The Roles and Structure That Guide a Successful Salesforce COE (Part 2 of 6-part COE series)

By Nick Hamm

At 10K we get to tackle a lot of different business and technical challenges. However, one of the most rewarding initiatives is helping set our customers up for long term success by designing and building a Salesforce Center of Excellence (COE).

As I mentioned in my last blog, “Why a COE should be the CEO of your Salesforce program,” if you’re looking to get more out of your Salesforce investment, building a COE is one of the best initiatives you can undertake. COEs don’t have to be complex to be effective, but they do have to have certain components, namely:

  • Defined and assigned team roles and leadership structure
  • Adopted and managed delivery standards and processes
  • Models for governance, change, and release management
  • Clearly defined end user support processes
  • A method for growth and education around the Salesforce platform

 

Part 2 of this 6-part COE series dives into that first area — the team. Specifically what roles do you need in a COE, what are those roles responsible for, and how is that team organized and led.

Roles and Responsibilities 

Every COE is unique, but all successful ones have something in common —  they involve both business and IT stakeholders. 

Business stakeholders help drive the strategy and provide key feedback to the technical team. They might be involved in first-level support, user testing, as well as change management and user adoption. The IT stakeholders are integral in defining the standards and best practices that ensure whatever is put in place is not just valuable to the business, but realistic, scalable and supportable over time. IT also plays a critical role in defining organizational data standards, selecting tools, managing infrastructure and integration, and much more. Whether your COE aligns under business or IT leadership will depend on your organization’s structure. 

When it comes to the specific roles within a COE, here are the most common ones we see:

COE Lead: This role is responsible for overall program execution. He or she establishes the standards and guidelines which anyone who touches the Salesforce system must abide by, coordinates the resources needed to execute on the established strategy, and manages partners and vendors.

Admin: This role is primarily responsible for supporting those across the business who use Salesforce. She or he is truly a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to the Salesforce system, tackling everything from creating dashboards and reports, to managing configurations and campaigns, to communicating changes and updates to end users.

Business Analyst: This role works hand-in-hand with the business to review operational processes and identify opportunities to automate and improve those processes using Salesforce. He or she gathers and articulates requirements and serves as a change management agent across the business.

Technical Architect: This role owns the technical design of the Salesforce system, making sure declarative and non-declarative features are used appropriately and that the org can scale as the amount of functionality grows. Our recent research into Salesforce Best Practices and COEs indicates that architects can play an outsize role in improving ROI.

Developer: When your requirements warrant the use of non-declarative functionality, this role is responsible for building it using platform features such as Apex Classes or Lightning Components. This role may also be responsible for integration development, configuration changes, and solution design for complex features.

Other roles that you might need depending on the scale and focus of your COE include:

Release Manager: This role is responsible for environment strategy and coordinating the testing and release of code to make sure nothing breaks in production. This person also reviews the testing approach for each work stream.

Quality Assurance Specialists: This role (or team) provides overall QA best practices and reviews the testing approach for each work stream, often in collaboration with the release manager. They manage testing plans and scripts.

Integration Specialists: These specialists provide technical guidance, create integration designs, and implement integrations between Salesforce and other applications.

Salesforce Functional Specialists (Communities, CPQ, Einstein, etc.): These subject matter experts provide the guidance and technical skills needed to get the most out of niche Salesforce platform investments. These roles are often outsourced based on current needs.

The roles and responsibilities within your COE may vary based on your organization’s size, structure, complexity, budget, and other factors. In some instances, one person plays all or most of these roles in some way, shape, or form (this is the life of a solo admin). Larger organizations may have multiple experts in each of these roles. However, most companies fall somewhere in the middle and use a combination of internal and external expertise to build and manage their implementation. According to our recent research into Salesforce best practices, 61% of respondents say at least half of their implementation was built by consultants.

Leadership and Structure

Depending on the size of your company and/or Salesforce program, there can be several levels of leadership for a Salesforce COE, but they typically encompass two primary types of committees. 

First is an Executive Committee, which is made up of C-level or VP-level sponsors from sales, marketing, IT and other major business areas. This group meets on either a monthly or quarterly basis and sets the strategic priorities for the program based on the business’ short-term and long-term objectives. It defines the success metrics, and most importantly, provides the funding. 

The Salesforce Steering Committee is usually made up of sponsors from the business and IT, but the individuals are one or two levels lower than the Executive Committee. This group establishes the tactical roadmap for the strategic initiatives laid out by the Executive Committee. It sets program scope and lays out the deliverables. It is also on point to review and prioritize requests as they come into the COE, and helps the Executive Committee understand the potential impact and cost of certain decisions so that they can be funded and make their way into the roadmap.

Common COE structureOne tip for success is to include the COE Lead in as many committee meetings as possible regardless of whether or not that role is an official member of the committee.

Putting the right team in place is just the first step, but a good team won’t reach their true potential without delivery processes and standards. We’ll dive deeper into these areas as we get into our next two blogs, but for now, the most important thing to remember is that the better defined your roles are, the more productive your team can be.

As always, we invite you to share your own COE experiences on social media using the hashtag #SFDCCOE. Tell us what your teams have looked like in the past. What roles do you think make the biggest difference when it comes to return on investment?