That’s certainly the question, isn’t it? As an organization looking to partner with an outside vendor for Salesforce expertise, it’s a question that must be answered to get the necessary green lights to move forward. After all, every business must be able to plan and budget accordingly.  

As the outside vendor answering this question, it can be a challenge to estimate. There are many factors that could contribute to estimating costs based on an organization’s needs. From my seat as the Director of Business Development, it’s the number one thing I spend my time on. It’s extremely important for us to be able to set appropriate expectations around the investment in Salesforce. But the adage “you don’t know what you don’t know” also usually applies.

Here are some significant factors that will affect the cost of an engagement:

  1. What’s the condition of your data?

    • This one can be triggering. Is your data reliable? Is your data clean?

  2. How much custom development exists in your org today?

  3. Are your challenges with Salesforce based on functionality or user adoption? Are they, as they so often are, intertwined challenges?

Humans are notoriously resistant to change. Change can be hard and the unknown is scary. Having a solid user adoption strategy and a Salesforce governance plan is critical to the value your organization will get out of the system. Sometimes, it’s not that your system needs to be adjusted, but the behaviors of staff do. Don’t invest in a bunch of customizations that need to be maintained if the issues can be solved with some user training!

This may or may not surprise you, but estimates are usually wrong. And because organizations are basing their financial decisions and budgets off these estimates, it can be particularly challenging. Unknown factors usually pop up during projects, which can result in a higher cost than you intend. This sucks for the customer and also puts the vendor in a bad light.

We always make our best effort in providing our most educated guess, but during the evaluation process, we don’t always have the time and bandwidth to go through the requirements-defining process. That’s what the Discovery phase is for and why we recommend them as a bridge between estimating project scope and defining it more.

In our experience, the best approach for more complex projects is an initial Assessment or discovery period. This is the investigative part where we spend time asking questions, seeking to understand both the existing solution and the actual humans who are using it, and defining what the requirements behind the right solution actually are. Once we have those documented, our experts have a much clearer picture of what the options are to proceed, and how intensive those may be.  

That’s also why we approach Salesforce work using our Admin As A Service model.  It allows for much more flexibility in the process to discover what you actually need and to get aligned on what “done” means.  Arriving at this is a collaborative process — we bring the technical expertise and you bring your expert knowledge of your business. This model also allows us to stick to a customer’s budget to deliver what we can in that time.

Salesforce is an evolving organism, and a healthy Salesforce org is one that requires proactive maintenance. With Salesforce, you’re never truly “done.” Our goal is to reach the next level together, empowering organizations to own their solution, not to have to rely on us forever.