Project Delivery

  • Identify project risks

    As a Salesforce Admin/Consultant/Developer, you will often be involved in projects or initiatives.  In this post we will take a look at identifying and managing project risks.  Why?  Because in a project, risks can cause major problems and lead to roadblocks that you simply can’t get around. 

    What is an acceptable project risk?
    What is an acceptable project risk?

    In a previous post we talked about why setting a roadmap is important.  It allows you to engage with your users and stakeholders while involving them in defining the Salesforce strategy.  (You have setup a roadmap now, haven’t you?  :-))

    But once you have planned what and when things should be delivered, now we need to focus on identifying potential project risks.  How do you judge what is an acceptable project risk?  And how can you manage and then mitigate these risks?

    What is a project risk?

    Risk is an everyday occurrence in our world and it is subjective from person to person.  In an extreme example, some people would take any perceived risk and jump out of a plane (hopefully with a parachute), while others wouldn’t even dream of it!  The point is risk is all around us and we make decisions everyday, even if subconsciously, to say ‘I am prepared to take that risk’.

    Project risks are the same, things that you or the team can see that may potentially cause issues later on.  Now I have used two key terms in that sentence.  Risks and issues… What is the difference?

    In its simplest form a project risk is something that may happen during the project.  And if it does it occur, it may have an adverse effect on a project’s delivery.  That can be either what is being delivered, the timelines for delivery, or in extreme cases can block delivering anything.  Risks’s are potential/future focused.  For example, a risk to a project could be that after the project has finished, end users don’t use what was delivered to them.

    An issue on the flip side is generally something that is current or happening right now.  An example of an issue would be unexpected sick leave.  This could disrupt timelines and what was planned today can’t happen.

    So how do you capture project risks & issues?

    project risks vs reward
    Even though there will be risks, sometimes the reward is worth it.

    Now imagine you were on ship trying to reach your arrival port, you want to arrive on time but there are a number of risks you need to consider.  What route to take?  Are there any storms/icebergs in your way?  Or would you just set sail and hope for the best?

    By identifying any risks and issues, you can then come up with a plan to mitigate it.  Allowing you to avoid extra the time and costs hitting an iceberg would cause

    It isn’t an exact science but the key is to take time, stop and think about it.  Think about what you are trying to achieve.  Risks are related to what you are trying to deliver.  What could derail the project?  Is it related to resources (access to certain people at a specific time in the project)?  Are you at risk of other systems / integrations causing issues?

    You can keep these simply enough in an Excel/Google Sheet that the project team has access to. Everything you brainstormed,  enter down as a new line.  The key is to do it, start it early on in the project life cycle and to continue doing it throughout the project.

    Once you know what the risks are, you can then take measures to address them.   This allows you to plot a course around any risks and hopefully avoid them becoming issues.  As an example, need specific involvement from a subject-matter expert at a certain phase?  Plan for it and book them in.

    Get creative

    Draw a Treasure Map - great way to identify project risks
    Draw a Treasure Map – great way to identify project risks

    When defining risks (either good or bad) you could hold a session with your key stakeholders.  Have a project kick off and discuss the objectives of the project and what does project success look like.

    For something a little different, get creative.

    One session I have run a few times with stakeholders is to split people into smaller groups of three or four people.  Then get people to draw out a treasure map with labels on it.  Draw the risks as circling sharks, a skull island or a ship upon the rocks.  And the treasure is the project being delivered after circumnavigating all the risks.  But the aim is to think about problems creatively, I have even seen a group draw a space ship making a journey through the galaxy…

    I find it helps get people out of their comfort zone and shifts their mindset from their normal day to day work.  You can then also ask the groups what are some ideas to mitigate the risks.

    After the sessions add the risks to your spreadsheet (if you haven’t got them already).  If your group came up with possible mitigations, also make note of this as you can build on it as you start your project.

  • Why creating a roadmap is important

    How can planning a roadmap be used to support your Salesforce org?  Especially when it is used by more than just one team in your the business.  How can you ensure you deliver what is truly needed?  How do you prioritise your efforts?

    What is a roadmap?

    First thing first, let’s have a quick look at what a roadmap is.

    Change is the only constant, how will your business adapt?
    A roadmap is a strategic business planning tool often used to outline the future vision of a system(s) or product.  It will show what changes and development is needed to get there and will visualise the items you plan to deliver over a specific timespan.

    So how does that relate to Salesforce?  In a world that is full of change and competing priorities, business is no different.  There will be new bugs and issues to fix.  New business priorities which may change the strategic direction, resulting in changes to the system. As a result, any roadmap will need to continously evolve as the business priorities change.

    A system roadmaps is most often used in Agile delivery environment, and will help stakeholders visualise where/when any planned improvements are likely to happen.


    But why is it important?

    Imagine your working on a jigsaw puzzle.  You know somehow it all fits together, but you are not sure what you should focus on first.  All the pieces just seem a bit random at the start.  Then slowly but surely you start to set a strategy in place.  A plan of attack for solving the puzzle.

    Maybe you start by putting all the edge pieces in place first, followed by any pieces that relate to distinct image that is part of the puzzle.   Then over time as you have more and more of the pieces in place, you start to see the image come together.  Now imagine you are working on the jigsaw puzzle with other people.  How will can you make sure you are all aligned and working towards the same goal?

    To me this is essentially what a roadmap is and why it is important.  Breaking the puzzle into smaller focus areas allows you to create a strong foundation for tracking your progress as you go along.  And by setting a strategy in place, you should be able to deliver the finished result quicker than if you just tried to solve it in a random / unplanned fashion.

    As an example of a roadmap, Monzo (a start-up bank here in the UK) openly publishes a Trello product roadmap for their apps, detailing the features planned running against a timeline (short term, medium term, etc).  If you want to check it out, you can view it here.


    How do you create a roadmap?

    Where do you start?  Planning your roadmap is an overall, continous process.  But by taking the time to define and maintain it, you continually evolve what the future vision looks like and become more proactive about where Salesforce will grow/develop – which in turn should minimise those ‘why didn’t I know about it’ moments.

    There are a number of steps you can go through, and by all means this isn’t a definitive list.  Also keep in mind that project methodolodies (eg Agile) may also play a part in the ‘how’ and ‘what’ you need to define.

    Identify stakeholders & research

    If you are starting from scratch, identify your key end-users & stakeholders (Sales, Finance, Marketing, IT, etc)?  By knowing who to go to, you can then research what is important to your business.  Ask what are their key priorities for the year ahead.  What improvements would they love to see made to Salesforce?  If you don’t have a relationship with your stakeholders, this will helps to open the door.  And will also come in handy later on.

    Innovation & ideas

    You might also have your own improvements or changes you want to make to Salesforce.  After the last post, you might have identified potential technical debt within your Salesforce which needs to be addressed.

    Also what about new features and innovations you want roll out.  Things like a move to Lightning UI?  All of this will need to be added into the mix too, as remember we need to balance out all of the priorities as we won’t be able to do it all at the same time. 🙂

    By combining the earlier research with your own ideas, you now have a list of different and competing business priorities.  But how do you sort through the list?

    Setting the business priorities

    Firstly some priorities which get raised will simply be so critical to the business that the priority and timeline will almost be set for you.  For everything else, here is where you can get creative.

    One idea is to get your key stakeholders together in a room.  In this session encourage people to be open and transparent, while keeping everyone focussed on what is best for the business  and not individual departments/teams.  Going around the table, everyone who raised a priority gives an elevator pitch to the group covering where they see the value of the request.  As each pitch is given, a card or post-it goes up on the wall.ideas on a whiteboard

    After the pitches are finished, give out three sticky dots to everyone (or you can simply use pens).  Next tell them to place two dots next to the idea they would prioritise first and one dot on their second priority.  The aim is to get some overall coordination on what to focus on first, where the priority is driven by the highest amount of dots – where you sort the cards by descending order.  Close out the meeting by going around the table again and confirm if people agree with the outcome.

    By involving your stakeholders in setting your roadmap, you allow them to buy in to the future vision of the platform.

    Unfortunately there can be circumstances where stakeholders can’t come to a conclusion.  This is when you would become a little more direct.  The group should at least try and seperate out the list into what is needed versus what’s a nice to have.  If this still doesn’t work, you may need to get an appropriate Sponser (possibly a senior leader within the business) involved.

    Visualise the roadmap

    Roadmaps come in all shapes, sizes and formats.  It is important to realise that they are generally high-level in nature.  Covering the themes and objectives you plan on delivering. Save the detail of what needs delivery for a project plan and the team involved in delivery.

    Personally, I have I tend to only set a roadmap for the next 6-12 months.  And then bundle everything else together under a header of ‘future items’, but you can be as creative as you want.  As mentioned earlier, these plans are subject to change.  Aim is to make it easy enough to adjust moving forward.

    When it comes to estimating the time and effort, there will be an element of making an educated guess on some of the work involved.  Ask around the Salesforce community and see what others estimate.  If there is a vendor/partner involved, they can also give you an idea of the effort involved.

    Another very simple example of a roadmap would be to group items by a theme down one column, and have your timescale running along the top.  Then your individual deliverables/projects become the cells in between.  Here is another example of what you could do simply in a spreadsheet:

    roadmap example
    Example of a roadmap
    There are plenty of other alternatives out there though, just do a Google image search for other examples!  As mentioned above, you can use a bit of creative license here.  Just make sure it is easy to understand what you are trying to convey.


    Now we are near the finishing line of this whole process.

    After putting all of this together, play back the outcomes with key stakeholders to get a final sign-off.  Doing this allows any further alterations to be made.  It also ensures that everyone has bought in to the process and vision, meaning you can then focus on delivery.

    And remember to revist the roadmap roughly every six months.


    Wrap up

    I will reiterate that this is just one way to come up with a roadmap.  The process can vary depending on the size of your business, what the priorities are and even lines of accountability within your company.

    For an additional resource there is a great Trailhead module (Innovation Solutions), which covers the topics of roadmaps and implementation planning.

    I would love to hear from you and your experiences when setting a roadmap.  Please feel free to add in the comments below any steps you take in creating a roadmap.

  • The magic formula for project success?

    How many projects teams have you been a part of?

    Now let’s count up how many of those were projects were a successes?  Is your tally 100%? (If it is, congrats!)

    The more projects you play a part in, the more likely it is that you would have been part of a project that might not have been a success.  It might have missed its planned dates or not delivered on one of its core objectives.  Or even worse, it might not of set objectives to start with!

    Regardless of which project methodology (Agile, Waterfall, Prince2, etc) you subscribe to – is the magic formula that drives success?


    The ‘magic’ formula

    I am going to share the secret formula with you – but you have to promise to use it wisely!

    S = cm ( cl + de)

    Ok, ok – so I might be joking around a bit there, but let me put it another way.  Success = communication, clarity & definition.


    Success = communication, clarity & definition


    Before you take another step this is where you should make sure the basics are in place and for me that revolves around ‘communication‘.  I will definitely agree that it is important throughout a project’s life-cycle, but the start of a project is when it’s the most critical, yet this is when its most overlooked!

    Have you defined who you need to communicate with?  There will be key stakeholders, subject matter experts (SMEs) and end-users.  Depending on the project, they might be the same people.  How are you going to make sure people are involved at the right time?

    What frequency will the project team communicate to the various groups of stakeholders, SMEs?  Set expectations early on and adjust accordingly.

    The key is to ensure the project team and the business are ultimately aware of what they need to be, and when they need to be to make any relevant decisions.


    Clarity & definition:

    This is the fun part for a lot of projects! And more often than not it’s because the project team is a group of people who have never worked together before.  Which can add additional challenges and potential set-backs on top of trying to deliver the project.

    As a team develops it goes through various stages of development (see here for the theory).  Generally the most painful part is the ‘storming’ stage, as this is where people in the group may start to step on the toes of others within the team.

    This is where clarity and definition play such a pivotal part within the project.  By providing as much clarity and definition, the aim here is to fast track the project team through the forming and storming stages of development as soon as possible.

    What are some key ways of doing this?  The type of things I would consider going into a project would include:

    What are the objectives and goals of the project?  How do you know when the project is finished?  Believe me some projects aren’t so clear cut as to when the finish line has been crossed!

    Can you define what success looks like at the end of the project?  It is great getting to the finish line, but how will you and the team know what success looks like?

    Does everyone in the project team know what role they will play within the project?  Having clear roles/responsibilities can help reduce future issues and help the team come together faster.

    Is everyone talking the same ‘language’?  I don’t just mean English/Spanish/Mandarin… But what about common jargon/terminology used within the business?  This tends to be a big area where a lot of assumptions are made, and then cause major issues when delivering of the project.  You might be all talking about a football, but what kind of football – soccer, rugby union, rugby league…  Don’t make assumptions!

    Key deliverables versus wish list items  – defining this early on will help with stakeholder management and to prevent project ‘scope creep’.

    Get the team involved…

    You might not be able to answer all of these by yourself, so what better way to get the team involved early on?


    Share your experiences.

    There are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to project management.  But the most successful projects I have been involved in have really focussed on getting the small things right early on and building on that foundation.

    So for me, the magic formula is the basics done well…  Success = communication, clarity & definition 🙂

    Do you have any project success stories to share?  Or maybe some less successful ones, where you have some lessons you learned from?

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