There is a saying that, “What is right is not always easy, and what is easy is not always right.” That sums up Salesforce pretty well. It is not an easy platform, but it may (or may not) be right for you.
What is Salesforce?
We should talk about what Salesforce is before we talk about whether it is right for you. The company started as an online platform to help businesses to convert potential customers into actual customers. Basically, it is a CRM. Today, Salesforce has configurations to help manage everything from the software development process to biomedical trials. Salesforce is so adaptable because it is a relational database, so it can make itself work for nearly any type of situation. That gets us to the pros and cons.
Pro #1 – Salesforce is Adaptable
Salesforce is set up for business-to-business sales. So it defaults to concepts like customers and accounts, but what if you are in real estate? In that case, you can create custom tables (Salesforce calls them objects), which are basically like extra spreadsheets to track things like properties and potential buyers. You can even add a fancy Google Map to the Properties page to help people locate it.
Pro #2 – Salesforce is Teachable
That example about the real estate company actually comes from one of Salesforce’s own tutorials. Just because you can customize Salesforce does not mean you will know how. Fortunately, Salesforce has a pretty strong training program to teach new users the basics and help experienced users master advanced skills.
Pro #3 – Salesforce is Mobile
Like, very mobile. Most teams need to be able to work on the go, but few have the resources (or need, really) to invest in a ground-up custom built mobile app. The Salesforce mobile app connects to your Salesforce environment, and it is not that difficult for an admin to set up special pages that are customized for phone or tablet devices.
Pro #4 – Salesforce is Simple (Sometimes)
Just because Salesforce can be customized to fit your unique business situation does not mean that it has to be. If your operations are fairly “typical,” then one of Salesforce’s free “packages” might cover all of your use cases. You can also purchase various add ons and integrations in their AppExchange. Of course, most of these will still need to be customized and configured, which brings us around to the cons.
Con #1 – Salesforce is not Really Simple
If you can install Salesforce and have it work perfectly without any customization, then you probably want to take up gambling. That, or find a new job, because your company is not innovating. To get the most out of Salesforce, you really are going to need to dig around under the hood, and it takes time to learn how to do that.
Con #2 – Salesforce is (Like, Super) Robust
Robust might sound like a good thing, and often it can be, but do you know what else is robust? Ferraris. If you are taking a Ferrari just to make grocery store runs, you are wasting your resources and hurting your efficiency. Robust(-ivity?) is subjective. Define it according to your needs. Having something with lots of features that you do not know how to use is worse than having something with fewer features that you’ve got down.
Con #3 – Salesforce Training Takes Time
While Salesforce trailheads deserve high praise for being so thorough, it would be unwise to underestimate their difficulty. The Admin Beginner trail takes just over 9 hours to complete, but those are a looong 9 hours. It is not something you are going to be able to knock out in one sitting, and expect to need to go back to it again and again. There is a reason companies hire people whose only job is to manage Salesforce. Using something well takes a sustained commitment. Such is life.
Con #4 – Salesforce Can Be Costly
A small business can sign up for Salesforce at $25/user per month (paid annually), but that is sort of like buying a Ferrari with bicycle tires. You are going to want to spring for the next level up to make it worth your while ($75). That is a bit much for tiny teams. Also factor in lost productivity learning to use and manage the platform as well as any potential developer costs for work that is beyond your team’s expertise and/or bandwidth.
From a technological level, Salesforce is actually pretty darn cool! And there are situations that it is, no doubt, really good for. For the kinds of companies that we tend to serve, things are a bit iffier. It can be a great choice for nonprofits because it is free, but more often than not we find our nonprofit clients losing time because they end up duplicating records on import, siloing key data, or adding unnecessary steps onto workflows.