Should I Customize Salesforce or Configure It?

By Annie Andre | Updated: 14 Feb, 2013

“82,400 Salesforce implementations. All of them unique.”

One of Salesforce’s key selling points is its limitless flexibility.

If your company spends thousands of dollars and work hours on a Salesforce platform, you want to know that it is built around your needs. In many cases, this enthusiasm leads to companies’ overbuilding their Salesforce systems.

You can get a lot more out of your CRM if you resist the temptation to customize it to the nth degree, especially right at the beginning.

Instead, choose to install a few key configurations that will give you enough to dive into Salesforce. Doing it this way is cheaper, too!

Salesforce Customization or Configuration

Take the case of a large venture capital firm with employees that are keen Prialto members. The firm has dozens of portfolio companies and offices across the country. To keep track of all this, the VC uses a Salesforce platform.

The first thing the company did was to call in a pricey consultant to provide Salesforce help and create a tailored CRM customization. Despite the prep work, Salesforce was never fully utilized by the staff.

Mere months later, the VC asked Prialto to reconfigure Salesforce into something simpler and easier for its team to adopt.

The initial investment of many partner hours and nearly $10K in cash had been wasted.

how Customization and Configuration differ

Salesforce has dozens of options that can likely get you most of what you need to start adopting as well as continue to use the platform.

Salesforce Configuration:

Configurations basically involve changing switches and setups in the program, which can be done straight from the administration panel by someone who has been trained to administer the platform. Companies can create new modules and fields, integrate surveys, update multiple workflows, and create tailored reports—all just by switching things on and off in the basic Salesforce install.

Generally, when customers dig deep to figure out what they want, they find they can accomplish it with a simple configuration, by purchasing a pre-built app (such as one of the sales productivity apps available from Salesforce’s app exchange), or by upgrading to a new edition of Salesforce.

Salesforce Customization:

Customizations, on the other hand, involve writing custom code to change the functionality of your Salesforce platform. This sort of work tends to be needed only for companies with hundreds of sales reps or particularly complex sales funnels. Doing such customization may cost many thousands of dollars. Most importantly, it is a fallacy that underutilized Salesforce licenses are more likely to be utilized after customization.

If you were learning to juggle, you would start with one ball, not ten. In the same way, CRM customizations tend to be complex, and starting on them before your organization has begun to deeply adopt CRM into its everyday practices is likely to create more frustration than productivity.

Companies should start by configuring to keep things simple. This simplification will increase the likelihood of successful adoption. It is upon this success that complex customization may later yield real benefits to your company.

Who Maintains the Salesforce Platform?

Understanding how to configure CRM can take a long time. You can choose to hire a CRM administrator in-house or offload the responsibility to a third-party consultant.

A quick Google search for Salesforce CRM integrators will yield hundreds of results with firms that do both configuration and customization. Since most of them charge by the hour, they get paid more for encouraging complexity. What’s more, most of them don’t tend to stick around once the customization is complete. That means that day-to-day adoption and maintenance issues become your problem.

Instead, try working with people who will be ongoing members of your support team to initially configure your license. Those who perform the configuration should also be charged with initial adoption. You want people who have experience across many CRMs. They will be able to bring insights to your platform to constantly improve it to suit your particular workflow.

In short, successful CRM adoption involves building your tools around your needs and your team to help grow your business—not building complex tools that end up dictating the way you work.