Manufacturing isn’t exactly an industry defined by change. Many manufacturers and related companies (resellers, distributors, etc.) have been around for decades, and with relatively low turnover in the space, some top employees have been with their companies for decades, too.
In most cases, this is a good thing. Your manufacturing firm shouldn’t run on a “fail faster” philosophy. Quality and safety will always trump innovation on the assembly line, after all, and your business relies on tried and true distribution channels. Rapid, haphazard change could prove more dangerous than helpful.
That being said, when it comes to business technology, these trends can work against manufacturers. As we’ve described in another blog, business technology platforms like Salesforce have the power to transform manufacturing for the betterment of companies, their employees and their customers alike. But a successful Salesforce implementation usually requires full organizational alignment around the platform, which some manufacturers struggle to achieve.
Solutions to this problem exist. We’ve worked with countless manufacturing firms to help them achieve results on Salesforce. Along the way, we’ve learned these 5 best practices that can help companies in this space navigate the issues associated with a digital transformation:
5 Change Management Best Practices for Manufacturing Firms Choosing Salesforce
1. Take the “option” out of “adoption.”
Many times, we’ve seen manufacturers struggle with Salesforce adoption due to resistance from long-tenured employees who are used to the current way of doing business. They could be anywhere in the company, from individual sales reps to the highest levels, but we’ve seen that the biggest threat to adoption occurs when managers, VPs and above discount the platform or even just passively accept it. They might think that Salesforce doesn’t affect them, that it’s just for frontline employees or it’s “somebody else’s problem.”
But, in these cases, we’ve found non-adoption to be contagious, especially because leadership is important to adoption. Once it’s clear that the VP of Team A doesn’t care about Salesforce, his employees won’t see the need to use it. Then, Team B will start questioning the platform because they know that Team A isn’t on it. At that point, you’ve got a full-scale issue on your hands.
Instead, you need to plant a flag at the very beginning: Using Salesforce isn’t just optional. Everyone in the company needs to be aligned around the vision for the platform. No one can be exempt. So, we recommend identifying all naysayers as quickly as possible and speaking to them about their concerns personally. Show them how the platform will make their specific lives easier. For management, offer them dashboards containing metrics they care about; for end-users, highlight productivity and mobile features that will save them time.
2. Make your back-office staff front and center.
One oft-neglected area of the business that can have a big impact on adoption is your back-office staff: Finance, IT, Order Processing. It’s essential for all of them to buy in to the vision for Salesforce because, if they don’t, their resistance could directly impact the efficiency of the platform and your internal processes.
And generating buy-in can be toughest here because Salesforce will change their roles more than others’. They’re likely comfortable with the legacy system Salesforce is replacing and might even view Salesforce as a threat to their jobs (especially if they hear how the platform will help “save time” and “cut costs”).
Proper communication is crucial here, too. Point them to resources like Trailhead that will help them pick up the new platform. Show them that Salesforce will save them time, and remind them of all the additional initiatives they could be spending their time on instead of unnecessary legwork. Framing the conversation around ease of use and an expanded role will get them comfortable with — and perhaps even excited for — the impending change.
3. Don’t strand your pilot program on an island.
A similar point applies to pilot programs. Though we generally recommend starting small with Salesforce, small-scale rollouts run the risk of failure when the broader organization views Salesforce as a team-specific initiative. In those cases, the team trying out the platform often can’t get the resources they need to ensure tech success, whether it’s IT help or just input from other groups to ensure operational alignment.
If you choose a pilot approach, the key is once again to communicate the overarching vision for Salesforce to the whole organization. Identify managers whose support the implementation team will need, and give them the time and direction to provide the necessary input. Even if they’re not using Salesforce right now, that doesn’t mean the success of the platform isn’t their concern.
4. Align every team around the change in process.
In some manufacturing firms, it can be challenging to get every team aligned. Depending on how mature the business is, you might have siloed teams with their own long-standing practices. But as we’ve mentioned before, Salesforce relies on structured business processes, and it’s most impactful as a shared, cross-team tool.
So a successful Salesforce implementation will involve a good deal of back-and-forth. Not only to define the new structured, cross-functional processes that the tool will run on, but also to iterate on this process with every affected team to generate buy-in and ensure everyone will follow it. Without this effort, teams may revert to the old way of doing things as soon as they get the chance.
5. Dedicate resources to Salesforce; don’t just add responsibilities.
You’ve probably noticed that points 1 through 4 require a lot of time. These change management best practices involve a lot of communication and iterative changes to make sure that the resulting technology and processes work for all teams. And, though we recommend working with a Salesforce consulting firm during any major project, some of this effort will still fall on internal resources. Your project manager will need to spearhead the communication between different team members, schedule meetings and calm fears. Meanwhile, you’ll need an admin to learn the platform as your implementation partner builds it to make sure your business can stay flexibility with Salesforce.
Many manufacturers make the mistake of underestimating the time commitment Salesforce requires, from both a project management and admin perspective. They might just add these duties to existing employees with already-full plates. And then, mid-project, they discover that their resources don’t have the time to offer the fledgling platform the support it needs. At the end of the day, your PM and admin should have at least 20 hours a week dedicated to Salesforce as you’re getting started. Any less could have a lasting detrimental impact on your chances of implementation success.
Technology change management is tricky for any manufacturing firm. From long-standing existing processes to the importance of safety and quality, many organizational realities make it difficult to drive lasting change across departments. So, the goal is to push positive communication that generates buy-in around the new platform. That will minimize its perceived threat to your employees and get them excited about the change in technology.
Looking for more Salesforce strategy best practices? Check out our eBook on how your Salesforce strategy could be hurting user productivity for tips, best practices and real-life examples.