So you want
to build a
Insight from Salesforce COE leaders
for Salesforce COE leaders
Q&A with Jay Prasad,
Director of Business Applications
4 common mistakes that
Salesforce COE leaders can make
Top tips from Salesforce COE
An interview with
Jay Prasad
Director of Business Applications
Speed &
How do you ensure that your Salesforce COE is viewed
as adding value rather than creating unnecessary
process and bureaucracy?
This is a fairly common challenge that most Salesforce COE leaders will
come across on their journey towards creating a function that delivers
a high level of business impact. Your team may well be doing loads of
work behind the scenes, but how do you ensure their efforts are visible
and appreciated by the broader business? Before we get into that though,
it’s important to acknowledge that you are not going to add value to the
business if you can’t align to their strategic objectives and understand their
When I created the COE at ServiceTitan, one of my first points of action
was to set up a change control board along with two committees - the
steering committee and the working committee. The steering committee is
more about what needs to be done strategically to achieve the maximum
business impact from our efforts, ensuring more informed prioritization of
projects. The working committee operates at a more hands on technical
level, ensuring complete coverage and alignment from the strategic to the
As the company grows roles will change and new priorities will develop. In
order to be laser focused on prioritization we created a framework with our
FP&A team. This assesses a project objectively against key areas such as
payback period, revenue impact, customer impact, security requirements
and so on. As a result, we can validate any new requirements on their
merits and have more meaningful discussions at a steering committee level
which ultimately conclude in a consensus.
Once you’ve nailed the alignment and
across the Salesforce portfolio. When
How important is it to define a
Are there particular
prioritization challenge, your thinking then
we invest in a specific project we will
vision for your COE?
departments or stakeholders
needs to shift towards articulating the success
work closely with the FP&A team to
that COE leaders should
of what the COE is delivering. This might start
understand the payback period along
Defining a vision that aligns to the objectives
focus in on as you nurture
with sharing user stories, but to my mind there
with the impact on the cost of customer
of the business is a really important step
your function?
needs to be a measurable element to it. That’s
acquisition along with any efficiency
in helping all stakeholders understand the
why we implemented a CSAT survey for the end
savings that could be made as a result
thinking behind formulating a COE. Everyone
Again, it comes down to the type
of every sprint covering all of our user-stories,
of implementing this new process.
needs to know what we are doing and why we
of business you are tying to build a
as part of our Agile methodology, so that we can
are doing it. It provides a headline statement
COE within. Is it a product-driven
acquire feedback at the point of delivery in real-
Efficiency savings are often overlooked
on the value that executive stakeholders can
organization? Or is it marketing-
time. This can then be pulled into dashboards
or deemed as being too hard to
expect from this type of function. But just as
driven or sales-driven? By
and shared as part of quarterly business
measure. But it’s important to look at
importantly, it provides your team with a deeper
understanding the cultural
reviews and is a great way of providing the
how many man hours we are saving as
understanding of the impact that they can have
landscape of the
executive team with enhanced visibility of the
a result of changes to the front office
on the business. Creating a COE is all about
business, it can help
value we are creating for the business.
systems over the course of a given year.
alignment and having a strong vision in place
you prioritize your
Even if it’s at an approximate level it
gives everyone, from the steering committee to
engagement for
allows you to present some numbers
the working committee, a deeper sense of the
What would you say are the
to leadership that provide them with
direction of travel.
top challenges associated with
as much visibility as possible. I am not
saying this is a mandatory layer for
creating a COE?
Ultimately a high performing COE will help
every COE leader but providing this
the business make more informed decisions
sort of visibility helps to build trust and
The number one challenge is to ensure
to drive success. That’s our goal. We execute
demonstrate impact of new features
you have the right level of buy in from the
new projects which lead to new processes that
such as Lightning for example.
leadership team. This is the kind of initiative
culminate in accurate and timely decisions that
that absolutely must flow from the top down.
create value.
It’s important that you establish a high level
of trust with key stakeholders and remember
What success metrics should COE
that some leaders are going to be more process
leaders pay close attention to?
orientated than others. You need to help the
leadership team see the difference between
I’ve already alluded to the importance of
bureaucracy and governance. Not that you have
measuring CSAT to articulate the impact that
we need to
to add a thick layer of governance, just enough
your COE is having on internal stakeholders.
to manage the balancing act between speed
Another key area I would look at would be
and quality. If you’re adding process, it should
return on investment. Ultimately, we need to
have a clear
enable the business rather than hinder end-
have a clear understanding of how we enable
returns across the various lines of business. We
need to be able to quantify the value that the
understanding of
Remember that every business is unique. You
company is getting out of their investment
need to understand the culture of the business.
You need to understand the go-to-market
how we enable
strategy. You need to factor in the appetite
for growth and how the business will scale
accordingly. Your COE needs to underpin all
returns across the
of these things. It needs to help drive success
rather than adding lots of governance and
processes. Do your due diligence here to ensure
various lines of
sustained success and executive level support.
It’s about delivering value, winning trust and
then adding a layer of governance if required.
said, in a SaaS business like ours
every customer acquisition team is
key from sales, inside-sales, renewals,
marketing and so on because they
are often the ones that need to make
decisions in real-time and are heavy
If you’re scaling
users of Salesforce.
You’ve also got to look at how those
up quickly as a
various departments interact with
each other too. If your organization is
quite siloed then that’s an even greater
business and seeing
reason to implement a cross functional
team, like a COE, to present a more
joined up view of requirements and
a lot of gaps in
processes - ensuring no stone is left
the customer from lead generation
unturned. Siloed organizations that
to sale to customer success - you
don’t have a COE structure in place
simply cannot afford to work in silos
often fall victim to system politics and
anymore. Just imagine the number of
technical debt as a result of not having
stakeholders and departments that are
between departments
a central place to manage change
involved in that end-to-end process.
requests. This can all culminate in a
We’ve entered the 4th industrial
lot of technical debt which can run
revolution here and customer insight
that either cause
into millions of dollars to resolve.
and context is paramount.
At what point should a
How important is the
conflict or impact the
business recognize that they
relationship with Salesforce
need a Salesforce COE?
for the smooth growth of
the COE?
speed and quality of
There are definitely some telltale signs
to look out for. If you’re scaling up
It probably depends on the size of your
quickly as a business and seeing a lot
decision making, then
business and the amount of support
of gaps in communication between
you are entitled to. I’d encourage you
departments that either cause conflict
to get as much support as possible
or impact the speed and quality of
it’s probably time to
from your CSM in monthly cadence
decision making, then it’s probably
calls. You might be entitled to admin
time to start thinking about building
support and accelerators - take
start thinking about
a centralized change management
advantage of that. If you’re launching
process which is nothing but a COE.
a new initiative, like Lightning for
You will get a sense of urgency when
example, you can get one-on-one
building a centralized
you speak to line of business leaders
calls with a platform specialist
as they struggle to pull together
to understand best practices and
insights and capture their KPI’s
learnings from other companies.
change management
I’d also encourage you to use your
If you’re working to a SaaS based
network and talk to other Salesforce
process which is
subscription licensing model,
COE leaders in other companies
you’ll find that only intensifies the
about their experiences with releasing
requirement for a COE. There are so
certain features and benchmark
nothing but a COE.
many interdependencies involved in
yourself against their successes and
building a connected experience for
Lack of focus on documentation
You might not be able to document every single change
you deliver as a result of the sheer resource implications
associated with such a feat, but documentation is a key area
that is often overlooked by Salesforce COE leaders. We go
through the process of getting the buy in from every business
stakeholder and go ahead and deliver - job done. But there
are consequences associated to not documenting high
impact projects. Imagine a situation where you have a specific
resource working on a key initiative that cuts across various
different lines of business and they then leave the organization.
If there is not adequate documentation in place, then you are
going to encounter significant problems when it comes to re-
engineering this process - which will probably happen every
6 months or so. It’s going to put strain on your resources in
the COE but also the business as you go back to understand
mistakes that
the original requirements. That’s why having requirement
traceability metrics in place should be an important
consideration for a Salesforce COE leader.
Salesforce COE
leaders can make
Setting expectation levels with
senior leadership
There are a lot of assumptions made (on both sides) when
The concept of creating a COE, with it’s roots set in manufacturing
interacting with the business, and assumptions are not a solid
operations almost 30 years ago, is perhaps nothing new. But for
foundation for a Salesforce COE. You need to set expectations
Salesforce COE leaders dealing with increasing calls from the business
upfront on all the key projects that you undertake. Make sure
to drive more agility, greater innovation and shorter deployment times in
you do your due diligence pre-project. Initially something might
the backdrop of ever-changing business processes as a result of the era of
look quite easy but as stones get unturned things can get
cloud computing - things are getting challenging. Salesforce COE leaders
complicated. Articulate your previous success rates against
need to find the perfect balance of governance and agility. Create delivery
timelines for similar projects in the past. If you are walking into
models that suit not only the business itself but also the talent they have
a newer area, factor that in and articulate it clearly in terms of
at their disposal within the function. Given the challenges associated with
confidence level. Be as transparent as possible - that’s how you
creating a COE, we asked our network around the four most common
build trust with the business.
mistakes that leaders can make in this space.
Not measuring the impact of your
Effective and timely
It’s essential to be able to articulate the value add of your
Salesforce COE. That starts with having the right ‘talk track’
regarding the alignment of your projects to the business’s key
communication are
priorities, but most importantly it finishes with measuring the
impact you make. We should start any project with the impact
in mind. Every member of your team should be able to answer
an essential feature
the ‘why are we doing that?’ question. You might not be able to
quantify the ROI on every feature you develop but you should
certainly be tracking the key ones. Think about time to value,
of a high performing
the cost of downtime to the business, time saved for sales,
marketing and operations. Look at initiatives like CSAT whilst
COE. Particularly
also considering the before and after picture on the time it
takes for the business to make informed decisions.
when you look at
Communication breakdowns
roles like Business
Effective and timely communication are an essential feature
Analysts within your
of a high performing COE. Particularly when you look at
roles like Business Analysts within your function, they need
to communicate in-time and in the right context to avoid
function, they need to
confusion across the board. You’ve got to keep the business
up to date with the statuses of live projects, including weekly
cadences to assess the health of the project, so that you
communicate in-time
don’t end up with surprises at the 11th hour. Use frameworks
like DACI to ensure the drivers of the project, approvers,
contributors and those that need to be informed are kept up
and in the right context
to speed. A COE by its very definition is a group of people
that promote collaboration and best practices - you need to
communicate effectively to achieve this.
to avoid confusion
across the board.
Advice from the
In environments where there is a complicated tech stack, or even just a website, marketing
Top tips from COE leaders
automation and Salesforce; the picture of what can be affected by changes can be fairly wide and
this will look so different from organization to organization that it is difficult to have hard and fast
rules about it. There are worthwhile discussions around different kinds of COE, some are basically
DevOps focused while others look more like resource/idea sharing. Finding the right COE fit for
the shape and agility of the organization you are in is critical to building something that can be
Not all COEs are created equal! First think - why do I need a COE, why should
I consider one in the first place? Does my organization even support the COE
concept, and if so, what type of COE? The critical indicator is often who the
- Manager of Business Systems
COE reports to. Sometimes, that relationship alone sets the course for the type
of value expected of the COE.
Our Salesforce COE reports directly into the Retail business organization,
which gives us excellent alignment to both the business needs and the value
desired from our Salesforce investment, as well as the flexibility and autonomy
Salesforce COE’s can help drive revenue growth, improve customer satisfaction, increase job
to work with them to drive toward and realize their business goals.
satisfaction and reduce operating cost. This all comes from taking that opportunity to integrate
previously siloed business units to support the effective delivery of customer facing business
- Director CRM Salesforce Platform
processes. It’s about streamlining delivery operations, standardizing architecture patterns and
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providing timely strategic and advisory services to the leadership team. For these initiatives to
succeed, however, there needs to be sensible funding in place for people and tools and a clear
focus on educating users. You need to have the right talent and that talent needs to clearly
We all know the importance of hiring the right people in building a COE
understand the purpose of the COE which in turn the board should have already bought into.
and establishing clear roles and responsibilities to maximize their skills
and strengths. We also know the significance of building processes such
- Sr. Director Salesforce Center for Engagement
as DevOps, Agile SDLC or whatever procedures and methodology that best
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positions the COE for success. However, establishing a solid Salesforce data
governance as a key foundational pillar of a COE from its inception is often
overlooked or dismissed as something that can be done “later”.
Investing in data cleansing, promoting business data ownership, and
It’s about optimizing for the whole, not the individual. This means prioritizing company-wide goals,
management [up front] will pay immediate dividends in time and resource
even when those priorities cause temporary pain to individuals. Make decisions for the long term.
savings. I’ve learned that Salesforce user adoption - and overall success
A COE should balance the need for meeting current business demands, whilst not creating more
for that matter - hinges upon quality data that can be trusted for both daily
technical debt for the future. Building a Salesforce COE is not always easy, but it is worthwhile.
operational and long-term strategic needs.
After all, what’s the point in investing in a plane if nobody knows how to fly it properly? The best
- Senior Director, Salesforce Platform
part of Salesforce is that it’s easy to get started. The worst part of Salesforce is that it’s easy to
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get started - this leads to many non-experts believing that they are, or could be, which leads to
the wrong priorities and solutions. The net result is departments consistently bumping into each
other compounding in frustrated customers and staff. My advice is to prioritize. Determine goals
from nice to haves. Be open-minded to multiple potential solutions and have clear reasoning and
evidence as to why one solution is better than another for the business.
- Director of CRM
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