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As the U.S. and world economies prepare for a global comeback after the COVID pandemic shutdown, CEOs are asking themselves how they intend to accelerate digital transformation for growth with faster and more efficient systems, a.k.a., Salesforce automation.

Historically, factories and distribution centers staffed up and spent millions on fixed, capital expenses. Today, these same executives understand the benefit of implementing automation processes to circumvent the need for machinery and personnel.  The methods of old are difficult, inertial, and counter to today’s agile management techniques.

It is one thing to talk about integration and process control in the abstract, and quite another to make it work in YOUR Salesforce environment.  So how do you get there efficiently and cost-effectively? It’s overwhelming, but here’s some insight into best practices to support automation that we’ve developed at Thanawalla Digital:

The Scenario

  • You already have legacy systems and certain methods and processes that have always been the key to your company’s success.
  • Embedded in those processes is your company’s secret sauce, the core of your company’s competitive advantage.
  • In many cases, your strategies have been tested in the marketplace, and are remarkably better than your competitors’. That is your secret sauce.

Challenges

  1. You want to identify the legacy systems and methods that need improvement to leverage and scale them across multiple geographies/business units/factories (name your scale method) to reach the next level of success. This is your first challenge.
  2. And, for each one of these systems/methods, you recognize that you may be weak in many other areas including accounting, inventory control, marketing, or one of a hundred areas that are less than ideal. Therein lies the second type of technology challenges.

Now What?

Before the COVID pandemic, and even more frequently in the last few months, we have seen our most successful enterprise clients ask us to identify and propose optimal solutions to each of these types of challenges.

Of course, the answer for each company is a little bit different, but the team at Thanawalla Digital has built a framework that delivers for our clients using the following philosophy:

1. Visibility First

This should be obvious.  And it should be the one thing that already works.  But of course, it does not.

  • Data accumulates at an alarming rate, even in the smallest business or division, and we easily lose track of what it all means. Invoices, bills, job orders, proposals, delivery tickets…each affect your bottom line daily.
  • Most times, you can’t track which one needle within the haystack will adversely affect your week, quarter or even your year.
  • In hindsight, the signs were there, you just did not have visibility in the moment.
  • Here, we look for the key items in each transaction and build dashboards around them. Bubble up invoices that are coming close-to-due, opportunities that have stalled, service calls that have gone silent (did we successfully resolve the issue, or is trouble brewing).
  • Dashboards are a great visibility tool, but not if they only report on static numbers or ratios. The very best dashboards show you how your data is changing.  That is, velocity!

2. Velocity Next

  • Even though Velocity is not at the very top of our metric, in my opinion, it is simply the most important item to watch (in fact, for many companies in many instances, velocity will rescue other failures). Building reports and dashboards on velocity is more challenging than simply reporting on data.
  • As an example, knowing that you closed 10 opportunities last week is less important than how your close ratio is trending, or how that trend compares to historical values.
  • The next level of velocity charts is projecting if next weeks/months/quarters numbers will be true to trend based upon sub-metrics such as open-opportunity customer contacts. This is true for service organizations as well (are you successfully closing cases as fast as they are being created?).
  • All of this is only possible if your data is easily reachable by your charts and dashboards. That is, eliminate silos.

3. Eliminate Silos at all Cost

  • Over the years, we have learned that human nature tends to make departments possessive of their data. Even when a company mandates that all data will be visible to all departments (but see security, below), data tends to accumulate into silos.
  • Many times, the IT department will have to take on the headache of running batch jobs at night to reconcile these silos, but that is absolutely the wrong thing to do. It introduces a huge amount of delay, corrupt and duplicated data, and other ills far worse.
  • The Thanawalla Digital approach dictates that we will “’do no harm”. That is, we will
    • build data-stores in a normalized way,
    • move data to other systems in the moment where possible,
    • use state-of-art tools to coordinate these moves, and
    • avoid data duplication at all costs.

Or, as we call it, the three M’s:

  1. Move your data in an instance.
  2. Maintain integrity across platforms.
  3. Manage your system of record.

We have found that the best way to eliminate silos is to automate, automate, automate.

4. Automate Wherever You Can

The slowest part of any business process is the human process. Let me explain.

  • When a client emails you for a quote, the request sits in the in-box for someone to read and attend to it.
  • Then it waits again while a manager approves sending the quote to the client.
  • And then it waits in the client’s inbox.

A huge area of study within Thanawalla Digital has been addressing this question.  We challenge our clients to ask these (and similar) questions:

  1. Does every quote need to be generated by a salesperson?
  2. Can a Salesperson use one of 3 (or 4 or 5) templates to auto-generate the quote?
  3. Can some quotes be immediately fired off to the client without manager approval?

You see, we all intuitively know that quotes must have urgency built into them.  A delayed proposal or customer request can very easily result in a lost sale.

Automate where you can.  Let a good CRM system (possibly combined with CPQ automation) beat your competitor to the finish line. Here, machine learning is making huge strides.

Today, most savvy business managers are using excellent AI tools to generate proposals, and simply overseeing the process to provide supervision and security.

5. Security First

We think of security after all other business needs.  That needs to change. When designing our solutions, Thanawalla Digital teams ask the question early:

  1. Who needs access to this data?
  2. Why?
  3. Should they be allowed to alter or delete the data?
  4. Complicating this question is the next layer — should this person be able to see results of abstracted data (trends, aggregations…)?

The good news is that we have templates to lead the conversation.

Summary

In today’s business environment, the dirty details of security control should come first (no, really).  The good news is that there is never any need for a business leader to re-invent the wheel. Others have already encountered and thought this through. A good security analyst can help you ask the right questions.

With more than 40 years’ experience in computer science engineering, development, and cloud computing, Thanawalla Digital focuses on developing sophisticated, high-volume Salesforce orgs for large enterprises effectively and affordably.  Our Salesforce training, engineering and architectural services are used by industry-leading, fortune 500 large enterprises within the telecom, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, cable, insurance, and higher education markets. Experience matters. Contact us today to discuss how we may help.