A guest post by Peter McMillan.

As a Salesforce Admin, you are faced with the needs and wants from every department: Sales, Finance, HR, IT and Executives.  And they all want something different from Salesforce: accurate data, quick and impactful reporting, employee adoption of the CRM, actionable insights, etc.  For the purpose of this article, I wanted to focus on the finance side of that equation as it relates to the data in Salesforce.

Technology has changed the role of the CFO.  And CFO’s are now required to have a much deeper understanding of how technology can impact their business.   If you think of how technology has changed your Sales department in the last 15 years alone, you’ve likely seen and enjoyed, the transition from Microsoft Excel, a phone book, and chicken scratch to Salesforce.   The transition to new technology has made your team more efficient and organized.  But many of the tools your sales teams are already using contain data that can have a direct impact on decisions made by the CFO.  One-way companies are making the most of that data is by automation.

Automation as a Trend

If you think of automation and Salesforce, perhaps the first type you think of is marketing automation.  Companies like Marketo or Oracle have software to more effectively market across multiple channels.  Email automation, social media, even marketing intelligence.  While this is helpful to sales and closing business, it doesn’t necessarily add more value to the CFO for making informed financial decisions.  Marketing automation is really for moving prospects through the marketing funnel to end up as sales leads.  So, the question remains:  How is Finance benefiting from the data in Salesforce?

Research by accountants at Price Waterhouse Cooper has found that finance teams are spending more time on analysis and less time on data gathering amid greater automation of traditional book-keeping activities (Source).  Frustrated with the time-consuming, labor-intensive, and error-prone process of manually computing sales compensation, senior finance executive’s show a growing interest in sales performance management (SPM) systems. They are ditching the traditional focus on book-keeping and information gathering in favor of greater automation, shared services and more efficient use of capacity.

In the marketplace, 88% of all companies are using homegrown systems to manage their variable compensation. What the other 12% of companies are doing is automating compensation and improving data quality and adoption of the CRM along the way.  In an increasingly competitive market, companies need to optimize sales efforts to help improve profitability and drive growth. Automation allows them to do so

By now you’re asking, “what does this have to do with me.  Where is the ‘seat at the table’ I was promised?”  As an admin, automation gives you tangibles to give to all departments, not just the CFO.  By automating within Salesforce, you’ve provided your organization with a trustworthy and auditable version of truth.  Sales and Finance can finally get along with transparent insights into how or why they are being paid.  Workflows kick off to inform a rep of a claw back or refund.  HR loves the improved communication, which leads to lower sales turnover and disputes.  Finance understands the ROI of sales comp and how to incentive their employees.  And you are lifted on the shoulders of complete strangers for championing the directive.

Accolades aside, when do I get my seat at the table?  With Salesforce being the single source of truth, you’ve changed from an admin into an analyst.   Using native Salesforce reporting and armed with the most up-to-date, approved data, you can build a cohesive corporate plan using incentive compensation as a strategic lever, boost overall sales and financial performance, and let all departments request customized reports based on their unique business needs.  After all, automation is meant to help set you down a more productive road.

While compensation may, or may not, be your main focus as a Salesforce admin, automation within Salesforce will save time and create full transparency.  What does a world look like where HR, Finance, and Sales have given you back your time?  And what are you doing with your new found free time?  If you are not on vacation, you are tackling strategic initiatives!  As an admin, you’ve been turned into an analyst.  Automation has restored you to your most valuable state.

Automation Sounds Great.  Now, What? 

  1. Automation also costs money. Most likely, your company already has a policy in place to evaluate software.  Understand whom you are going to have to pitch.
  2. Technology isn’t something everyone understands. Chances are they might not fully understand what you do! So do you research!  Understand which companies or what type of software can automate your process.  Is it Saas? On-premise?  Who are the main players in that space?  Who works the best with Salesforce?
  3. Is this compatible with our systems? No sense in bringing it up if your programs can’t talk to theirs.  Do an in-depth analysis of the requirements.  (Often time, vendors will do the leg work for you here)
  4. Make a business case. If you are spending 80 hours a month on compensation, cleaning up Salesforce data, organizing marketing leads, etc. What is that cost to the company?  What is your time worth as an admin?  What are the financial and strategic benefits to reducing the time spent?
  5. Pitch it to the team. You’ll likely be shot down at first.  From our experience, you’ll have to bring it up at least 3 times before it will be considered.  Remember, you are competing with other strategic initiatives for budget.
  6. Don’t give up! Automation is not a fad.  The quality of data and the need to comply with increasingly complex regulations are driving the trend.  Increased operational efficiency is something everyone can work towards.

One thought on “ The Case for Automation: A Seat at the Table ”

  1. I agree with the high-level notion of what the article states, but I was a little disappointed that the author failed to mention/promote the native functionality. Automation doesn’t have to always cost money unless you are doing a lot of heavy lifting across disparate systems. In many cases, Salesforce is a very large expense and companies can’t afford multiple apps that continue to drive up the per user cost of the system. There are many of us that have to squeeze more out of what we’ve got and using data validation and the process builder are potential methods to that end.(A brief mention of workflow.)


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