There is a saying in audio recording which has become a bit of a cliched pun:
“We’ll fix it in the mix.”
If anyone has ever spent time in a recording studio you have probably heard this. The advent of digital music production has made it much easier to fix mistakes during the mixing/editing process, making it arguable to skip another take and “fix it in the mix”. As a musical hobbyist, I have been part of several late night sessions where that term was thrown around jokingly for mistakes that clearly should be corrected through another take versus trying to edit them later. And after the chuckling subsides, we drag ourselves out of the control room, pick up our respective instruments and have at it one more time…
As I am sure every industry has its own similar term to reference work that is pushed off later that should probably be addressed now, there is a common saying I hear on software projects:
“It’s a training issue.”
This saying often refers to usability issues that are reported as Change Requests. For various reasons these Change Requests are not addressed as software changes but instead “Training Points” for the users to modify their behavior. The negative slant is this implies it’s OK to ask a user to change their behavior, rather than change the software to meet their “needs”.
While this thinking holds merit when custom developing an application, I disagree in terms of a customizable multi-tenant software like salesforce.com that is leveraged by the masses. Let’s look at the Microsoft Office suite of products. MS Office changed the way business works. And it didn’t do it by providing a unique experience for every type of industry and client. It dictated a set of best practices (right or wrong) that can be leveraged across the globe regardless of industry or department. While new features may not have always been intuitive, businesses realized there is a significant cost savings to not creating their own version of a word processor or spreadsheet application, or presentation maker. Rather, they should make the investment to learn how to leverage one that was created for the masses. One could argue that organizations often bettered their processes due to pre-designed functionality that was available to them that they may have not considered applicable to their work or industry.
The difference between Salesforce.com and Microsoft Office is that Office is a product, while Salesforce is a platform with product offerings. In addition to marketing, salesforce automation and customer service and support, the platform can be leveraged to apply a rich set of features and functionality to other areas of the business (recruiting, employee development, operations, etc…). You can custom configure and even custom develop on the platform to create unique applications.
One of the areas we work with clients is helping them navigate the myriad of choices they have when designing applications on this platform. When is it ok to “customize” and when should one leverage what is already available but only requires simple configuration? Here is where the rubber meets the road. Working on this platform, I have seen many clients realize the benefits of modifying their process or behaviors for enhanced visibility, streamlined work streams, or improved collaboration. Salesforce’s native page layout editor often accelerates design decision making, creates a repeatable, familiar interface, and introduces visual tools that may not have been utilized before and would not have been requested by the client. While change can be painful, the benefits can often outweigh the investments.
For this reason, businesses should always make sure they are making the proper investment in Training and organizational Change Management. Regardless of the size of your organization, Training and Change Management can consume a significant portion of any software budget, and that percentage only increases on a platform that reduces the amount of development time needed.
So next time you hear “it’s a training issue” on your salesforce.com project, try not to immediately cringe, chuckle or push back. It may very well be an opportunity to improve…and an appropriate time to “fix it in the mix.”