From the trenches: Salesforce user adoption tips and tactics

Building ChangesWe are pleased to have Nicholas Merriam share his user adoption tips for a Salesforce implementation he oversaw while at Building Changes in 2011. Now Operations Director for Vittana, Nicholas is using some of these same techniques at his new organization.

The Challenge
Prior to implementing a centralized database, Building Changes used five databases and numerous spreadsheets to track information for different aspects of the business. The result was inconsistent data across the organization, excessive staff time used to enter data in two and sometimes three different systems, and ultimately a cumbersome system that was not easy to find or extract data from. Additionally, the fast-paced nature of work in the organization with unduplicated jobs created additional challenges to data management.

The Plan
The primary implementation team consisted of three members from different parts of the organization and included a designated project manager. Team members were provided with dedicated time to manage the implementation and were committed to being responsive to staff needs and building an outstanding CRM for the organization. Adoption was a constant topic of conversation within the team. The overarching themes for developing adoption tactics were: 1) build a system that improves staff work processes; 2) demonstrate value to all staff members; and 3) gain buy-in from the top down and bottom up.

To help organize the adoption strategy, tactics have been categorized by varying levels:

Organization-Level Adoption Tactics
1. Start with Executive Buy-In: the idea for developing a CRM started at the executive level and has been aided by their supportive and advocating voice throughout the process.
2. Bring Staff Along: monthly staff meetings prior to implementation included a 10 minute progress update and stories on how the Salesforce CRM would improve and simplify work in the organization.
3. Make it Fun: one example of engaging all staff included a secret countdown to the launch of Phase I. The countdown numbers were posted on a public wall with no signage identifying their purpose. Clues were sent to staff to encourage them to guess what the numbers meant. The first to guess it correctly won a prize. Contests and prizes continue to be used throughout the implementation phases.
4. Create Team Member Buy-In: Building Changes underwent a thorough analysis of current systems prior to implementation. Engaging management and team members in identifying existing shortcomings helped to build the shared vision for the new Salesforce CRM.
5. Build Informal Learning Space: immediately following the launch, the implementation team organized several informal ‘brown-bag’ meetings where staff could get questions answered.

Team-Level Adoption Tactics
1. Make it Relevant: the system was designed and built to address some of the biggest challenges different teams faced in data management.
2. Tailor Demonstrations: short presentations were made at team meetings to demonstrate the value they could derive from the CRM.

Individual-Level Adoption Tactics
1. Target Trainings: all staff attended trainings on the CRM, which were tailored to their user profile.
2. Engage Early Adopters: early adopters were identified and given high visibility space to share their experience and the value they got from the CRM.
3. Reward Use: at staff meetings and other gatherings, staff that interacted with the CRM recently were acknowledged and rewarded for their use.
4. Document: staff was provided with comprehensive documentation that detailed functionality and standard processes for entering information.
5. Respond Quickly: the implementation team has been quick to respond to the needs and questions posed by staff members, increasing the ability of individuals to use the system effectively.

About Building Changes
Building Changes is a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that works with government entities, private philanthropy, and community- based service organizations to ensure that housing and vital public services are available to people experiencing homelessness in Washington State. They foster collaborative partnerships and harness innovative, evidence-based strategies to collectively address barriers to housing stability and reduce homelessness. Building Changes has a staff of about 27 FTEs and an operating budget of about $4 million.