Consultants know how difficult it can be to provide accurate Salesforce estimates. Most Salesforce consultants will tell you the most common questions they come across are “how long will this project take?” and “how much is this project going to cost?” Although straightforward questions, accurately answering them from the start of a project is an ecosystem-wide challenge.
Why estimate Salesforce projects?
Before people purchase anything, they want to know the cost up front. Salesforce projects are no different.
In order to agree on a project, some form of an estimation needs to be laid out—even if it may change. Estimates enable consulting teams to allocate the right resources, understand team capacity, and provide realistic timeframes for customers. Most importantly, accurate estimates make happy teams, in turn making happy customers.
However, providing an accurate Salesforce estimate that is 100 percent correct is near impossible (unless it’s a brand new org and all stakeholders are perfectly aligned). Accurate estimates are good to shoot for, but will likely change during the lifecycle of the project.
What makes up Salesforce estimates?
Salesforce project estimates take into account many factors to achieve a satisfactory level of accuracy. These could include:
- Technical scope: User stories, technology current state, data (e.g., migration/integration), and technical debt factor
- Human resource scope: Total resources, resource type, client maturity, and change management
- Schedule scope: Compelling events, vacations
- Rates: Resource type can impact rate card
Scope estimations define what needs to be technically configured or developed in the Salesforce org and can be a challenge, especially if the client has a mature org. The upfront Salesforce org discovery is oftentimes a heavy manual process, and truly understanding the current state of an org is easier said than done. Successful Salesforce projects rely on both sides to be equally involved in the process. If a client is not actively engaged, that in itself can extend the timeline of the project.
Cost estimations are derived from the resources and the rate cards required to achieve the desired technical scope. It’s no secret that adopting Salesforce can be a huge investment for an organization. If that initial investment is not the correct amount—it can leave both the customer and consultant in a predicament.
Increasing costs and scope creep go hand and hand—and typically have the same negative adverse effects on the relationship. A ton of factors weigh in on accurately scoping and estimating a Salesforce project, so let’s discuss how consultants can provide accurate Salesforce estimates.
How consultants can provide accurate Salesforce estimates
Any Salesforce consulting project is far from simple. Unless you’re a smaller organization selling at a fixed price, cost and scope changes are likely going to happen at some point during an engagement. Depending on what customers are looking to accomplish, along with their org complexity, the impact on project estimates can span across a range of possibilities.
Let’s take a look at the typical journey of a Salesforce project estimate:
- Identify business goals
- Write user stories
- Review Salesforce org
- Define technical scope
- Client review/adjust
- Map resources
- Create timeline
- Internal review
- Calculate costs
- Present to client
For example, a consultant can have a customer that has identified key business goals and is looking to implement 100 user stories within Salesforce. Typically, the first step is for Pre-Sales to review the stories. They figure out how those stories map into the Salesforce Clouds and then decide if they’re going to build something custom, or use something native and out of the box.
Once they identify what to build, they look at what’s already in the org and its existing complexity. Depending on what the solution engineer uncovers, we often see two types of paths for a project:
1. The happy path
The solution engineer gains a clear understanding of the existing configuration and development in the org. For example, the org may be:
- A really basic net new implementation of Salesforce running on Lightning with limited customization
- Or maybe its a 12 year old org with thousands of users, some on classic, some on lightning, four different admins, seven consultants working in multiple sandboxes with concurrent deployments, and endless customizations on the objects that will be deployed against during the project
2. The unhappy path
- The solution engineer gets little or no access to the org or its development history and must make assumptions about the configuration and development in the org.
- They are essentially running blind.
Imagine wandering the unhappy path for a seemingly simple project and uncovering all that hidden complexity, adding scope, extending the timeline, changing costs—you get it. It’s called the unhappy path for a reason. Nobody likes to take the unhappy path…especially when it involves executive engagements, red accounts and delivery swarms to save a project.
Three tips consultants should keep in mind when providing accurate Salesforce estimates
- Utilize technology: Majority of estimation hiccups come from human errors. If consultants have the capabilities they should try to use automation for as much of the estimation process as possible.
- Pull the right people together: In order for consultants to maximize their understanding of their client’s org, they need to make sure all relevant stakeholders on the client’s side are brought into the conversation.
- Track historical data: Consultants should be actively recording their estimations to help provide a benchmark for their next project estimation.
Accurate Salesforce estimates with Hubbl Diagnostics
Accurate Salesforce estimations start by understanding the complexity of an org. Luckily, there’s a new solution on the block to get your estimations back on the happy path.
Hubbl Diagnostics is a Salesforce org intelligence platform that enables consultants to understand the current state and complexity of a Salesforce org with one simple scan.
Consultants simply login, run a scan on their client’s org, and Hubbl Diagnostics inspects the metadata—uncovering hidden technical debt, areas of risk, and opportunities for optimization. With a holistic understanding of a clients org in hand, consultants can rapidly identify scope, create accurate estimates, and deliver more value to their customers.
Hubbl Diagnostics helps to improve your estimation process by:
- Reducing estimate timelines: Helps get your estimate to your client sooner by reducing the manual effort required to analyze an org and automatically producing executive level visualizations
- Benchmarking org complexity: Provides quantitative and objective comparison of the org’s complexity to ecosystem
- Improving scoping process: Improved org visibility helps inform scoping questions for a more in-depth customer conversation and identify new scope
- Enhanced technical visibility: Automatically identifies risky objects that may increase level of effort for a requested project and identifies candidate metadata for technical debt remediation
- Simplified resourcing estimations: Hubbl Diagnostics provides a technical debt analysis estimator that allows users to define a set level of effort across different metadata to produce a level of effort in hours
How Traction on Demand is providing accurate estimates with Hubbl Diagnostics
Traction on Demand (now a Salesforce Company) was the largest dedicated Salesforce consulting and application development firm, delivering cross-platform solutions and standalone SaaS products.
Given their vast range of customers, ToD’s Solution Engineers were faced with varying client needs and org complexities on a daily basis. The team often felt like they had limited visibility when it came to kicking off discussions with a new prospective client and due to the large number of clients, finding a way to understand their clients’ orgs from the start was essential.
In order to enable their team, ToD utilized Hubbl Diagnostics to:
- Gain full visibility into any client’s org: With one scan, ToD’s Pre-Sales team was able to gain a holistic view under the hood of any Salesforce org. The metadata scans include results and insights on object and field usage, automation by object, risky profiles and permission sets, code quality, rules, security, workflow, and more.
- Track optimization efforts: With Hubbl Diagnostics' easy-to-read visualizations, their team was able to showcase their clients’ orgs improvements during check-ins, showcase the most critical information clients need to know, and showcase side by side comparisons of their org optimization efforts allowing them to build a deeper level of trust with their clients.
- Justify project scope and costs: ToD was able to communicate where issues existed in their client’s orgs, what actions were necessary, and how much time they needed to complete the project. Clients were able to visualize the amount of work needed and see improvements as the project progressed through pre and post-project scans.
In just one scan with Hubbl Diagnostics, ToD was able to save hundreds of hours of manual work.
“Without Hubbl Diagnostics, the team would have had the tedious and time-consuming task of clicking through hundreds of setup screens to review details on how the solution was configured and coded.” - Adrienne Cutcliffe, Nonprofit Solutions Lead, Traction on Demand
With Hubbl Diagnostics, the ToD team was able to understand the health of any of their clients’ orgs in minutes. This empowered the team to classify org complexity and provide more accurate timelines and estimates—leaving less room for surprises.