How to manage change and Salesforce user adoption with force4change

In Salesforce experts by Ben DuncombeLeave a Comment


Talent Hub have found that one of the major challenges our clients are facing is how to tackle change management to maximise user adoption. We spoke to change management expert and Managing Director of force4change, Jane Pattinson to hear her thoughts on why user adoption was such a major issue and how companies should address change management.

Tell us about your background and how Force4change came about?

Prior to Change Management I was mainly in technology roles from Programme Director down to starting my career as an Application Developer.

I got into change management when someone handed me John Kotter’s book called Leading Change. I found that a lot of the work I had already been doing was helping companies rapidly solve critical issues to be successful and realised that this had been a change facilitation piece. I realised then that it was really worth looking at the people side of change to see if we could help organisations innovate and achieve more success with change, Change Management then became a bit of a love affair for me.

I did my Masters as part of an MBA programme at MGSM. And this inspired me to focus back on innovation, how I could apply innovation to change management and that’s how Force4change came about.

I have always been an evangelist for cloud and also Salesforce. From a change perspective we saw a gap in the market as Salesforce adoption was low and people were challenged by change management. Seeing the enormous potential for organisations to transform their businesses we were and still are excited about how having effective change management can have dramatic effects on organisations in terms of transformation.

Why do you feel Salesforce user adoption is still such a big issue and what are the biggest mistakes companies are making?

Fundamentally adoption is low because it gets a bit overlooked and under invested. Companies are used to thinking about the technology side and they will engage a technology partner to implement a solution but often don’t get around to the people side of the change or it is not seen as something that needs to be addressed.  If you think about how benefits are achieved though its not just the implementation of fantastic technology it’s the combination of your people learning knew skills and behaviours, enabled by great tools and well designed processes, by not addressing it you are risking not achieving the benefits, which doesn’t need to be the case.

If it’s a CRM implementation it has always been treated as a system that we record data in. Getting people to record data is a real challenge and unless there is a clear benefit to them and they can use the data to improve how they do things then why would they do it? Salesforce has changed significantly particularly in recent years and organisations can implement intelligent systems that don’t require users to be entering in data nearly as much instead data entry is automated, intelligent and fit for purpose so users can use it powerfully without having to spend time entering data.

Other changes by Salesforce include the lightening UI that enables a fantastic user experience, adoption manager to reinforce and encourage best practice along with intelligence like SalesforceIQ.

SalesforceIQ for sales teams is a must have and a real adoption booster, it takes the pain out of CRM and puts the fun back into it.

Other major reasons for low adoption are people not understanding how they can use the system to their benefit, the system hasn’t been rolled out properly, the users lack support or training, or the system has been poorly designed. Quite often there are way too many fields, there is a poor user experience or the system is clunky. All of these things will hamper adoption.

If business decisions aren’t based on Salesforce data as a result of the reporting not being correct or implemented well, then again this will cause low adoption. There are numerous pitfalls that organisations encounter in terms of adoption and that is why you need a plan to achieve successful adoption that is simple and easy for your organisation to execute.

Many times it is not rocket science or requires a lot of effort and the benefits of giving it some thought and gaining support from Salesforce change management specialists is well worth it.

At what stage of a Salesforce project/implementation do you feel Change Management should be addressed?

Ideally as early as possible, but that’s not always feasible so we have learnt to be very agile, use design thinking and use digital technologies to provide rapid and highly effective approaches, being flexible so that we can help organisations at any stage. If you can start thinking and planning early this can give some confidence to your leaders & teams about how they can achieve success and provides everyone with a plan and a way of participating.

We have gone into companies just before UAT and helped to develop a learning solution and that a change approach and that has been really successful.

In your experience how vital is it that user adoption takes place straight away?

If the system is live then there is an element of rework which is a challenge as there can be additional costs. If you have low adoption then you are having to rework something to fix the issues. That could be because the training didn’t go well or maybe the design wasn’t right, so you now have to re do something in an environment where momentum has been reduced, so it is great if you can avoid this in the first place.

You can always provide more support and encouragement for users to improve adoption at any time and it will definitely boost adoption as long as its done effectively and the systems are designed well and the environment is supportive.

Users are generally very willing to see things improve. We do a change assessment piece where we go out and interview a broad group of stakeholders, as well as facilitate and understand the challenges and bring everyone together to develop and implement a plan to improve adoption. This is very successful and helps organisations to turn a corner and begin to ramp up adoption and utilisation.

What advice do you have for companies who are mature with Salesforce but are still struggling with user adoption?

Number one I would say don’t give up. I think it’s really easy for leaders to put CRM on the back burner because they have struggled with it. They put it in the too hard basket and then it gets very little commitment. CRM is so critical to businesses so although putting it in the too hard basket is the easiest thing to do, it is much better to commit to changing and improving.

A lot of the adoption challenges can be changed more rapidly than ever before. If you aren’t getting the value now then you really can turn that around quickly with technology and support from experienced specialists.

You really need to be clear with the strategy for Salesforce and get commitment to that strategy. You don’t need to bite off too much. You can break down how you solve some of the adoption challenges and what business benefits you can get from improving adoption. If you can really focus on those then you just need to prioritise them. Another opportunity is to align Salesforce to current business challenges and priorities by asking how you can solve your key business challenges with Salesforce.

What governance do you recommend to ensure user adoption levels are high?

If your Salesforce implementation is successful then it can become a beast of burden where everyone wants everything possible and you can’t supply it quick enough. Then you try to facilitate all of these different stakeholders and the solution becomes clunky.

Many of the CRM teams I see don’t have the resources or skills they need so they can’t plan effectively. The first thing I would do is get a team of business people together and create champions for Salesforce that can go and make decision about what is needed. Companies should assess their CRM team capabilities, have you got the right skills in the team and then in addition to that, look at your governance from a release and change perspective and implement a clear roadmap.

A roadmap doesn’t have to be complex. It can be fairly lightweight and even having a backlog and a sprint plan would be good to implement. We do a roadmap engagement with clients who don’t know what they want or what they need to do and we go in and implement an overarching plan. This can be difficult for a CRM team on the ground to get the stakeholders together to facilitate these planning sessions so we find many clients get real value from this kind of engagement with us.

Establishing light weight governance around change releases is good to do, if you can create a working group to sign off or provide the requirements and then can be involved in testing and supporting these changes being implemented a long with a lite weight change governance approach this may be the best place to start.  Having a system owner is a step for governance as well or change board if there are multiple owners to ensure accountability for the performance and quality of systems, it doesn’t have to be extensive, it could be system owners meeting regularly and assessing progress and changes is good to do.

How do you recommend measuring user adoption?

I would measure user adoption in terms of the benefits you are looking to achieve and or sustain.  For example some questions to ask in preparing metrics are:

Are your top accounts up to date, is Salesforce being used to actively manage key or top accounts?

What reports are being used and how is this helping with business decisions or customer tasks?

How consistently are systems or processes being used?

What is the level of competency / skill in Salesforce of users, managers, CRM team? as well as adoption stats such as setting activity benchmarks for salesforce.

For Sales it could be how many reps have an up to date pipeline, that are actively using it for customer tasks and their level of satisfaction with the system.

For marketing it could be increase in number of leads and lead conversions to level of follow up with prospects after marketing campaigns or events.

Create 5-10 key metrics and create a couple of reports and schedule these to email managers and team leads weekly and or even tips and benchmarks for individual users to help them manage / improve adoption themselves.

The best thing a manager can do is use the system themselves and provide feedback/set expectations with teams around usage.

Where have you seen great user adoption and what did the company do so well?

There are a number of factors which make organisations successful with Salesforce. We often go in to companies that have 0-20% adoption as a starting point and we get them up over 80% and often 100%.

One organisation turned things around when their CEO commented on a report on chatter and it was like a spark that lit the whole community. It became a bit of a competition between different business units to get the most out of Salesforce. That goes to show how important it is for leaders to be on board with the system and the impact that can have.

Leaders using the system again are key, that’s the best thing you can do as a leader, getting in front of your people with your Salesforce report. Companies that have this type of leadership tend to have good adoption.

Organisations that work hard to keep it simple are more often successful.  They know a great user experience is important, we see a lot of systems that have been over engineered and have become cumbersome and much less effective, organisations that work really hard to make the user experience as simple as possible and put a lot of thought into making it a great user experience and fit for purpose, achieve great results. You can do that without a lot of effort and this is quite often the case, but if it requires a bit more development to make it intuitive and effective

I think education is a factor in success also, if you can educate teams about the possibilities and the way forward, develop consensus around a roadmap of changes this can empower teams to take ownership and drive the changes themselves. Salesforce is a great platform for this, as there are many events and resources available but I would also foster leaders and champions to continually educate the organisation about what’s possible as well.

Being clear about what you are trying to achieve, plan to achieve it and celebrate achievements, this is the key winning formula. Being clear about the business outcomes you are looking for helps everyone be aligned and work for that and ensures you realise the right benefits. Planning to achieve it – means you are thinking about all those things that embed the change successfully and make it a smooth transition.

Also quite often organisations don’t celebrate the small wins or the bigger ones and therefore it reduces momentum as the organisation doesn’t know if its there yet, it’s the kids in the back of the car scenario. Celebrating your achievements and progress along the way helps build momentum and feeds into that education piece about what’s possible.

Don’t stop changing! It is hard for organisations to change their mindset from implementing large scale projects that because of the technology meant there was minimal change after a certain time. However organisations that implement changes incrementally and continuously really achieve the benefits from Salesforce.

What has been the worst impact from bad adoption?

Salesforce is an amazing platform that can enable so many things so this is a broad question. CRM is so critical for businesses nowadays and if you have adoption challenges and are not utilizing systems to have effective CRM capabilities then you may be putting pressure on your businesses sustainability. It really is that critical and I am not sure that some companies are aware of this.

Companies really need to be agile to compete and need to leverage technology to do this as understanding their customers and the insights they have is key to adapting to market changes. Exceptional customer experience and service or product design are all enabled by leveraging technology effectively and therefore adoption can be crucial for an organisation now, the near future and long term.

In your experience who are the key team members who can impact user adoption?

Leaders most definitely, commitment from leaders and definitely a high degree of alignment at the senior leadership level is pretty key to success, this is the first place to start in terms of improving adoption, develop a vision, commitment and alignment for a Salesforce project. The people that are managing teams as well are also just as important, they need to have appetite and be able to support their teams to use Salesforce effectively.

Salesforce platform owners, managers and or Salesforce administrators are also very important, you definitely need someone to own the systems and be accountable for them.  You also need to have people particularly in the system administration role who are always learning and are very keen to develop their skills and apply them. They need to be willing to try out new things and are always thinking of what’s around the corner that can help their business.

In terms of champions – we find that you only really need 2 or 3 well placed Salesforce champions in the business to really impact user adoption and to flick the switch on, on top of your Salesforce Admin’s etc.

The challenge is finding these champions within the business, ensuring they are aligned and working as a force effectively and this is something Force4change often help companies to build and coach.

Change doesn’t happen when you implement a new tool, change happens when people do things differently so the more advocates you create within the company then the more likely the change will be positive.

What would be your biggest tips to a company looking to implement a change management strategy for a Salesforce implementation?

I would say it requires change management specialists with Salesforce experience, if you are looking to get expertise or assistance. Training is not sufficient generally but often this is all that is implemented and only addresses system knowledge with minimal process / business context or expectations defined, so it is good to plan the other aspects of change management, coaching and development for the organisation that may be required.

Assess where you are currently at and then develop a roadmap. As part of that roadmap you need to address the people and the adoption side.  We run a 1-2 day engagement workshop that can help teams understand what is needed from a change management, training and coaching perspective whether it’s a digital or marketing transformation, customer service, service design to core CRM implementation.

The opportunity to transform your business with Salesforce is now.


To find out more about Jane and force4change please visit –


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