There comes a moment in each Salesforce owner’s life when they feel it’s time to modify the solution to better meet the evolved needs. Fortunately, Salesforce is a platform that can be modified in many ways, and the most popular and effective one is customization. Using development tools like Visualforce, Lightning, Apex, and more, Salesforce users can fine-tune the platform to their individual needs or even develop their own apps to perform any task they have in mind.
Let’s talk about the main difference between customization and configuration first and then outline six major stages of a typical project focused on Salesforce customization.
To configure or to customize?
Salesforce can be tailored in two ways, by means of either configuration or customization. The choice will determine how you shape your project team.
If you go down the configuration path, you can use point-and-click tools instead of programming ones. Therefore, your Salesforce admin can manage the whole configuration process.
Here are several examples of Salesforce configuration:
- Adding objects and/or fields
- Adding tabs and/or apps
- Creating profiles
- Creating workflows
- Setting validation rules
On the other hand, when you customize the platform, you’ll have to use development tools to bring your ideas to life.
The examples of Salesforce customizations are:
- Creating Apex classes and triggers
- Integrating third-party systems
- Changing UI using CSS
When tailoring a Salesforce solution to your needs, you will likely need both options. We recommend starting with configuration to understand how much you can do with minimal effort and human resources. And as you get more comfortable with modifying Salesforce and better understand what you want, you can shift to code-based customization.
Salesforce customization roadmap
1. Interview End Users About Their Needs
The ultimate goal of Salesforce customization is to make it convenient and easy to use for your end users—those who drive your revenue. Therefore, ask your employees, especially your power users who are well aware of the business processes of a particular department, about their experience with Salesforce, including:
- Their challenges
- Features they consider useful but currently lack
- Features that are currently useless
Proceeding from employee feedback, you can draw up a list of necessary Salesforce improvements and work out which of them can be achieved through customization.
2. Decide on the Customization Team
Here you have several options depending on available resources and time.
- Hire certified Salesforce consultants
Third-party consultants are a viable choice when you have limited time for scaling and upgrading. You can find consultants with suitable expertise for your project scope. The best part is you get to work with a team of professionals who have customized Salesforce previously and know how to avoid the pitfalls.
- Build an in-house development team
If you have available Salesforce expertise at hand or just prefer to keep everything in-house, your own team is a good option.
- Have your team collaborate with consultants.
If your own development team has no experience with Salesforce, consider bringing in external Salesforce consultants, at least for estimating the initial customization scope.
3. Prioritize Features to Customize
To achieve your project goals through Salesforce customization and meet the allocated budget without overspending considerably, you need to break your planned custom features into groups by their priority.
First, there are must-haves and nice-to-haves. To draw the line between them, ask a few questions:
- If this feature is so critical, how have users been doing without it?
If the work wasn’t disrupted by the absence of the feature, then it’s obviously a nice-to-have. If the work is time-consuming or unproductive without the feature, then it’s a must-have.
- How will the planned change impact our business?
Think of the potential ROI in case the feature is implemented, for example, how much time and money will be saved.
Once you set your priorities, decide on what to configure and what to customize. Configuration does not require coding, so it can be accomplished faster without a development team. When your configuration options are exhausted, forward the rest of the planned changes to your developing team or customization partner.
4. Use a Sandbox Prior to Deployment
Each change you make to a complex system can cause an array of unpredictable consequences that cannot always be rolled back. To avoid disrupting the system’s operation, you need to understand how different objects and features are linked. As it’s not always possible to foresee every small detail, it’s much safer to test your customizations in a sandbox environment and it won’t affect your live system in any way.
5. Avoid over-customization
Companies that set out to customize their Salesforce platforms often fall victim to over-customization. They want to make their systems as functional as possible and, despite the soaring costs, try to improve as many features as possible. As a result, they get cumbersome systems with redundant features and poor adoption.
To avoid this unfortunate situation, plan your customization with the finish line in mind, and deliver critical system changes one by one, not all at once. Also, deliver changes incrementally to let end users get accustomed to the modified workflows.
6. Provide training for end users
As end users are the ones to leverage the system in their daily work, you need to make sure they are savvy with the updated system.
Let your end users get ready for the deployment and use different types of sandboxes to train them. This way, when the changes go live, they will know how to use the upgraded system from the get-go.
Additionally, arrange for ongoing support from Salesforce or third-party providers in case your users need assistance.
Salesforce customization is a common step in the implementation process. In fact, Salesforce is designed to be customized, as it has so much to offer for each of its users’ unique needs.
To get your customization right, you need to pinpoint the major problems that can be solved with it, ask your employees what they lack in the system, prioritize custom features budget- and effort-wise, and go live with prior sandbox testing while training your employees to use the customizations.