Business process and technology. You really shouldn’t have one without the other because, when done right, they form a symbiotic relationship. Like bees and flowering plants. Or millennials and avocado toast.
In a previous post, we mentioned how CRMs like Salesforce rely on defined business processes. Here, we discuss the other half of the relationship, how a process-driven platform like Salesforce can help you improve your core business processes.
Of course, multiple methodologies support business process improvement, such as Six Sigma or Lean Management. Aligning your business processes on Salesforce doesn’t preclude you from using any of these methodologies or force you to follow a specific one. Regardless of how you go about it, Salesforce as a tool helps you drive business process improvement in these 7 ways:
7 Ways Salesforce Helps With Business Process Improvement
1. Salesforce can speed up processes.
Any time you replace a manual process step with an automated one, the overall process speeds up. As an example, let’s take a look at a fictional sales process: When a deal is ready to quote, the sales rep needs to write up the quote, send to engineering for approval and then send to the customer. Manually, this process could take weeks of emailing back and forth, wading through different versions of a Word document.
With Salesforce, though, these communications and actions can be automated through the system, saving the rep, engineering and the customer time. Saved time leads to more efficient process cycles for any team on Salesforce. Leads generate faster, deals close quicker and customer issues are solved with less effort. That translates to more revenue, lower costs and happier customers.
2. Salesforce can improve process accuracy.
This part may seem paradoxical because process speed and accuracy usually work against each other. You typically need to sacrifice one for the other. But Salesforce offers a rare opportunity to boost both.
Salesforce features like validation rules and approval processes allow you to ensure that your employees follow the correct protocols and collect the right data. Let’s take the example above: Your sales reps need engineering approval to send a quote to the customer, but with a manual process, they could try to railroad a quote through the most lenient engineer or just skip that step altogether. But with Salesforce, you can enforce when specific steps (like approvals) happen, specify who is involved and prevent the process from moving forward if these steps aren’t followed.
3. Salesforce increases process visibility.
When core business processes aren’t managed through a shared tool, too much information is stored in personal files. So it’s difficult for managers to know when people aren’t following the process until a mistake occurs and everyone starts pointing fingers.
A collaborative cloud platform like Salesforce, though, increases the visibility of all data and helps multiple employees and teams keep each other accountable when they share processes.
Example: Once an opportunity is won, it’s time to invoice the customer. If you give your finance team access to Salesforce, they can keep sales reps accountable for entering the information they need in the platform. They can even start working proactively to make sure reps are collecting billing details before the deal is won.
4. Salesforce lets you separate responsibilities and define handoffs.
Speaking of sharing work across multiple teams, manual processes are a recipe for duplicated or missed work. You could end up with your marketing and sales team both qualifying the same leads during the handoff. Or neither doing it.
Salesforce’s security settings, though, make it easy to define responsibilities and handoffs. If your sales team doesn’t have access to leads, then the marketing team knows that lead qualification falls squarely on their shoulders. Then the sales team understands that the ball is in their court once the lead becomes an opportunity. Salesforce lets them concentrate on their work by keeping them from reaching outside of their responsibilities.
5. Salesforce helps you measure KPIs to identify process improvements.
Once you’ve set up a process in Salesforce and ensured that everyone is following it, you can start reporting on it. We recommend tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) that define not only your overall level of success (lagging indicators) but also the metrics that help you drive that success along the way (leading indicators).
To stick with the sales process example, closed/won revenue is an excellent lagging indicator, but measuring it alone doesn’t tell you how to improve it. So tracking intermediary performance metrics, like opportunities created or customer calls made, can identify specific ways to improve processes or performance. Instead of framing the discussion around “selling more” (a vague and unhelpful directive), it can be around making more calls during the sales process or streamlining a specific part of that process.
6. Salesforce makes it easy to identify when you’re getting off track.
And once you have these KPIs set up, they help you identify issues in business performance that much faster. With the right leading indicators, you can spot potential dips as soon as they happen instead of waiting until they hit your lagging indicators.
Consider the sales process example again. If you don’t notice an issue until your revenue figures start declining, you’re in trouble. But seeing a dip in the number of opportunities created allows you to quickly respond to new changes, potentially before it impacts your revenue. When these dips occur, it may mean you need to adjust your process to new conditions. Or maybe a new threat has emerged that you must counteract. Whatever it is, find it quickly with Salesforce.
7. Salesforce can fill gaps in your process.
Finally, Salesforce and its ecosystem offer a vast array of enhancements that can fill potential gaps in your process. As an example, let’s say that you’re mapping out your marketing-to-sales process and you discover you don’t have anyone available to research leads to gather qualifying information. Instead of forcing others to do so, in addition to their current roles, you could find a data enrichment tool on the Salesforce AppExchange to gather the necessary data automatically. No need to make people stretch or hire a new employee just to plug one gap. In most cases, Salesforce can cover you.
Looking for more best practices to improve processes and productivity? Check out our ebook on Salesforce strategy, featuring some critical dos and don’ts.