Best Practices for SalesForce Customization & Configuration

By Helen Ciric, President of SEG Consulting (a Comtrade360 partner)

Salesforce is considered the first fully-functional cloud-based CRM platform in the market. Customers typically jump on the Salesforce bandwagon to manage their marketing campaigns, customer service, sales, and more. By configuring and customizing the Salesforce platform, customers are able to reach its full potential, offering scalability, flexibility, and access to a wide range of third-party applications.

Salesforce Customization vs Configuration

The difference between customization and configuration in Salesforce lies in how the platform is being used. If used for performing the process of a function within Salesforce, it’s a configuration; if adding a new feature or functionality, it’s a customization. Customizations refer to a specific set of requirements pertaining to a specific instance, whereas configurations refer to requirements that are common across multiple different domains.

Tailoring Salesforce Solutions

In order to ensure that Salesforce meets your business requirements, the following preparation and planning is recommended:

  1. Assessment and planning: Solicit end user expectation to understand current pain points and scope of required customization and configuration. This will allow your organization to prepare a specification of the desired outcome and determine a timeline.
  2. Implementation and testing: Customize and configure Salesforce to meet the specifications defined in the previous phase and validate the changes. This phase can span several iterations.
  3. Deployment: Once the testing confirms the implementation meets the specifications, develop a deployment plan.
  4. User training: It is vital to provide training to the users for them to be able to use the tailored Salesforce solution effectively. Alongside workshops, it is also necessary to provide detailed documentation.
  5. Maintenance: It is important to keep monitoring the solution after it has been deployed to ensure it keeps performing as planned. It is also recommended to have a support channel, such as an Organizational Change Management (OCM) team, to follow-up on any questions or issues.
  6. Improvement: Since business strategies and needs are constantly evolving, it is recommended to regularly re-evaluate the current solution and start the tailoring process again if a discrepancy between the current solution and the current business requirements is noticed.

Best Practices for Salesforce

The following represent key best practices recommendations pertaining to the customization and configuration of Salesforce.

  • Planning: It is important to assess the business requirements, evaluate the current solution, and prepare a change strategy accordingly. The result of planning should be a clearly defined set of objectives and a roadmap for implementing changes to achieve corporate objectives.
  • Avoid excessive customization: It is recommended to use standard Salesforce features and use customization only if necessary. The over-use of custom features can poorly affect the overall functionality and increase complexity making the solution difficult to maintain in the future.
  • Prioritize the features: This goes hand in hand with the previous point. By prioritizing the features by importance and taking into consideration their benefits you can keep the solution complexity low while maximizing the benefits at the same time.
  • Documentation: It is crucial to maintain up-to-date, extensive, and comprehensive documentation for any Salesforce customization. This helps keep future maintenance costs and troubleshooting times down.
  • Use declarative programming: Developing by using drag-and-drop platforms such as Lightning Platform simplifies the process as most of the code is already prewritten. This means that the implementation phase can be sped up considerably.
  • Optimize data architecture: Keeping design complexity low can have big benefits in the future. By using standard objects and fields you can ensure forward compatibility regardless of updates. Designing scalable data models accommodates the option for future growth.
  • Automate processes: Using automation tools like Process Builder, Workflow Rules, and similar can eliminate monotonous and repetitive tasks while increasing workflow efficiency.
  • Ensure security: As with any other application platform, security should be a top priority. One important security aspect is the principle of least privilege. For example, Salesforce can be configured by enforcing role-based access control and fine-tuned even more by setting up field-level security. This allows certain users to access to an object but limiting it only to individual fields within that object.

How to Decide What Your Business Needs?

We have looked at best practices for both Salesforce customization and configuration but the question remains on how to decide which one to pick for your business. The following list can help you more clearly define your current needs and decide whether Salesforce customization or configuration is your best option or even a combination. The following is a checklist to help make your decision.

  1. Understand your business requirements: Start by clearly defining your business requirements and your end goal. Identify specific areas you need to implement or improve your current Salesforce instance like pain points or inefficiencies in your business process.
  2. Evaluate your current solution: Once you understand your business requirements, you need to evaluate how well your current solution covers them. With that, you will get a clearer picture of which approach would be the best. There is a wide range of outcomes here. For example, if you are new to Salesforce or are a small business, it is best to stick to Salesforce configuration at the beginning and re-evaluate customization as you get used to Salesforce and start to see potential improvement areas. On the other hand, a business with years of experience using Salesforce with a big user base will benefit more from additional custom features that can be implemented by Salesforce customization.
  3. Evaluate your in-house Salesforce experience: Taking your in-house Salesforce experience into consideration is important as the decision whether you want to proceed with in-house development or need the help of a Salesforce expert team. Keep in mind that even if you have some experience in Salesforce configuration, tackling Salesforce customization can be a lot tougher challenge and it might be wise to seek outside help.
  4. Start simple and evolve: It is best to start by using the standard features to build an initial solution that meets your basic needs. Get a solid understanding of Salesforce first and then incrementally add new configuration changes or customizations if standard features do not cover new requirements.

Salesforce is a leading CRM provider and applying any number of the suggestions in this article can have a great positive effect on your Salesforce return on investment by automating your processes and therefore cutting your costs.

Salesforce has a high potential for customization and configuration, but it is important to once more point out that if your in-house Salesforce expertise is not on an expert level, it is not advisable to start a self-managed Salesforce customization or configuration. In that case, you should engage a team of Salesforce experts.