Getting Started with a User Centered Design Approach in Salesforce


Every piece of technology we touch in our personal lives is geared to be used instantly.  Technology companies know that end users do not have the patience or willingness to take training classes to use apps on their phones/tablets or websites on their computers.  When it comes to implementing Salesforce, we spend a great deal of time on train-the-trainer sessions, end-user training sessions, communications planning and change management to end users.

This leads me to how we generally design Salesforce for our internal users.  Oftentimes, we look at user stories and design Salesforce in a way that it solves a problem and then aligns results to reporting.  This makes sense from a business perspective but doesn’t always include how to make this easy and intuitive. The great thing about Salesforce is that it can be implemented to align and support your business processes and enhanced in regular release cycles as things change.  With the amount of investment being made in purchasing Salesforce and customizations, why wouldn’t you design an intuitive and easy to use workflow?

For example, I was working with a colleague on an implementation where they split up a number of tasks between the activity and case objects.  These were legacy activities that had been done in one place previously.  When I asked why this had been done, I was told it made more sense from a workflow perspective in Salesforce.  What this situation did not take into account was the fact that the user would need to navigate to two different areas of Salesforce and then remember what was done where.  This is an unnecessary complication to the end user and will not drive user adoption.  Why is this important?  Because the more that Salesforce can be designed just like an app is designed for the general public you will have increased engagement, reduced training time and higher adoption.  

So how can you start to design Salesforce in a more user-centered design way to engage your users? Easy!  Here are a few steps for getting started:

1. Put Yourself in the Shoes of Your User  

An example of this is when I first took over administering an org at my old company, I went on sales calls with the different sales people in my organization.  It gave me a chance to have a one on one chat with them to see how they needed to use the data in Salesforce and how their day was structured.  Sales people generally do not have a lot of time to be documenting the system, so instead looking at how you meet a need/solve a problem, think about it from the salesperson’s perspective and use the least amount of clicks to accomplish a task. Sites like Salesforce’s Quotable help here, but are not a substitute for talking to your users!

2. Involve Your End Users

Are you actually talking to your end users and making them a part of the conversation when designing processes?  You want to ensure that your end users have ‘skin in the game’ as they will be more likely to embrace a change that they’ve been actively involved in the execution.  Seek to create change agents of your users by requesting their feedback.  Invite them to design sessions and conduct playbacks of what the page layouts for different objects look like, discuss possibilities and solicit suggestions to make navigating more intuitive for them.

3. Challenge the Status Quo Thinking

Just because something has always been done a certain way should not be the reason for bringing over legacy processes into Salesforce.  Use this opportunity to understand what the outcome of the process is to be and design it with the end in mind and thinking about the user journey.  A little bit of customization here and there can turn the grumpiest user into a satisfied one!

4. Process First, Technology Solution Second

Any true business transformation starts with the business challenge and works backwards to design a workflow to solve that business challenge.  Ensure that the technology solution underpins the process and solves for the business challenge instead of the other way around.  I see many clients bend their processes to fit the technology instead of actually redesigning the process and using technology to enable it.  Think with the end in mind and don’t forget the user along the way.  See tip #2 so that you don’t leave them behind!

These are four steps to get started on designing Salesforce in a more user-centered design approach and the benefits of doing so will yield higher adoption, simplified processes and training.  Even if Salesforce has already been implemented in your organization, these tips can be used in enhancing the user experience for your end users and driving engagement.  Also, try some of these Trailhead modules to get you started, App Customization, Salesforce1 Basics and Exploring New Sales Tools.

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