After 6 years in the Salesforce ecosystem and nearly twenty successful projects, Onix-Systems is ready to share insights on developing custom Salesforce apps and Salesforce customization.
Salesforce is arguably the best cloud-based CRM platform with limitless possibilities. Its ecosystem encompasses 30+ software products used by a wide range of businesses in multiple industries. However, since the default settings are not geared towards any specific business, sooner than later, an entity will likely need to modify the platform’s functionality to address its unique needs fully.
Fortunately, Salesforce is designed for customization. Customers can fine-tune the platform features to their individual needs and even develop their own add-on applications to boost their efficiency, marketing productivity, and sales.
Businesses considering the options are faced with a question: should they do the job in-house or look for Salesforce implementation experts elsewhere? This article explains when it’s safe to DIY and when it pays off to engage experts to customize Salesforce solutions. There are also tips to help you do it successfully.
First, you need to understand whether you should go for Salesforce configuration or customization.
Salesforce solutions can be tailored either through configuration or customization. Both are common steps in the implementation process.
Salesforce configuration is the process of adapting the platform to suit specific business processes by making changes within the existing CRM system without adding any new functionality through programming.
Very roughly speaking, it means clicking the platform’s enable/disable options and using drag-and-drop and point-and-click tools, such as Workflow and Approvals, Process Builder, Flow Builder, etc., to:
For example, customers can leverage Salesforce configurations to:
Since Salesforce configuration requires no code and programming skills, customers can do most of this themselves. However, hiring a Salesforce administrator to manage the configuration process can help achieve a higher return in a shorter time.
Salesforce customization refers to custom software development, coding, and integrating the CRM service with third-party applications intended to add to the platform features and tools that aren’t attainable within the current Salesforce system. This adaptation of the CRM platform to specific business processes entails code-level changes pertaining to its development, operation, and scalability.
Since it requires programming skills, the task is traditionally left to Salesforce developers, whether based in-house or provided by one of Salesforce’s implementation partners.
Customizable Salesforce elements can be divided into three groups:
It’s possible to alter further the look and feel of the original Salesforce service. For example, customers can give it a branded UI complete with corporate colors and logos and improve the overall user experience (UX).
When customers need to build into the system multistep custom processes, such as marketing content review or tax evaluation, they can customize Salesforce features and apps and develop new custom features and apps.
Businesses can integrate Salesforce with third-party software, such as eCommerce platforms, social media, email services, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, accounting software, IT service management, intranets, etc.
Common Salesforce customization examples include:
Generally, you need to consider reconfiguring or customizing Salesforce when you feel your business is not getting maximum value out of the CRM, fails to reach its goals, and doesn’t get the desired ROI.
Salesforce configuration may be the optimal choice when:
Salesforce customization is preferable or even necessary when:
Finally, suppose your business faces problems such as a low adoption rate, user complaints, other issues negatively affecting your revenue, and a lack of returns on your significant investments. In that case, it is definitely time for Salesforce customization.
Salesforce is arguably the top CRM solution for education, financial services, healthcare, real estate, transportation, travel, and hospitality businesses. Here are several success stories of Salesforce customization and app development in different industries.
Onix has lately developed a custom Salesforce app for an American healthcare company. The product helps the employees plan, manage, and track physician liaison activities and costs.
A physician liaison’s job is to improve communication and collaboration between all parties involved in patient care. Sometimes, it can be hard to control the departmental activities of dozens of professionals attending multiple business meetings outside the organization. It’s also daunting to manage and control all related expenses.
The client’s existing Salesforce outreach application was not user-friendly and didn’t reflect the physician liaison team’s processes properly. They asked Onix’s Salesforce developers to create a more intuitive interface and help them better keep the pace with departmental activity and field visit documentation and expenses.
Our development team came up with the following solutions:
The other core technology used in the project included Apex and Visualforce.
The resulting custom Salesforce application has:
Savills Ireland is a branch of an international commercial, residential, and rural real estate service provider. Before the project, the company’s data was sorted in silos or stored in Excel files, hindering information exchange between departments. Other significant issues were their existing platform’s low scalability and lack of customization.
Savills Ireland employed Salesforce products AscendixRE CRM and Ascendix Search, Salesforce migration, and customization to:
As a result, searching for real estate units that formerly took several hours takes about 10 minutes now.
Cresa New York, a leading commercial real estate firm representing tenants and occupiers of space, had similar issues resulting from using Excel spreadsheets and CSV files. The company had to migrate massive amounts of data to Salesforce with improved quality and accuracy and was looking for better ways to collect, organize, and utilize data to achieve the highest levels of success.
Cresa New York used the same services and processes and achieved even more impressive results:
ConnectPay is a banking service provider for online-focused businesses supervised by the Central Bank of Lithuania. A regulated financial institution is required to carry out a compliant client onboarding process. Using Salesforce Service Cloud and Sales Cloud platforms, ConnectPay streamlined and augmented the onboarding with well-defined business rules and procedures.
Salesforce platform was customized to automatically ingest customer data from online registration forms and comply with verification requirements and dependencies. For example, if a customer is from a higher-risk country, the platform automatically assigns their case to a specialist review committee. Other pre-determined conditions trigger assignment to specialist onboarding agents.
The platform provides full accountability of the onboarding process, easy back-auditing, and tracking of all information or corrections to the customer account. Having all information on a single database also facilitates personalized upsells.
All businesses are unique, and so are Salesforce solutions to their specific needs and ways to customize them. However, certain best practices can help you safely customize Salesforce to fit your business needs, increase the speed of Salesforce implementation, and minimize costs.
It is not necessarily Salesforce customization vs configuration. In tailoring your Salesforce solution, you will likely benefit from both options. Configuring Salesforce functionalities, you can see how much you can do with minimal effort and human resources. As your needs and appetites grow, you can proceed to code-based customization.
Before spending time and money and changing anything in the system, you should exhaust all standard configuration options. Make sure to explore built-in tools, modules, functionalities, and settings applicable to your industry, business size, and type of business. Try to configure as much as possible. When all of your configuration options are exhausted, only then consider delegating the remaining desired changes to your tech team or customization vendor.
Salesforce consultants can help you assess your options, make the right choice, and safely customize your solution with optimal results. Onix’s experts always start by analyzing the customer’s needs to find the best way to make the most of their Salesforce solution within the existing license.
Since your primary task is to make Salesforce convenient and scalable for the end-users — your employees, it is most reasonable to start work by interacting with them.
Ask your employees about their experience with Salesforce, such as:
…and more. It will be helpful to engage your employees, especially power users that are well-aware of the business processes of a particular department and keep taking brief surveys throughout the customization process. This ongoing feedback will enable you to tweak everything on the go according to their needs and preferences and eliminate critical issues before you roll out the customizations.
First, determine what you want out of the solution in advance. With every client approaching Onix, we hold a lengthy consultation to pinpoint precisely what they need to achieve.
Every change entails consequences. Even a tweak like deleting a value may affect other existing features and lead to unexpected problems. Before changing anything in Salesforce, ensure you understand how it works and how it is linked to other components you use.
Assess your in-house resources and expertise necessary for customizing your existing solution and try to map all related Salesforce knowledge with your team’s expertise. Then, you can start formulating your customization needs.
Prepare a plan with Salesforce customization experts on how you will execute and deploy your development. It will help prioritize features, apps, custom reports, or whatever customizations you need and organize efficient projects, test your customization, and any future development or customization that may impact your current customization.
Before any customizations, make sure your current system is clean.
Once you are well-versed with the end-users needs, Salesforce intricacies, and the time and resources at your disposal, you can go ahead with setting up a team that will execute the customization process. Here comes another major piece of advice.
You can go ahead with one of the following options:
The choice will largely depend on your goals. For example, most admins can manage complex customizations using standard Salesforce features such as Process Builder or Flows. In contrast, customizations made in Apex tend to take longer to adapt and require a Salesforce developer to manage.
Engage a Salesforce implementation partner as early as possible. The professionals’ experience allows them to estimate the initial customization scope rather accurately, suggest optimal solutions, identify pitfalls, opportunities, and elements of the process you wouldn’t even think of, and confidently guide you along the way. Although the option may seem expensive initially, a pro will surely save you money in the long run.
Mastering the ability to customize a vast array of features in Salesforce is a daunting and time-consuming task. Suppose you need the changes to your Salesforce solution quickly and can’t afford to distract and train your developer. In that case, hiring a person qualified for this job is reasonable. If a non-professional in your organization messes it up, you will have to hire a Salesforce expert to fix everything anyway.
Even if you currently employ one or two Salesforce developers, chances are they still can’t handle all the potential issues. They might spend hours on the customization project, casting other responsibilities aside, only to realize they won’t manage. A certified implementation partner’s knowledge and experience accrued over many years will facilitate a smooth implementation and the highest return on your investment.
It is also advisable to have a Salesforce implementation project manager in place. This PM will own the process and guide the project to successful completion.
Each change you make to the complex Salesforce system can cause unpredictable consequences which might break it and that you might be unable to roll back. As it’s impossible to foresee everything, it’s advisable to test your customizations in a sandbox environment. A Sandbox is an identical copy of your production environment that can be used to understand how different features and objects are interlinked. It allows making desired changes without affecting your live system or a single user.
There are four sandbox options in Salesforce:
They are intended for different goals, testing conditions, and project stages before deployment. Once you have your Sandboxes ready, you can start with the execution of your planned Salesforce customization.
Some customization vendors might tell you they can customize your Salesforce solution beyond recognition, changing practically every platform element to satisfy your every whim. However, getting carried away with customizations is a bad idea because:
To avoid such mistakes, we may give the following advice:
Without any “official” Salesforce naming conventions in place, developers may use their own style or structure. For better communication with fellow admins and developers, it is recommended to use simple, concise, and structured naming conventions combined with detailed descriptions.
There are three keys to creating a good naming convention for your Salesforce solution:
Many Salesforce features have an area where devs can describe the meaning behind the customization. Make sure to add details about each component to help other developers understand each customization and prevent them from duplicating or changing customization when they shouldn’t.
There is also a space for logging all updates or customizations performed to that feature, making it easier to figure out what changes may impact another area you are working on.
Test rigorously and often before finally deploying the customization from the sandboxes. Testing may include various processes to ensure your new functionality works in every situation, even if users utilize it in a way it wasn’t designed for.
Each new customization adds to Salesforce’s already challenging complexity. Before deploying the new features or custom Salesforce app, you must ensure the end-users are ready for them.
Once the development is completed, start preparing the end-users to use the newly implemented Salesforce features. You can use sandboxes to train them without affecting the data within your main production environment. Occasionally, Salesforce customization vendors offer personnel training to help familiarize them with Salesforce, or you may need to invest in a Digital Adoption Platform that provides real-time training within Salesforce.
Many Salesforce features and fields, such as validation rules or Apex, can display help text. These messages can inform users if they’re doing something wrong or direct them on how to best use new customization. It’s worthwhile to provide help texts to ease the usage of Salesforce and ensure its use for the intended purpose.
Also, organize ongoing support through user guidelines or requests to the admin in case your employees need information and help at the adoption stage.
We hope that the above chapters have convinced you that an experienced Salesforce software developer is indispensable to your business. Here’s why it’s worthwhile to customize Salesforce with Onix:
These are a few advantages that nurture successful cooperations and partnerships over Salesforce systems.
For example, Onix has recently developed another custom Salesforce healthcare application for the same American client who already used Salesforce to manage processes in the medical center. They approached Onix with a request to help the support staff to register requests from doctors according to the types of these requests. Formerly, an employee had to open a specific form to fill out for each request.
Since Salesforce doesn’t provide this functionality by default, Onix had to develop:
Onix’s specialist completed all three tasks in two months.
Suppose your business is not getting full value from your Salesforce CRM, or you need to adapt it to suit your changing needs. In that case, both configuration and customization can offer a solution. However, while Salesforce configuration is limited to point-and-click setup, customization and custom app development empower entities to perform virtually any task they have in mind.
To customize Salesforce right, you need to:
If you cannot carry out a customization project all on your own, you can reach out to 1,000+ certified Salesforce consulting partners providing various services to ensure complete CRM adoption.
Are you looking for custom Salesforce development services? You’re in the right place! Onix offers Salesforce customization services and experienced specialists that can make Salesforce solutions work harder for your business.