Quick Guide: The 3 Main Categories of Salesforce Customization

CRM, Salesforce, Software Development January 21, 2016

As incredible as Salesforce is, the off-the-shelf version is nothing compared to the power of Salesforce once you customize it to better serve your business and your sales team. Use this quick guide to the 4 main categories of salesforce customization to help you better understand what your customizing options are – and where to look when something you tried isn’t working.

Lego_Guy_JugglingWhether you customize it yourself or hire a company to do the Salesforce customization development for you, you can really bend Salesforce to your will. Do things like create process automation to reduce data entry for your users, create validation logic to enhance and protect the integrity of your data, or even migrate legacy Excel- or Access-driven business processes into the cloud. And that’s just a handful of the things you can automate through Salesforce customization.

While your goals and the type of business you have will determine the right customizations for you, the first step is determining what level of customization you’ll need. All Salesforce customization falls into one of three categories: configuration (or declarative), integration (data), and custom code.

Knowing when to customize

Salesforce can be difficult to implement partly because of all the options that are available. It’s easy to get lost in all the choices when you’re setting up Salesforce and when you’re using it. Although the possibilities for customization seem endless, over-customization can sometimes be worse than no customization. Here are some signs that you might need to rethink your Salesforce customization.

Your team doesn’t seem to be adopting the platform.
Perhaps they aren’t using it at all. This could be a sign that your Salesforce was not configured to meet the needs of your business or was not implemented by a Salesforce implementation partner. Getting your team to use Salesforce is your first, most important step. Teams not being onboarded properly or not using the program consistently is a major factor in determining a company’s ROI with Salesforce.

Reporting is cumbersome.
Are you having a hard time finding the right data within the Salesforce platform? Not being able finding the right data is usually a sign of:

  1. A bad data model
  2. A lack of understanding by the users (i.e., not enough or not the right training)
  3. Missing data in Salesforce

If #3 seems to be the case and data is missing, then perhaps there’s another enterprise application that needs to communicate with Salesforce. In this case, you’ll need to customize your Salesforce to integrate with that data.

Your business processes don’t seem to work within the system.
Do you feel like you’ve got to reinvent your processes just to make Salesforce work? Salesforce should work with your processes, not against them. That’s a sign that customization is necessary to get Salesforce to work with your processes.

The information you need the most is not available at a glance.
This could be a sign that you need to look into customization so your dashboard displays important information at a glance.

Once you’ve determined if there are areas where customization could improve any of these pain points, it’s time to see what categories the needed customizations fall under.

Declarative

The first step is to look at how you have Salesforce currently implemented. There are two main ways to customize how Salesforce looks and responds to users: declarative work and custom code.

Declarative work refers to setting up and using Salesforce’s native functionality or declarative development features. In other words, clicking the right boxes to turn features on and off within the program. Always think “clicks not code” first, since Salesforce configuration requires zero programming. Declarative work doesn’t just influence your Salesforce dashboards. It also helps configure all your back-end system resources. However, it can be fairly complex. Figuring out how to adjust Salesforce’s native settings properly and most efficiently is one of those easy-to-learn-hard-to-master things.

Integration

You likely had other enterprise applications in place to help you manage various aspects of your business before implementing Salesforce. Rather than having a disjointed process that forces your team to re-enter data, you can integrate Salesforce with those applications so data flows from one program to the other and your workflow doesn’t suffer.

Many major enterprise applications offer integration apps for Salesforce. You can also check out the Salesforce AppExchange for a list of apps that can be installed with Salesforce. There are currently 2,932 apps that are either paid or free. App categories include:

  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • IT & Administration
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Collaboration

Custom Code

When you’ve exhausted your declarative options and still need more from Salesforce, then it’s time to look at your custom code options. Custom code involves coding new modules within the Salesforce framework. These modules can be used for business logic, front-end components, or both. Using APEX (the Salesforce coding language), you can create custom dashboards and custom functions within Salesforce, such as automatically updating fields, creating records, or performing calculations (to name a few).

When it comes to customization, you should tread lightly. Often, businesses will come up with laundry lists of customizations for Salesforce that aren’t necessary. The best practice is to customize Salesforce to meet the needs of your business. Proper pacing and rolling out enhancements with the right support (i.e., training) is the right approach. Too many features introduced all at once and too quickly can be overwhelming for your team and result in your team not using the CRM at all. This wastes the time and money it took to customize.

Salesforce is designed to make everything from CRM to analytics and business processes easier, more transparent, and trackable. If you’ve implemented Salesforce within your organization and feel as though you aren’t getting the return on investment you were hoping for, the solution may lie in targeted customization.

If you’re having trouble pinpointing exactly what you need, or what you’re trying isn’t working to your satisfaction, then contact a Salesforce expert who can help you set up your CRM through any of the means listed above.

Have questions about your Salesforce customization? Contact the RTS Labs team. We’re here to answer your questions.