We work with a lot of small businesses here in the Dallas area that have chosen Salesforce to help them manage some key part of their business. For many, moving into Saleforce.com is their first endeavor into a CRM and a trap that I see often is the client trying to do too much on day one. They want to turn on some high-end features or build some extensive customizations before they have a solid foundation in place. Yes those "amazing" demos from Dreamforce have a lot of sizzle and a strong allure, but they won’t add much value if you’re plagued with configuration issues and suffering from poor user adoption. You’re mantra when starting out should be to get effective first before getting fancy.
A good foundation is built on a well thought out data model, a configuration with usability and reporting in mind, great end-user training, and a commitment from leadership to manage their teams using the tool. Sounds easy, but execution is always tough. To help your odds of success, companies should work with their implementation partner to outline the "must haves" and "nice to haves" for the project and see if it should be broken up into phases.
For example, a company might start off moving their sales group into Salesforce first and growing organically from there. Sales is the most targeted group to have in Salesforce first as they generate revenue and can quickly provide the company a return on their CRM investment. A solid implementation tactic is to get a quick "win" in place with a single department first, so the project doesn’t stall, and grow from there. After sales, marketing and customer service are logical followers since both can take advantage of a common customer database established by sales.
Another pitfall that I see often working with clients is the desire to track everything under the sun inside Salesforce.com. For those that know me, they’ve heard me preach this before – just because you can put it in Salesforce doesn’t mean you should. I cringe when I see a page layout with more than 25 fields on an initial implementation because I know it’s asking a lot for a new Salesforce user to maintain that much information. My advice is to start out with the bare minimum fields that have the highest value to the organization. Try to adopt a "less is more" philosophy – as if your page layout is valuable real estate on an ecommerce website. The result will be better data quality and user adoption.
When does a company know that they are ready to start getting "fancy" and start layering on more functionality and business processes? If they have established a beach head based on adoption at both the end-user and management level then they’re ready. Some tell tale signs are when users are managing their day using Salesforce, logging activities and tracking their individual performance using dashboards. I love to see sales leadership running their meetings with their teams using analytics. It sends a clear message to users that management is holding them accountable to their work in Salesforce, and if they want to be recognized they need to get on board and their information in the CRM. When management’s conversations become more analytical based on data in Salesforce rather than anecdotal, you know the tool has been integrated into the organization.