salesforce project to fail is a lack of preparation and defined goals from the outset. In this post, we’ll outline what to look out for and provide some tips on how to avoid a project failure. 

What the Experts Say:

We asked some of our Engagement managers for some top tips on how to avoid a project failure. Here’s what they had to say: 

- Gearoid Beggan, Engagement Director

Setting up a successful Salesforce implementation can be grouped into four main areas. Each Engagement Manager must focus on these areas in the initial weeks of an implementation commencing.

Clear Plan

A detailed project plan is prepared, outlining dates for all key phases of the project. The plan should highlight what Salesforce features will be built in each sprint of the build phase. The project plan for Salesforce implementation should be mapped into the client’s plan for any dependencies or blockers the project may have. A confluence "playbook" of how Pexlify will design, build, test and deploy the Salesforce solution should be put in place.

Clear Dependencies

A list of all potential blockers to Salesforce build or dependencies should be known and outlined. Timelines for when these dependencies will be complete should be known to the Engagement Manager. Each of these dependencies should have an owner or someone who is accountable for actioning them. The timeframe for clearing the dependencies should be known.

Teams Role and Responsibilities

Each person on the project should know their role and responsibilities to get to a successful implementation. As the leader of this engagement, the Engagement Manager is responsible for making sure everyone knows their own role. The members of the client’s project team should also be aware of their role and how they will support and ensure success for the Salesforce implementation. 


A large part of bringing success to our clients is ensuring they are educated in how we implement Salesforce solutions. The Engagement Manager must ensure that the client is aware of the overall plan and any dependencies for each delivery phase. It is also important throughout the implementation that end users and super users are educated on the solution so that there can be a smooth transition from project delivery to operations. ” 

David Lally - Senior Engagement Manager

Ways of Working: 

No two teams work the same. Different companies have different cultures, methodologies, and ways of working. Working on projects, particularly when two different parties come together, can be a challenging experience that requires flexibility and adaptation. Understanding the official and unofficial lines of authority and communication are a good first step, followed by having a candid discussion on working styles.

Some projects work best when everyone ‘mucks in’ and addresses priorities on an evolving basis with daily stand-ups and retrospectives. Other clients prefer a much higher level of certainty, with clear deliverables timelines, clean sequential phasing, and extensive documentation. There is no one size fits all approach, and while it is easy to defer to having a set methodology, the reality is that best practice is a subjective concept, and established processes need to be complemented by a moderate degree of tailoring to the project in question.

Scope Creep: 

Clients want the best solution, and vendors are keen to please their customers. The challenge of scope management is deciding what can be done and what can’t be done. While nobody likes saying ‘no’, this aspect of project management is critical to ensure that timelines and budgets are met and not exceeded. 

Collaboration is the name of the game here, as both parties need to reach an amicable understanding of what is considered a ‘must-have’, and what can be de-prioritised. While it is easy to become defensive and devolve into using the contract specifics for what is considered scope, this needs to be balanced with an understanding that projects evolve and what can be considered ‘realistic’ is often better understood once teams get into the details. A flexible approach to the scope is a success factor and can make the difference between a project being deemed a success or a failure.

Dependencies Management: 

As projects get longer, more stakeholders get involved, and a larger team is mobilised, there are lots of dependencies between workstreams. While one piece of work can go to plan, others may fall behind or encounter unforeseen issues. As the complexity of projects grows, it becomes essential to prioritise the careful identification and communication of these dependencies. 

Where possible, timely communication of these potential dependencies, risks, and issues, can help mobilise the resources to keep the project on track or ensure an amicable alignment on any inevitable changes to the project.


No project goes 100% to plan. Unforeseen circumstances are the reality of working on complex projects with multiple stakeholders. Building in contingency, whether that be budgetary, project scope, and/or timelines - is essential to ensure the flexibility to achieve the most important outcomes. 

A key factor here is to accommodate for changes during the project. While clients and vendors will strive towards certainty, developing contracts and project plans for the ideal end to end journey, it is important to create a forum for the project sponsors to address deviations from the plan.


A key aspect of success is having a positive and constructive project sponsor relationship. Also grouped under the title ‘governance’, this requires having the right people in the room on a regular basis to ensure the project is meeting expectations and resolving any blockers. While this sounds straightforward and intuitive, building an effective governance structure can be difficult. 

Some key challenges can include getting senior stakeholders available, communicating project items in a concise action-orientated manner, and having project sponsors buy-in to alleviate internal blockers.” 

Other Key Factors to Consider:

Not Aligning Clear Goals and Objectives


Aligning clear KPIs and metrics to the business outcomes the client wants to achieve is one of the most important aspects when implementing Salesforce. It’s important to find a partner who is not only an expert in the Salesforce ecosystem but also has experience in your industry. They will have an understanding of your challenges, as well as expert knowledge of the goals you want to achieve. Without setting clear outcomes, objectives and timelines, a project can quickly become disorganized and expectations unmet.

-> How to Avoid: 

You may be asking yourself how do I go about setting these business outcomes and KPIs?  According to Gartner, there are 5 key areas of focus to help refine what you want to achieve from your Salesforce project.

  • Organise around Customers
  • Reduce Operational Costs
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Imcustomer experience
  • Grow Revenue

It’s more important to set metrics and measure within different areas than to set one main overall goal. You need to think in a mindset of “what do we want to achieve by  implementing X, Y, and Z?”, “How can we accomplish these goals and how can we measure this?”

With these questions in mind, you can have a much clearer vision of where you want to be and how you will get there. 

Lack of User Adoption

Lack of User Adoption

You may be surprised to find out that lack of user adoption is a huge reason behind many Salesforce projects failing. What may seem like a short term problem can actually lead to some of the issues already listed above. If users are not using the platform and maximising it to its full potential, you won’t see the same benefits. 

There are multiple reasons why users do not take to their new Salesforce org. One of these reasons can often be a lack of training and understanding. According to Forrester, just a few years ago, lack of user adoption was responsible for up to 70% of CRM Failures. While things have improved in the last few years, this is still a leading reason for solutions not being utilised to full capacity and maximum benefit and ROI being achieved. 

Common reasons for lack of user adoption include: 

  • Lack of training for staff and separate training for managers
  • Lack of explaining what substantial changes to internal processes there will be
  • Not getting influential employees onboard 
  • Not communicating how CRM is going to improve their work and make their lives better/easier.

CRM Implementations Are Different

CRM implementations can differ greatly from most other enterprise software solutions because they impact not only your business but your employees and departments as well. When software is usually rolled out in a single department or small portions (e.g. a new marketing automation tool for less than 10 users) there is less work involved. 

When it comes to a full CRM system, it’s big. You, of course, may want your whole sales team to be trained and use it daily, but with Salesforce you can incorporate your whole organisation. This is one of the reasons why some projects may have a lengthy rollout to allow user onboarding in stages. 

-> How to Avoid: 

  • Train your users well - providing good training is imperative but checking in on their learning and providing ongoing training is what will make the difference. Support these users and get feedback
  • Allocate a budget for training
  • Get Power Users - these are the people within your organisation who will love using Salesforce. The ones who will learn as much as they can and help others on their own accord. Make these users feel appreciated with tools and training opportunities! 
  • Incentivise your users with gamification, success measurements and more
  • Show users how this solution will help them increase productivity rather than slow them down
  • Set a clear and realistic rollout strategy- this is something a Partner like Pexlify can help you map out. Onboard employees in stages, make sure they are trained and happy before moving on to the next. This of course can lead to a whole branch of users training other users, etc. 
  • Using a ‘train the trainer’ approach - will be beneficial for your Org in the long run. 
  • Trailhead - luckily Salesforce also provides ‘Trailhead’, their very own comprehensive training platform. Trailhead is a great way for employees to learn more and top up their Salesforce Skills. Encourage users to use trailhead, even before they start using salesforce.

Technical Debt & Lack of Integration

Keeping track of key development metrics is vital to the success of your Salesforce org. This could be the difference between a failing Org and a successful Org. 

An important metric to keep track of is Technical debt. What is Technical Debt? Technical debt is the accumulated amount of issues and time it will take to fix these issues and errors within your system. If developers take shortcuts to speed up the delivery of certain functionality, they may need to go back to correct certain code elements.  

Technical debt can also accrue because a product’s technology or architecture no longer scales and needs refactoring. Sometimes it accrues because it is invisible or inadvertent, as shown in this technical debt quadrant.

Surprisingly, this is something that in the short term can often be overlooked by everyone from software architects to platform managers. Although in the short term this does not appear to be very problematic, in the long term this will create big issues and can lead to total platform failure. On top of all this, it’s important to note, building onto a platform with weak foundations is messy, difficult and will certainly catch up with you if issues are not addressed (check out our  Perspective Podcast where we talk to Anup Jadhav, Senior Program Architect at Salesforce, about Software Architecture and Technical Debt).

-> How to Avoid: 

  • Do an Audit of your Org. That’s right, you need to Audit your Org regularly and tackle any issues head-on. 
  • Measure your technical debt and create a cleanup plan. This might involve a partner to help you get things back on track
  • Start as you mean to go on. While some issues seem small in the short term, it’s important to remember these small issues can spiral into major problems. Fix issues when they happen.
  • Work with a good partner and outline your goals, issues and timelines. 
  • Set up the correct integrations with other software. Lack of integrations can add to your build-up of technical debt. Information being imported manually leaves more room for errors and loss of data. 

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As always, thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this post please feel free to share it and tag us @Pexlify.

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